Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Noodles.... Chinese, Thai, Italian.... you name it, they're good!

What can you say about noodles? That they can be wheat, egg, rice, thick, so thin it's like hair, so meaty or even translucent they shine like jewels.... adaptable, economical, flavorful, healthy, spicy, filling and satisfying all at the same time.... and whether you go for savory, salty, spicy or altogether, you can make a round the world tour sampling the different styles of noodles.... Noodles can be many things, but boring they're not!

Let's start with Chinese Food, some prefer the Cantonese style which is sweeter and some of us would kill for good Szechuan food, hot and spicy and full of contrasting flavor notes, sometimes sweet vs spicy and then salty and sour, all in one dish!

Here is a good sample of Noodles from the Orient, quick to make but most pleasing to the palate. I'm sure you'll find this recipe becomes a family favorite. You'll notice this is a meatless entree but you can easily add some chicken or pork strips, shrimp or your choice of additional ingredients:

Szechuan Noodles.- A great dish you can make in advance or keep the sauce in the fridge, ready to be used in a minute....

1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup warm water
1 1/2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons fresh ginger, minced
2 garlic cloves
2 teaspoons honey
1 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons sugar or artificial sweetener
1 lb spaghetti
1 yellow bell pepper
1 red bell pepper
4 scallions
3 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds

Place peanut butter, soy sauce, warm water, garlic, ginger, honey, sesame oil, sugar and red pepper flakes in food processor (or blender) and blend till smooth. This dressing can now be stored in sealed container in the fridge for up to 2 days.

Cook spaghetti. While pasta is cooking, cut yellow and red peppers into 1/8" strips. Cut scallions into thin slices.When pasta is ready, drain. Toss together with dressing, peppers, scallions and sesame seeds and serve within an hour.

Note: Up to half of the peanut butter may be replaced with Asian sesame paste. You may also replace up to half of the soy sauce with tamari sauce.

From Thailand: Pad Thai Noodles.- My very favorite noodle dish:

Pad Thai cooking wok
  • 1/2 lb. dried thin rice noodles
  • 3 Tbs. fish sauce, to taste
  • 3 or more Tbs. tamarind juice the thickness of fruit concentrate, to taste
  • 2 Tbs. palm or coconut sugar, to taste (you can use regular sugar)
  • 4 Tbs. peanut oil
  • 1/3 lb. fresh shrimp, shelled, deveined and butterflied
  • 3/4 cup firm pressed tofu, cut into thin strips about an inch long, half an inch wide and a quarter inch thick
  • 4-5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 3 shallots, thinly sliced (or substitute with some green onions)
  • 1/4 cup small dried shrimp
  • 1/4 cup chopped sweetened salted radish
  • 2-3 tsp. ground dried red chillies, to desired hotness (or red chili flakes)
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 cups fresh bean sprouts
  • 1 cup garlic chives, cut into 1 1/2-inch-long segments (optional)
  • For Garnish:
  • 2/3 cup chopped unsalted roasted peanuts
  • 1 lime, cut into small wedges
  • A few short cilantro sprigs
  • 4 green onions - trim off root tip and half of green leaves and place in a glass with white end in cold water to crisp (optional)

Soak the dried rice noodles in cool or lukewarm tap water for 40 minutes to one hour, or until the noodles are limp but still firm to the touch. While the noodles are soaking, mix the fish sauce with the tamarind juice and sugar; stir well to melt the sugar. Taste and adjust flavors to the desired combination of salty, sour and sweet.

When the noodles have softened, drain and set aside. Heat a wok over high heat until it is smoking hot. Add 2 teaspoons of oil and quickly stir-fry the shrimp until they turn pink and are almost cooked through, about 1 min. Salt lightly with a sprinkling of fish sauce and remove them from the wok. Swirl in the remaining oil, save for 1 teaspoon, to coat the wok surface and wait 20 to 30 seconds for it to heat. Add the tofu, frying 1 to 2 minutes, or until the pieces turn golden. Add garlic and stir-fry with the tofu for 15 to 20 seconds. Follow with the sliced shallots and cook another 15 seconds. Then add the dried shrimp, sweetened salted radish and ground dried chillies. Stir and heat through a few seconds.

Add the noodles and toss well with the ingredients in the wok. Stir-fry 1 to 2 minutes and when most of the noodles has changed texture and softened, push the mass up along one side of the wok. Add the teaspoon of oil to the cleared area, crack the eggs onto it and scramble lightly. When the eggs have set, cut into small chunks with the spatula and toss them in with the noodles. Add the sweet-and-sour seasoning mixture. Stir well to evenly coat noodles. If the noodles are still too firm to your liking, sprinkle 1 to 2 tablespoons of water over them to help cook. Taste and adjust flavors as needed by adding more fish sauce or tamarind juice; if the noodles are not sweet enough, sprinkle in a small amount of granulated sugar.

When the noodles are cooked to your liking, toss in 2 of the 3 cups of bean sprouts and the garlic chives (if using). Sprinkle with half the chopped peanuts and return the shrimp to the wok. Stir and when the vegetables are partially wilted, transfer to a serving platter and garnish with the remaining bean sprouts and chopped peanuts, the lime wedges, cilantro and green onions. Squeeze lime juice over each portion before eating.

Here's something different: Chile and Orange Noodles - quick and easy with spicy flavor!

  • 12 ounces Chinese egg noodles or spaghetti
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tblp peeled, minced fresh ginger
  • 1 orange, zested and juiced
  • 1 tsp frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup sweet hot chile sauce (nuoc cham ga or mae ploy, a Thai condiment) or your choice
  • Chopped scallions, for garnish, optional

In a pot over high heat, bring about 8 cups of water to a boil. Add the noodles and cook until al dente, 7 to 10 minutes. Drain well and place in large bowl. Set aside. In a bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients. Pour the dressing over the noodles and toss well. Let sit at least 10 minutes before serving. Garnish with chopped scallions, if using.

Note: You can add chicken, pork, beef, fish or vegetables to this dish as desired too and bring it from a side dish into a main dish.

First noodles and now pasta (like tomatoes or tomato) but completely different in every way yet still wonderful, here are some prime examples:

Mussels alla Diavola.- Direct from Italy comes this classic dish that is among the best of them and a favorite to many:

  • 12 garlic cloves, minced (about 1/3 cup)
  • 1 1/2 tsp dried hot red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 (28oz) can whole tomatoes in puree
  • 2 tbl tomato paste
  • 2 tsp dried oregano, crumbled
  • 1 tsp dried basil, crumbled
  • 1/4 cup drained bottled capers (about 1 1/4 oz)
  • 1/2 cup kalamata or other brine-cured black olives (about 3 oz), pitted and chopped
  • 1/3 cup dry red wine
  • 1 lb linguine
  • 3 lbs mussels (preferably cultivated), cleaned
  • Chives, for garnish

Cook garlic and red pepper flakes in oil in a deep 12-inch heavy skillet over med heat, stirring, until fragrant but not browned, about 2 minutes. Add tomatoes with puree, tomato paste, herbs, capers, olives, and wine and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally and breaking up tomatoes, until sauce is thick, about 15 minutes.

Cook linguine in a 6 to 8-quart pot of boiling salted water until al dente, then drain in a colander.

While pasta cooks, increase heat under sauce to high and add mussels, then cook, covered, until mussels just open wide, checking frequently after 3 minutes and transferring to a bowl. (Discard any mussels that remain unopened after 6 minutes.) Serve linguine with mussels and sauce and garnish with chives.

Here's a noodle meal I saw on TV and looked good yet when I tried it at home I realized this was truly great and lends itself to many changes to please almost anyone:

Hoisin Bowls with side salads.- Don't let the number of ingredients scare you away, it's worth the effort and this is a really easy recipe to make:
  • 1 pound whole-wheat spaghettior your choice of noodles
  • 4 limes, juiced, divided
  • 3 tbl rice wine vinegar
  • 3 tbl honey
  • 1 tbl toasted sesame oil
  • 1 seedless cucumber, thinly sliced
  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced, divided
  • 3 tbl toasted sesame seeds
  • 2 lbs mixed fresh mushrooms - shiitake, oyster, crimini
  • 1/4 cup teriyaki sauce
  • 1 bunch scallions, chopped into 2-inch lengths
  • 4 tbl vegetable oil, divided
  • 1 tbl grill seasoning
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 1 cup pea pods, thinly sliced
  • 3 to 4 cloves garlic, grated
  • 1 (2-inch) piece ginger root, grated
  • 1 (10-ounce) package frozen shelled edamame or fresh
  • 1/4 cup hoisin sauce, available on Asian foods aisle of market
  • 1 to 2 tbl Asian chili sauce or hot sauce, to taste
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves
  • Handful mint leaves, finely chopped

Heat a large pot of water for pasta and salt it. Add spaghetti and cook to al dente. Heads up: you will need to reserve 1/2 cup starchy liquid before draining.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Combine the juice of 2 limes with rice wine vinegar, honey and sesame oil. Add cucumber and 1/4 red onion to dressing, season with salt, toss in dressing and sprinkle with sesame seeds, reserve.

Coarsely chop mushrooms and place in a bowl. Coat the mushrooms in teriyaki sauce and combine with scallions, 2 tbl vegetable oil and grill seasoning. Arrange on nonstick baking sheet and cook 20 min turning once. Heat a large skillet with 2 tbl vegetable oil over high heat. Add peppers, remaining red onion, pea pods, garlic and ginger and stir fry 2 min. Add the edamame and heat through, 2 to 3 min more. Add hoisin, the juice of 2 limes, hot sauce and some starchy pasta liquid to form a sauce. Add drained spaghetti and toss to coat. Turn off heat and toss in cilantro and mint. Serve noodles in bowls, mushrooms and cucumber salad as side dishes.

Whichever style of noodles you choose you're sure to be rewarded by a satisfying meal. This is a key ingredient for those on a budget too since noodles allow you to stretch your food dollars while providing for the whole family or just one person; noodles can also be adapted to any dietary need and lifestyle and afford a quick cooking meal as well. I always keep some noodles in my pantry since you never know when you might not feel like making a long drawn out dinner or you feel tired and just want something filling and quick.... I love pasta!

No comments:

Post a Comment