Friday, March 26, 2010

CSA week 16 - Two sides brown noodles

A traditional chow mein seemed like a good way to use up the rest of the bok choy and at least some of the celery. Two sides brown is a name I've seen associated with the version that has the vegetables topping a crispy noodle cake. Because I looking under a different name, I only just now noticed that La Diva posted her recipe for a crisp noodle cake and stir fry not long ago. You shoudl probably read that too.

Mine uses a somewhat different technique and I think I've got a few interesting things to say. Still, it's marginally post-worthy. I'll try to make something you've never heard of when I get back from Passover.

The first step is choosing the right noodle for the job. From my research I found that fresh egg noodles were the way to go. I was going to make them myself, but I saw one recipe that called for wonton noodles and I thought I recalled seeing such a thing down at Lucky Oriental Mart. And indeed I had. I think this is wonton wrapper dough sliced long and thin.

Once it was cooked al dente, I drained but didn't rinse it and patted it down into a pan to cool and starch-weld itself together into a solid mass. This preparation is really helpful for later. It means that instead of trying to fry the noodles in a pan they barely fit in, I can use the wok and instead of having to use the tricky Spanish tortilla two-plates method of flipping after the first side is browned, I can just flick it up high and over. (I did take the wok outside to give myself plenty of room to maneuver and to keep the splattering oil from going all over the kitchen. Shame I didn't have anyone to video it; I'll bet it looked pretty cool.)

The stir fry is pretty standard chow mein mix. I used the rest of the bok choy, a stalk and a half of celery, a carrot, water chestnuts, onion, mushrooms and bean sprouts. The sauce is mostly soy and oyster sauce with good hits of sriracha and sesame oil. I made more and thinned it out with more chicken stock than I would usually use to make sure there was plenty for the noodles too. The umami-heavy oyster sauce makes for a heartier gravy-ier sauce than a lot of chow mein recipes use, but it goes well with the egg noodles.

Ideally, I'd serve this by presenting the stir fry over top of the noodles, but I've got a bunch of servings here and I'm just one man. I'm carving off a wedge of noodles and serving the stir fry alongside.

The noodle cake is crisp outside, soft inside. That's a style not a mistake, but it's a style that would work better with the thicker round noodles I was hoping to find at Lucky. (The wonton noodles were a second choice.) That would have given a crisp/chewy contrast instead of the crisp/soft I'm getting here. For flat noodles, a thinner cake and/or a looser weave so the oil can penetrate and crisp everything up would be a better choice.

Oh, I nearly forgot, I bought some La Choy chow mein noodles too for the authentically midwestern approach to the dish. Let's see how they work...Hmmm, they're pretty wheaty since there's no egg in there, but they're not a bad match for the sauce and bring out the celery flavor for some reason. Keep their crunch too. Nah, still like the noodle cake better.

The stir fry itself turned out great with the vegetables fresh, colorful, crisp but not undercooked and meat tender and tasty, but since I wasn't paying close attention to what I was doing, I can't tell you just why. And you know how to make a stir fry, right? If you don't, post something in the comments and I, and readers who feel like jumping in, can try to troubleshoot whatever problems you're having.

1 comment:

LaDivaCucina said...

I made the noodle cake a while back after being inspire by Chef Ming Tsai. The hardest part was the flipping and it's such a nice base for a number of stir fries instead of the usual rice.

Also loved your comment re: "authentically midwestern approach!" My mom put those on chop suey when I was a kid. Hey, at least she thought she was being adventurous and cooking Asian!