Before I get into these noodles I have to confess that I’ve really been mulling over the purpose of this blog for the last few days. In my attempt to cook my way through my collected magazine recipes, I’ve made a few this week that just really didn’t make the grade. “Should I put them on the blog?” I wondered. I mean, I did say that I was going to make all of the recipes that I’d cut out…but does that mean that I have to share them if they’re sub-par? At first I thought maybe I would, thinking that other people might have an idea how to improve them, or that maybe I could share how to improve them…but now I’ve reached my conclusion: no matter how many recipes I try, I’m only going to post the excellent ones. Therefore, forget the Shrimp and Pancetta on Polenta (the shrimp overpowered the pancetta and the whole thing was bland) and the Chicken in Garlic Vinegar Sauce (also bland, and it gave my baby wicked, wicked nocturnal gas). On to more inspiring and delicious things, like Tian Tian Chao Mian, which sounds like the start of a nursery rhyme or a jump rope game. This is from a recent issue of Saveur—have I mentioned how much I am in love with this magazine? I got it to replace Gourmet when it tanked, and I like it so much more than any other cooking magazine I’ve ever had. It doesn’t overwhelm me with more recipes than I could ever cook in a lifetime (like, cough, Cooking Light, my evil nemesis), nor does it recycle the same 10 recipes over and over in each issue (CL and the accursed flank steak dish!) and what’s more, it has breathtaking photos and outstanding writing with lots of touching ruminations about the meaning of food in our lives. It’s just awesome. Period. So, back to Tian Tian. It needed a little extra flavor, which I detailed in the directions below, but it was quick to prepare and truly delightful. And any food that helps make memories as sweet as the ones in the pictures below is a winner in my book. Turns out toddlers will eat anything with chopsticks, including broccoli.
1/2 small seedless cucumber, peeled and julienned
pinch of salt
3 tbsp. canola oil
1 medium carrot, julienned
1 onion, thinly sliced
1/4 lb. ground pork
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 1" piece ginger, minced
6 scallions, minced
1 1/2 tbsp. dark soy sauce
1 1/2 tbsp. rice cooking wine (mirin)
1 1/2 tsp. sugar
2 cups bean sprouts (I used broccoli instead)
6 oz. dried flat noodles, boiled and rinsed under cold water (I used chop suey noodles, which are like ramen, but not as cheap and gross)
1 tbsp. Asian sesame oil
Toss cucumbers and a pinch of salt together in a small bowl; let sit 5 minutes. Heat a 14" wok (or stainless-steel skillet) over high heat until it begins to smoke. Add 1 tbsp. oil around edge of wok; swirl to coat bottom and sides. Add carrots and onions; cook until softened, about 1 minute. Transfer to a plate; set aside.
Return wok to high heat and add remaining oil. Add pork, garlic, ginger, and half the scallions; cook, breaking pork into small pieces, until browned, 3–4 minutes.
Add soy sauce, wine, sugar, bean sprouts, and carrots and onions. Cook, stirring, until hot, about 30 seconds.
Add cucumbers, remaining scallions, noodles, and sesame oil; cook, tossing, until hot, about 1 minute. Season with salt. At this point I found it pretty bland, so I added about an extra tablespoon of soy sauce and maybe 1 tsp of memmi, which is Japanese and has no place in this dish, but it’s full of umami and ended up being just the thing. Oh, and then I squirted sriracha all over the noodles and it was perfect!