Pad Thai

As you can tell, I stuck to using up my fruit by baking them into sweet things.  I’m not saying I wouldn’t try fruit in a savory dish (I once made a pear & cheese quesadilla) but there were just so many tasties calling out to me.  Maybe next year I’ll branch out a little bit more.

For now, let’s take a quick break and talk about noodles.  Yes, I know I could fill a book talking about my love of noodles.  So let’s narrow it down a bit, shall we?

Pad thai.  That quintessential dish with its lightly sweetened sauce, soft rice noodles, crunchy bean sprouts and chopped peanuts.  There is a wonderful Thai restaurant in my hometown whose pad thai I have unequivocally endorsed as the best pad thai ever.  And I order pad thai every time I go to a place where it’s on the menu.  None have been better.  Not even my own rendition sadly.  But!  This is the closest I’ve come to recreating it, and believe me, there have been multiple attempts.

The key to pad thai’s sweetness lies in using tamarind paste, as well as sugar.  I would never trust any pad thai recipe that includes ketchup.  Pad thai is not red.  There is definitely no ketchup in a thai kitchen.  If you can’t find tamarind paste at your local Asian grocer, try Amazon.  It is truly a key ingredient in getting your pad thai to taste like it came from a restaurant.  I didn’t have bean sprouts on hand, so I only used scallions for garnish.  I wasn’t going to drive for 30 mins just to get bean sprouts.

Even without their iconic crunch, I loved every bite of this pad thai.  I can’t wait to make it again.

Pad Thai

Adapted from Cook Like a Champion

Makes 4 servings

2 Tbsp tamarind concentrate
2/3 cup hot water
3 Tbsp fish sauce
1 Tbsp rice vinegar
3 Tbsp sugar
¾ tsp cayenne pepper
4 Tbsp peanut or vegetable oil
8 ounces dried rice noodles about 1/8-inch wide
2 large eggs
¼ tsp salt
12 jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium shallot, minced
6 Tbsp chopped unsalted roasted peanuts
3 cups fresh bean sprouts
5 green onions, green parts only, sliced thinly

In a small bowl, dissolve tamarind concentrate in hot water. Stir in fish sauce, rice vinegar, sugar, cayenne and 2 Tbsp of oil and set aside. Place noodles in a large bowl and cover with hot water. Soak until softened and pliable but not completely tender, about 20 minutes. Drain and set aside. Whisk together eggs and 1/8 tsp of salt in a small bowl and set aside.

Season the shrimp with salt and pepper. Heat 1 Tbsp of oil in a large skillet over high heat for about 2 minutes, or until it’s just beginning to smoke. Add shrimp and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 3-5 minutes or until cooked through and pink. Transfer to a plate and set aside.

Off heat, add the remaining Tbsp of oil to skillet and swirl to coat. Add garlic and shallot and return pan to medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, about 2 minutes or until light golden brown. Add eggs and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon or spatula until scrambled, about 20 seconds. Add noodles and toss to combine. Pour the tamarind mixture over the noodles and increase heat to high. Cook, tossing constantly, until the noodles are evenly coated with the sauce. Add 1/4 cup of peanuts, bean sprouts, shrimp and all but ¼ cup of the green onions to the noodles. Continue tossing until well combined and noodles are tender, 2-3 minutes. If noodles are not yet tender, add 2 Tbsp of water to skillet and continue cooking.

Transfer to serving dishes and sprinkle with remaining green onions and peanuts.

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Five Spice Chicken & Mushroom Noodle Bowl

One more day.  One more day until this apartment ceases to be my home.  To me, moving is bittersweet.  You say goodbye to the old place you’ve grown accustomed to and felt comfortable in, and go onward to the new strange place that is home, but doesn’t feel like it yet.

When I went off to college, my mom sold the house I had grown up in and moved as well.  I was sad to leave that house, filled with countless memories, because it was the only home I had ever really known.

This will be the first house I can call my home since then.  Right now, it doesn’t feel much like home, littered with half-unpacked boxes and kitchen supplies stacked in various corners.  Maybe it’s because none of our furniture is there yet.  I mean, how can you have a home without a bed or sofa, or any chairs?  Or a cute little bunny to greet you when you get home?

So I suppose time is needed.  Time to acclimate to my new surroundings.  I’m excited.  I’m nervous.  I want noodles.  Noodles are my all-time comfort food.  I ate them practically non-stop in Taiwan (in between sips of bubble tea) and I pretty much eat them whenever possible.

This recipe is kind of an Asian mash-up, featuring Chinese five-spice powder aka my own personal MSG and udon noodles, which are Japanese.  I suppose I could have used lo-mein noodles.  Oh well.  This noodle bowl contains sautéed mushrooms and chicken rubbed thoroughly with five-spice powder.  Plus a classic sauce and of course, scallions.  Ah yes, comfort food at its finest.  Now back to packing.

Five Spice Chicken & Mushroom Noodle Bowl

Adapted from Better Recipes

Makes about 3-4 servings

8oz udon, lo-mein or other medium sized noodle

1 lb thinly sliced chicken breasts or boneless thighs

2 Tbsp Chinese five-spice powder

8oz button or baby bella mushrooms, sliced

¼ cup veggie or peanut oil

4 Tbsp soy sauce

2 Tbsp sesame oil

1 Tbsp rice vinegar

1 Tbsp sesame seeds

¼ cup chopped scallions for garnish

Prepare your noodles according to the instructions on their packaging.  While the noodles are cooking, make the sauce and prep the chicken.

Whisk the soy sauce, sesame oil, and rice vinegar together in a small bowl; set aside.

Sprinkle both sides of the chicken pieces with the five-spice powder, and rub it in well.  Heat half the oil in a large skillet or wok. Add the chicken and cook over medium-high heat until browned and cooked through, about 3-5 minutes.  Remove to a plate and set aside, leaving the drippings in the pan.

Heat the remaining half of the oil and add in the mushrooms.  Cook over medium-high heat, stirring, until lightly browned and tender, about 5-8 minutes.

Add the noodles into the pan, then pour the sauce over the noodles, stirring to coat.  Add the chicken back in and toss the mixture until the sauce thickens a bit, about 3-5 minutes.

Transfer the noodles to bowls and garnish with chopped scallions and sesame seeds.  Enjoy your comfort noodles!


Noodles with Peanut Sauce & Chicken

Here’s my mom and me.

She’s the wonderful lady who has nurtured me through my 20+ years of life.  I stopped living with my mom once I went to college (I lived with my dad during vacations because my mom moved to PA with my stepdad) so even though I’m young, I’ve had time to reflect on our relationship.

Though our relationship had its rough patches, (what teenage girl doesn’t have rough patches with her mom) I have come to appreciate all she did, and still does for me.  I hope someday I can become as good a mother as she is.  I think I’m doing a pretty good job with Izzy so far….

Yes, I know mothering a rabbit doesn’t count.  But you have to start somewhere to hone those fine-tuned mom skills.  Like how to deal with your child (aka bunny) when they misbehave, though our current strategy will have to be tweaked since it involves locking the “child” in a cage.

So why am I posting about noodles on Mother’s Day?  Well, why not?  No, actually, I do have a legitimate reason.  It is a Chinese tradition to eat noodles on your birthday, as noodles symbolize long life.

I’m raising this bowl of noodles to my mom, and all the moms out there, to say thank you for all their hard work in raising us kids, I hope you all keep it up for a long while yet.  Happy Mother’s Day!

Noodles with Peanut Sauce & Chicken

Adapted from Barbara Bakes and Steamy Kitchen

Makes 3-4 servings

For the chicken:

1 large boneless, skinless chicken breast

1-2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 tsp finely grated fresh ginger
1 tsp rice vinegar

1 Tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp peanut butter
½ tsp sesame oil

For the noodles:

12 oz thin egg noodles, soba, or thin spaghetti

1/4 cup peanut butter, preferably chunky

2 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp sesame oil
1 Tbsp rice vinegar

chopped scallions & sesame seeds for garnish

Prepare the marinade for the chicken first.  In a medium bowl, combine the garlic, ginger, rice vinegar, soy sauce, brown sugar, peanut butter, sesame oil and whisk to combine. Set the marinade aside.

Cut the chicken breast into bite sized chunks. Add the chicken strips to the marinade and mix well. Refrigerate 1 hour or for up to overnight.

Cook the noodles/pasta according to the package’s instructions.  Meanwhile, set a large skillet over medium high heat and add one Tbsp peanut oil (or any other veggie oil).  When the oil is hot, add the chicken and sauté until cooked through, about 5-10 mins depending on their size.  Transfer cooked chicken to a plate and set aside.  If you’d like to add veggies to this dish, I added mushrooms, saute them now until tender, then transfer them to the chicken plate.

When the noodles are done, strain them and run them under cold water.  Combine the peanut butter, soy sauce, sesame oil and rice vinegar in a small bowl and whisk to combine.  Put the noodles in the hot skillet and pour the sauce over them, tossing to coat evenly.  Add in the chicken and veggies if using and stir to warm through.  Serve with chopped scallions and sesame seeds.


Soba with Soy Honey Drizzle and Chicken

Some days all I want to do is stuff my face with noodles.  There are many reasons that provoke such a reaction in me.  Like yesterday, when I had a splitting headache and cramps ALL DAY LONG.

Thanks for nothing Advil.  While noodles may not be scientifically proven to lessen bodily aches and pains, they’re still a mighty wonderful distraction.

Noodles are a great food.  Slurpable, slightly chewy and soft, and they come in so many varieties.  I do love soba and udon.  I also adore rice noodles and egg noodles.  Have you ever had sweet potato starch noodles?  Delicious.

My favorite chopsticks.

Broth, no broth; sauce, no sauce (well let’s be honest, I’ll always put a little soy sauce and sesame oil on my noodles.)

This is a great weeknight dinner that comes together super fast, and with the addition of pre-cooked shredded chicken, is a very filling meal, especially for the noodles lovers out there.

Soba with Soy Honey Drizzle and Chicken

Adapted from T and T Cake

Makes 2-3 servings

8 oz soba noodles, cooked

3 Tbsps water

5 Tbsps soy sauce

1 tsp sesame oil

1 Tbsp rice wine vinegar or mirin

1 Tbsp brown sugar

2 Tbsps honey

1 cup chicken, cooked and shredded

sesame seeds for garnish

Cook the noodles according to their packaging’s instructions.  While the noodles are cooking, mix together water through honey in a small bowl and stir until honey and sugar have dissolved.

When the noodles are done, strain them and apportion them.  Drizzle the soy sauce mixture evenly over the noodles.  Toss noodles and add chicken if using.  Sprinkle with sesame seeds, chopped scallion or chives, and enjoy!

 


Simple Udon Soup

What do you do when you walk into the living room in the morning to feed your darling bunny and encounter this situation?

Yep, that’s Izzy on top of her cage.  She jumped up there…because that’s what rabbits do I guess.  If you don’t believe me, look up rabbit show jumping on youtube.  Oh, it’s a thing. Anyway, the first time this happened, I was visiting my grandma and Luke had left her bag of food on the side table next to her cage.

She’s been up there a few more times since then, but she never seems to have intentions of escaping her pen, probably because if she did, she’d be leaving behind her water and food supply.  Since she spends 80% of her time eating or drinking, I’d say that’d be a bad bet for her, and we like to think that she’s a smart bunny.

Still, it’s adorable to see her bunny curiosity lead her up there, as cute photos will ensue.

Even though it’s been a mild winter in the northeast, I still find myself craving soup, practically all the time.  Some soup recipes require long simmering time, but when I want a quick bowl of the steamy stuff, I always think Asian first.

Soup noodles were my number one favorite food to eat in Taiwan (yes, despite the heat, also double bonus if there were wontons included.)  So, of course I like to reconstruct them at home where the weather is actually appropriate.

I also love soup noodles because the flavors can be tailored to individual tastes.  Feel free to use whatever vegetables/meat/noodles you want, but remember that this is a quicky recipe, so the meat will need to be pre-cooked, and the veggies will only soften a little.

Simple Udon Noodle Soup

Recipe by Bashfulbao

Makes about 4 servings

Water to boil noodles/pasta

2 cups chicken/veggie/beef broth

1 tbsp miso paste (you can omit this if you don’t have it)

two bundles udon noodles (or 8 oz other pasta of choice)

1 cup pre cooked chicken, diced or shredded

1 tbsp olive oil

1 cup chopped onion

3 cloves of garlic, minced

2 tbsp hoisin sauce

green onions/sesame seeds for garnish

Cook whatever noodles you’re using according to their packaged directions.  Reserve 2 cups of the cooking water after straining the noodles.

Heat olive oil in a medium saucepan, then add in onion, garlic, or other combinations of chopped vegetables.  Cook, stirring frequently, for 5 mins.  Add in reserved water and stock.  Bring to a boil, then turn the heat to low.  Add in cooked pasta, choice of meat, miso paste, hoisin sauce and simmer for 5 mins.  You may need to stir it a bit to break up the miso.  Ladle soup into bowls, garnish and serve!


Bean Thread Noodles with Meat Sauce

I want to be a Chinese teacher.  Obviously, this means I speak Chinese.  I learned Chinese in college and spent a semester abroad in Taipei, Taiwan.  I had an amazing time, and my language skills benefitted immensely.  When people ask me what the best part of my trip was, I often say the food.  Authentic Chinese and Taiwanese food is incredible.  It’s quite different from what we serve here in the States.

This is called a bian dang 便當 and is the Taiwanese equivalent of the bento box.  It’s composed of a slice of pork, sausage, tofu, half a hard boiled egg, and some pickled veggies over white rice.

Going to a large restaurant in Taiwan means ordering a number of dishes for your table, while rice is always available.  It’s also very common to have a take-out meal in Taiwan.  My favorite take-out meals were dumplings and different kinds of noodles.

Dumplings in spicy sauce.

Another great place to get food in Taiwan is at night markets.  Every night these markets appear in the streets of Taiwan, and sell clothing, jewelry, and other small items.  They also sell 小吃 which means “small eats.”  Here are a couple examples.

 

See something you like?  At this vendor, you pick your food-on-a-stick of choice, and it’s cooked right in front of you.

 These are little pieces of fried octopus.  Not my favorite.

These guys are hand held omelettes with pork filling.

I thing I miss most about Taiwan though, was the abundance of bubble tea.  Bubble tea is black tea (though you can make it with other teas) mixed with milk and sugar with large sweetened tapioca pearls.  It was invented in Taiwan in the 1980s, and is somewhat popular in the US now, but in Taiwan, you can buy it on practically every street corner.  When I was in Taiwan, I think I drank one every day.  I need to start making it at home.  And now on to my dish.

 

This dish is somewhat inspired by one of my favorite take-out meals while in Taiwan.  Plus I had some ground pork, and didn’t want to make dumplings, and this was a great alternative.  The sauce is slightly tangy and goes great over the bean thread noodles, which are great for slurping by the way.  This dish comes together quickly and serves as a great weeknight meal.

 

my favorite chopsticks!!

Bean Thread Vermicelli with Pork Sauce

Adapted from Martin Yan Quick & Easy

Makes 4 servings

2 teaspoons soy sauce

2 teaspoons Chinese rice wine

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1 pound ground meat (I used ground pork, but beef, chicken or turkey would work too)

¾ cup chicken broth

2 tablespoons oyster sauce

1 tablespoon sesame oil

2 teaspoons soy sauce

2 teaspoons chili garlic sauce (I used Sriracha)

1/8 teaspoon pepper

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

2 tablespoons minced garlic

2 scallions, chopped

2 teaspoons cornstarch dissolved in 1 tablespoon water

4 cups cooked bean thread

Combine the first three ingredients in a medium bowl and mix well.  Add the ground meat and stir to coat evenly.  Let stand for 10 minutes.  To make your sauce, combine ingredients from chicken broth to pepper together in a small bowl and mix well.

Place a large frying pan or wok over high heat until hot.  Add oil, swirling to coat the edges.  Add the garlic and scallions and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Add the ground meat and stir fry until browned and crumbly, about 3 minutes.  Add the sauce and bring to a boil.  Add the cornstarch solution and cook, stirring, until the sauce boils and thickens, about a minute.  Remove from heat and ladle over warm noodles.

To cook bean thread noodles, soak in hot water for 5-8 minutes, then strain.

Note: all of these ingredients can be found at an Asian supermarket.  Better regular supermarkets will also carry most of the sauces, but not the noodles.  If there are no Asian markets in your area, asianfoodgrocer.com is a good site for buying Asian foods.