I am hooked on Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown.
I just started watching it on Netflix. It’s not just about food, everything is fair game; history, lifestyle (check out the Tokyo episode), politics, culture. If you have a chance watch the episode on Shanghai. Shanghai has become the city of the future, a financial hub and global powerhouse, it is the juggernaut that defines China today. While in college, I was lucky enough to visit Shanghai. We spent a couple of days in this fabled port city. Ravaged by years of occupation and it still felt like Shanghai was ready to embrace the outside world and the future. One evening we strolled down to the Yangtze River and by the time we arrived at the riverfront we had attracted a crowd of people easily 10 deep. Some wanted to practice speaking English but many just wanted to look at the strange way we were dressed. The streets were flooded with bicycles there were very few cars. Everyone wore brown or blue pants and white shirts (vestiges of life under Mao). Stores and restaurants were run by the government and only tourist were allowed in to shop and eat. If I invited anyone for dinner they turned in their ration coupons even though I paid for the meal.
Not a MickeyD’s, Starbucks or Pizza Hut to be found.
I never imagined then that China would become the political & economic heavyweight it is today. The Shanghai featured in Parts Unknown was unrecognizable. Where once stood old provincial buildings built by countries that had occupied China there are now modern high-rises. Bicycles have been replaced by cars and proletariat clothes have given way to the latest fashion trends. Gone are the state run stores, replaced by Prada, Fendi and Starbucks.
Fine wines and haute cuisine are part of the China of today but street markets and sidewalk stalls selling down home food like dumplings and noodles thankfully still exist. Stir fried noodles with ginger and scallions falls into this category. Ginger, garlic and scallions are sautéed to infuse their flavors in the oil before adding the noodles. The sauce is composed of soy sauce, oyster sauce and sesame oil can be thrown together in a snap. Just like that a tasty meal in minutes! Most of the ingredients are pantry staples including the fresh noodles that can be found in most Asian stores. I usually buy a couple of packs and throw them into the freezer.
From left to right: Sake (Japanese rice wine), Mirin (sweet Japanese cooking wine), Bean Sauce by Koon Chun (salty bean paste), Chili Garlic Sauce (like Siracha, similar in heat with garlic added), Sesame oil by Kadoya (used in Korean, Japanese and Chinese dishes), Chinese Rice wine (Michu), Vietnamese Fish Sauce by Three Crabs (pink label in back), Hoisin Sauce by Koon Chun (Chinese all-purpose bbq sauce), Premium Soy Sauce by Lee Kum Kee (all-purpose soy sauce), Oyster Sauce also by Lee Kum Kee (our go-to brand look for the label with the boy and woman in boat). Some of the bottles are almost empty which means I will be going to my favorite Asian market soon, call me if you want to come along for an Asian Sauce Primer!
- 1 lb fresh Asian egg noodles, thin and flat like fettuccine
- Fresh ginger, 6 thin slices, crushed to release its flavor
- 3 scallions or green onions, cut into 1 inch sections and crushed to release flavor
- 2 cloves of garlic, smashed but intact
- 3 T vegetable or peanut oil
- 3 T premium soy sauce (Kikkoman is fine)
- 3 T oyster sauce
- 1.5 T rice wine
- 1.5 t sesame oil
- 1 t sugar
- 2-3 T chicken stock or water
- salt and white pepper
- Optional items
- 1/2 cup corn
- 4 dried shiitake mushrooms that have been soaked in warm water until soft, sliced
- 1/4 cup black fungus, soaked in warm water, cut into small pieces
- Heat a large pot of water and cook noodles as directed. Do not overcook as you will be stir frying them to finish the dish! Fresh noodles will only take a couple of minutes at best. Remove from pot and drain thoroughly.
- Combine ingredients for sauce in a bowl and set aside. You can add a little cornstarch to thicken the sauce, 1-2 tsp dissolved in stock or water then added to sauce ingredients.
- Heat vegetable oil in a deep sided pan or wok until very hot, you should see wisps of smoke from the oil. Add ginger and garlic to pan and stir fry for approximately 1-2 minutes until garlic begins to brown. Add scallions or green onions, mushrooms or black fungus, stir fry for another minute.
- Add noodles to pan, stir fry over medium high heat. Mix thoroughly to make sure the noodles are coated with the flavored oil, 1-2 minutes. Add any optional ingredients at this point.
- Add sauce to noodles and stir fry 2-3 minutes to combine ingredients and reduce the sauce.
- Garnish with green onions and cilantro if desired.
- I left the ginger and green onions in big pieces as my kids didn't like them, made it easy to pick it out.
- You could add leftover chicken or beef to make this a more substantial dish or even shrimp.
- Once again, kids and corn...the corn added a bit of sweetness to the dish and crunch, always a good thing!