Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Asian Flavors In Your American Kitchen: Part One

This morning I had a breakthrough at the Stop n' Shop: it actually carries a number of Asian ingredients that I was convinced I couldn't get on island!  Happiness!  There are several recipes that I've been wanting to blog about, but I thought I couldn't get the ingredients locally, so I hadn't been able to cook them and photograph them, but now I know that even my provincial grocery store is more well stocked that I previously imagined, so this week I am tackling a few head-on.

This story starts when I was staying with my friend Kristen in DC last month.  On my last night there we made homemade vegetarian sushi and dim sum (i.e., a variety of frozen dumplings and buns).  It was so much fun that I wanted to get some supplies so I could try it at home, so this past weekend while I was off-island I went to an Asian grocery store, and picked up a bag of rice, nori, vinegar, and then impulsively I grabbed some wonton wrappers and udon noodles.

I nabbed the udon noodles for take two of a recipe called Dan Dan Noodles that I found in Cooking Light this past fall.  During take one I had to use spaghetti, because I couldn't find any proper Asian-y noodles.  As it turns out, when I pulled up the Dan Dan Noodle recipe to start cooking, I realized that it actually called for Chinese egg noodles, not udon after all, but since I had them I used them, and the recipe was just delicious.  Then today--breakthrough!--Stop n' Shop actually carried udon after all!  The other ingredient I had trouble finding the first time around was sambal oelek, a fresh chili paste.  I bought some in Chinatown over Christmas to add to the pantry, but then of course this morning when I was looking for Hoisin sauce, and there's the darn sambal oelek, right at eye level.  Not sure if it was there last November, when I was searching for it, but no matter.  So long story short, now that I have my ingredients and know even provincial grocery stores like mine have these ingredients, I feel like I can share this recipe with you, readers, since I am confident that you can find everything you'll need.

Below is the recipe for the noodles, with a few adaptations by me, most notably the addition of finely chopped red bell pepper to up the veg content and give it a punchier appearance.

 Dan Dan Noodles (Adapted from Cooking Light, November 2009)

* 1 pound frozen fresh wide Chinese egg noodles, thawed, or Udon noodles, or thick spaghetti
* 2 tablespoons canola oil
* 1/3 cup dry-roasted peanuts
* 3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
* 1 tablespoon sambal oelek (ground fresh chile paste)
* 1 teaspoon sugar
* 2 garlic cloves
* 1 (1/2-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled
* 8 ounces lean ground pork
* 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
* 3/4 cup thinly diagonally sliced green onions
* 1 1/4 cups chopped seeded peeled cucumber
* 3/4 cup of finely chopped red bell pepper
* 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1. Cook egg noodles in 6 quarts boiling water for 3 minutes, or cook noodle variety of choice according to package directions.  Drain noodles, reserving 3/4 cup cooking liquid.

2. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add peanuts to pan; sauté 2 minutes or until fragrant. Remove from heat and cool slightly. Combine peanuts, soy sauce, sambal oelek, sugar, garlic, and ginger in a mini food processor.  Process until finely ground.

3. Cook pork in the large skillet over medium-high heat 8 minutes or until done, stirring to crumble. Add peanut mixture and the 3/4 cup of noodle cooking liquid to pork; bring to a boil. Cook 1 minute, stirring frequently.  Add the lime juice and onions to pork mixture, add noodles and toss well. Place about 1 3/4 cup noodle mixture in each of 4 bowls; top each serving with a generous heap of cucumber, red bell pepper, and cilantro.

 Sadly, all I can show you is the leftovers container, because I was so hungry while I was cooking this that I didn't take a picture of my pretty presentation.  But there it is in all it's meaty, peanuty, spicy glory.  The picture really doesn't do it justice.

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