Why is it that when I am eating alone at home I crave noodles? I have written about this before, here. Maybe it’s because solo dining requires a certain degree of comfort and pasta is my ultimate comfort food. This dish is a very loose adaptation of a recipe from one of my newest cookbooks: “Every Grain of Rice: Simple Chinese Home Cooking” by Fuchsia Dunlop. It was my attempt to satisfy a craving for spicy noodles using only the ingredients I had on hand. It is not authentic to the recipe, but I was able to come up with a delicious dish of noodles, vegetables, and a little meat to add some heartiness to the meal. The sauce is light and brothy, with just the right amount of spicy heat. I used dried spaghetti as I didn’t have any Chinese wheat noodles and I think that’s okay. If you measure out your ingredients and get everything prepped ahead of time, you’ll have dinner on the table in about the time it takes to cook the pasta.
Spicy Noodles with Asian Flavors
(makes 2 generous servings)
In a heavy skillet, set over medium heat add:
1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
When the oil is hot add to the pan:
4 ounces ground beef (or ground pork)
Stir fry the meat until until all the pink color is gone. Add to the pan:
2 teaspoons Shaoxing wine*
Stir this into the meat and then add:
1 teaspoon hoisin sauce
Continue to stir fry the mixture until it is fragrant. Season the meat mixture with:
1 teaspoon light soy sauce**
A pinch of salt, to taste
Stir the meat and break it up into small morsels. Remove from the heat and set aside. Bring a large pot of water to the boil and season generously with salt. In a small saucepan (or a measuring cup in the microwave) heat:
3/4 cup chicken stock
When the water boils add:
7 ounces dried spaghetti or Chinese wheat noodles, if you have them. While the noodles are cooking stir together in a serving bowl the sauce ingredients:
2 teaspoons light soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
2 to 4 tablespoons chili oil with its sediment, or to taste (start small and add more to your liking)
4 tablespoons finely sliced green onion tops
When the noodles are almost done, add to the pot:
2 large handfuls of baby spinach leaves or other leafy greens of your choice, sliced.
Let the vegetables blanch briefly, then drain the noodles and vegetables in a colander. Now add the warm stock to the bowl with the other sauce ingredients. Add the pasta (or noodles) and blanched vegetables to the sauce and top with the meat mixture. Scatter additional sliced green onion tops over the dish, if you like. Bring to the table, stir the sauce, noodles, meat, and vegetables together and serve.
*If you are unable to purchase Shaoxing wine at your supermarket, dry sherry makes an acceptable subsitute.
**Light soy sauce is not the same as low-sodium soy sauce. In fact, light soy sauce is saltier than dark, with its own distinctive flavor; the “light” description refers to its color.
(Adapted from “Every Grain of Rice” by Fuchsia Dunlop)