Spicy Cold Noodles

Last summer when I was just visiting China and no idea I would ever actually live here, I took pictures and made notes of my favorite foods. Some dishes I just had to learn how to make on my own. That’s exactly how I felt about this noodle dish. It’s like a Chinese pasta salad. Cold, refreshing, and spicy all at the same time. It is easily one of my favorite dishes here and Jesse can’t get enough of it either.

Lucky for me I have some pretty great local Chinese friends. Almost exactly a year ago I posted about our friend Mandy teaching us to make dumplings, now she has taught me how to make these cold noodles. My 24×24 party was the first time I made them on my own.  I  have to admit, I was a little nervous making it on my own for a group of Chinese food experts, but this dish was the hit of the party and disappeared in the blink of an eye.



Spicy Cold Noodles 

Ingredients
~12 oz Chinese Noodles*
2 tbsp canola oil
1/3 cup cucumbers, cut into thin matchsticks
1/4 cup green onion, cut into 1/2 inch pieces, plus more for garnish
2 cloves garlic, very finely diced
2 Tbsp very finely chopped peanuts
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup dark rice vinegar (white rice vinegar also works)
2-3 tsp chili oil **
1 tsp sesame oil
2 tsp white sugar

*Noodles can be found in the Asian aisle of your grocery store, may also be labeled Rice Noodles. Thin, spaghetti like, noodles are best, but thicker noodles, like in the photo, also work. My noodles came in a roll and I used 1/2 of the roll, which I guess to be about 12 oz.
**If you can find Lao Gan Ma brand in the Asian aisle or at an Asian grocery store, use that! Or look for a chili oil that has chilies in the oil. 


Directions
Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil. Add the noodles and cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally*.  While the noodles are cooking, prepare a cold water bath. When the noodles are cooked to al dente, drain and immediately place in the cold water bath. Let sit for 2 minutes then drain again and place in a large bowl. Toss with 1 tablespoon of oil to prevent from sticking. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and peanuts and cook for just 30 seconds to 1 minutes, or until the garlic is fragrant (you’re not trying to cook the garlic, you’re just trying to take a little of the edge off). Immediately remove from heat and add, along with the cucumber and green onion, to the noodles. Set aside.

In a small liquid measuring cup, combine the soy sauce, vinegar, chili oil, sesame oil, and sugar. If you like a lot of spice, add more chili sauce or a pinch of dry red pepper flakes. Pour over the noodles and toss to combine and evenly coat noodles. Can be served immediately or chilled in the fridge for 30 minutes.

 *These noodles cook much faster than Italian style noodles. Keep an eye on them so they don’t turn to mush!

As taught to me by my friend, Mandy

Asian Lettuce Wraps

Last week the family I nanny for went on vacation so that meant two things for me. One, STAYCATION – which after the craziness of this summer was very, very welcome. Two, lots of cooking and baking. Well the staycation was awesomely relaxing and my kitchen took the beating like a champ.

Since getting back from China I have really wanted to get back into a groove of meal planning and I figured a week at home was the perfect time to get started. I have to say it’s AMAZING how many more vegetables I include when I plan my meals in advance. Every night I was just enamored with the beautiful colors included in all of my meals. Especially this meal.

I came across this recipe the morning I made my meal plan and it went straight to the front of the line. Besides Jesse jokingly saying, “Wow that appetizer looks great, what’s for dinner” (Do you know what popular chain restaurant he was thinking of?) these lettuce wraps went over really well. I loved the punch of veggies and the fact that I was able to not only cook a meal without dairy or a major carb, but that it was actually really enjoyed by all.

Recipe Note: The most time consuming part of this whole meal is chopping the veggies. I recommend doing all of the chopping and throwing the veggies in a bowl before starting up the stovetop. Once you start cooking everything goes really quickly. Also if you’re feeding people with big appetites, I would recommend multiplying the recipe time 1.5 or 2.

Asian Lettuce Wraps

(Adapted from Good Thymes and Good Food, previously on Annie’s Eats)

Ingredients

Sauce

4 tsp hoisin sauce
4tsp soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
3 tsp rice wine vinegar
1/2 tsp cornstarch
Freshly ground black pepper

Filling

2 tsp canola oil
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 shallot, minced
1 tsp freshly grated ginger
1 lb. ground turkey, chicken, or pork (I did a combination of ground chicken and pork)
1/2 medium onion, diced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1/4 cup frozen peas
1/4 cup carrot, very finely diced
1/2 green apple, finely diced
2 green onions, thinly sliced

Lettuce, for wrapping

Directions

In a measuring cup, whisk together all of the ingredients for the sauce, set aside.

Heat a large skillet or wok over medium heat. Add the canola oil to the pan along with the garlic, shallot, and ginger. Cook for 30-60 seconds or until fragrant.

Add the ground meat to the pan, breaking into small pieces with a wooden spoon. Cook until the meat is no longer pink then create a well in the center of the pan by pushing the meat to the outside edges. Add the onion, bell pepper, frozen peas, and carrot to pan and cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Finally add the sauce, apples, and green onion. Stir to evenly coat and cook for 1 minute to allow the sauce to slightly thicken.

Serve with fresh lettuce.

Shrimp Fried Rice

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The first time Jesse was in China he had a lot of fun shopping for souvenirs. He brought home lots of really cool stuff. And when I say lots, I mean it. He had 3 suitcases, one of them the size of Texas. The suitcase that was the size of Texas was actually overweight to the point that he had to remove stuff and put it in a box to be shipped back. The airline rep at the counter said he couldn’t just pay the overweight fee because it was just too heavy for the workers to lift on to the plane. Yeah, that kind of “lots of stuff”. Granted he also had to TAKE a lot of stuff with him so it wasn’t all souvenirs, but a good amount.

Now, I know you can buy chop sticks here in the US, but I still thought it was awesome when he brought home a pack. He also brought a really nice Chinese tea set. Little yellow cups with black and red masks painted on the side and a matching teapot perfect for brewing tea. As cool as those things are I don’t always have a good excuse to use them. But this week a little celebration is in order. And I think the most appropriate way to celebrate is making Chinese food and using my chopsticks and tea set.

Why the celebration? Because, I AM GOING TO CHINA! I am so excited I can’t stand it. First and foremost, I get to be with my husband. Second, I get to travel to some where completely new and different to me. I hope to find ways to really immerse myself in the culture and learn lots of new things. And of course I plan to try lots of new foods!

As for the fried rice I made, it was delicious. It’s always fun when I get to use my wok and try new ingredients (Chinese cabbage). I can’t say how authentic this recipe is but I will definitely make it again.


Shrimp Fried Rice
(Adapted from The New Basics Cookbook)

2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 Tbsp minced fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 cup onion, chopped
1/2 medium head Chinese cabbage, coarsely chopped
3 cups cooked long-grain white rice
1/4 soy sauce
1/8 rice vinegar
1/8 orange juice
1/4 cup chicken broth
1/3 cup frozen peas
8 ounces small shrimp, shelled, raw, deveined
2 eggs, beaten
2 Tbsp green onion, sliced (for garnishing, and I forgot but will remember next time)

Heat the oil in a wok (or large skillet) over medium-low heat. Add the onion, ginger and garlic and saute until soft, about 4 minutes.

Add the cabbage to the wok and increase the heat to medium. Cook for 6 minutes, until it appears limp. Stir often.

Create a well in the cabbage and pour in the soy sauce, rice vinegar, orange juice and chicken broth. Bring to a simmer and add the shrimp. Cook just until the shrimp is light pink then add the rice and peas. Cook for 4 minutes, stirring constantly making sure to coat the rice evenly.

Make a well in the middle of the rice. Pour the eggs into the well and cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring with a fork. Gently fold the eggs into the rice.

Serve immediately with green onions for garnish.

Beef With Snow Peas and Baby Corn

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Today I was thinking of Jesse all.day.long. Wondering what the weather was like, how his jet lag was, and of course, what he was eating. I started thinking of all the different kinds of foods he tried the last two times he was in China. I was really proud of him because he really stepped out of his food comfort zone and tried things I had never imagined he would try. And he even liked a lot of them. Another great thing about the food in China is that they use a lot of vegetables, so he started to like a much wider variety.

While all of that was swimming around my head I also started thinking of vegetables, and ginger, and soy sauce. Side note, ironically they don’t use much soy sauce in Shanghai, at least they don’t put it out in restaurants and use it as a condiment like we are so used to in American Chinese restaurants. Jesse says they associate that with being a bad cook or having bad ingredients. Anyways, I then started to crave those things.

I remember seeing this recipe a while back on one of my favorite blogs, the Pioneer Woman. It sounded really good at the time but for whatever reason I didn’t get around to trying it. Finally, after my round about thinking session earlier today, I remembered and decided I had to make this. So really, in a very complicated web of my every day thought process, this meal is all about Jesse and his trip to China. I only wish he were here to enjoy it with me, especially since it was so tasty!


Beef with Snow Peas and Baby Corn
(Adapted from The Pioneer Woman Cooks)

Ingredients

1-½ pound Flank Steak, Trimmed Of Fat And Sliced Very Thin Against The Grain
½ cups Low Sodium Soy Sauce
3 Tablespoons Rice Wine Vinegar (or if you forget to buy this at the store, apple cider vinegar and a splash of white wine)
2 Tablespoons Brown Sugar
2 Tablespoons Cornstarch
1 Tablespoon Minced Fresh Ginger
8 ounce package of Snow Peas and Baby Corn
5 whole Scallions, Cut Into Half-inch Pieces On The Diagonal
3 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil
Crushed Red Pepper, For Sprinkling
Jasmine Or Long Grain Rice, Cooked According To Package

Directions

In a bowl, mix together soy sauce, sherry, brown sugar, cornstarch, and ginger. Add sliced meat to bowl and toss with hands. Set aside.

Heat oil in a wok over high heat. Add snow peas and baby corn and stir for 45 seconds. Remove to a separate plate lined with paper towels to absorb excess oil. Set aside.

Allow pan to get very hot again. With tongs, add half the meat mixture, leaving most of the marinade still in the bowl. Add half the scallions. Spread out meat as you add it to pan, but do not stir for a good minute. (You want the meat to get as brown as possible in as short amount a time as possible.) Turn meat to the other side and cook for another 30 seconds. Remove to a clean plate.

Repeat with other half of meat, allowing pan to get very hot again first. After turning it, add the first plateful of meat, the rest of the marinade, and the snow peas. Stir over high heat for 30 seconds, then turn off heat.

Serve immediately over rice. Sprinkle crushed red pepper over the top to give it some spice.