It’s Christmas Eve. For many, we hear that means carols, eggnog, and prettily lit Christmas trees. For Jewish New Yorkers, it means something else entirely: takeout Chinese.
I have a slightly different experience than most NYC Jews, though: my grandmother was born on Christmas Day, and my mother grew up celebrating the day both as Christmas and as a birthday. For much of my childhood, we went to Grandma Jane and Poppy’s house in Westchester for the annual Christmas-Birthday party where my main activity was playing with my sisters and cousin on my grandparents’ very cool red, orange, and yellow shag carpet left over from the 60s. These days, the celebration is a bit smaller, but we continue to spend the day with my mom’s side of the family. We open gifts, and sometimes we even eat bagels and smoked salmon. But, this being an afternoon affair, there’s often still room left in the evening to fit in some Spicy Sesame Noodles and Scallion Pancakes.
In any event, Christmas Eve seemed as good a time as any to share the Pad See Ew rice noodles I’ve been making recently, ever since a recent trip to Chinatown equipped me with a bottle of mysterious, delicious Black Soy Sauce. Though the place I now turn to for emotional and physical sustenance in the form of noodles makes a delicious and cost-efficient (if you pick it up yourself, it’s $7.50 and usually lasts for two meals) rendition, I got it in my head to go deeper and make some of the noodles on my own.
I could list all the ways that this satisfying noodle dish is different from the one at the local Thai joint. But though the noodles may be narrower and the portion size smaller, homemade Pad See Ew genuinely hits the spot. To make it, you just have to stock up on a few Thai staples and you’ll be ready to go. Part of why it’s so straightforward is because its flavoring is actually based on a purchased sauce–black soy sauce–which the blogger Chez Pim alerted me to and which I bought for a couple bucks at Hong Kong Supermarket in Chinatown (Healthy Boy Brand is what I got). If you add this condiment to your pantry along with a few others, you’ll be able to make many of the other Thai, Chinese, and Vietnamese meals we’ve featured before on the blog. So if you’re not spending the day eating ham and opening gifts, why not try a few?
Cara, THE QUARTER-LIFE COOK
Pad See Ew
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch Napa cabbage, Chinese broccoli, or bok choy, cleaned and sliced
4 tablespoons safflower, canola, or vegetable oil
6 ounces wide rice noodles
2 lemon wedges
3-4 tablespoons black soy sauce (see introduction for details)
1 teaspoon sugar
1 dash fish sauce
Cook or soak the rice noodles according to package directions until they’re just soft. Drain and toss with a teaspoon or two of the oil. Set aside.
Whisk the eggs with a teaspoon or two of the soy sauce. Set aside.
In a wok over high heat, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil. Add the garlic and stir fry for about 30 seconds, then add the cabbage or other green veggie. Cook, tossing constantly, for a few minutes, until the cabbage is wilted. Remove from the wok to a plate.
Add another tablespoon of the oil, heat for a moment, then throw in the noodles. You want to get some brown parts on the noodles, so don’t stir constantly. Drip in a few tablespoons of black soy sauce and toss to coat. Add the fish sauce, the sugar, and the juice from one of the lemon wedges and mix. Taste a noodle to see if you need any more black soy sauce or sugar to balance the flavors.
Add the cabbage and garlic to the noodles. Toss for a moment, then pull everything to one side of the wok and pour in the eggs. Let cook for a moment, then scramble a bit and when they’re fully cooked, toss back in with the rest of the noodles.
Serve immediately, garnished with the lemon wedges.
Other “takeout” dishes to add to your Christmas repertoire:
Green Curry Chicken
Spicy Thai Beef Salad
Rice Noodle Salad
Sesame Tofu Satay
Udon Noodles with BGSK Peanut Sauce
Teriyaki-Dressed Soba Salad
Asian BBQ Chicken Satays
Free-Form Samosas with Apple-Cranberry Chutney