Cooking For Others: My Noodle Obsession
EVENT: Dinner, anytime, anywhere
VENUE: Cara’s apartment
PARTY SIZE: 2
TYPE: Simple, infinitely adaptable
MENU: Ginger Scallion Noodles with Pickled Cucumbers, Carrots, and a Fried Egg; Ginger Scallion Noodles with Pickled Carrots, Bok Choy, Grilled Eggplant, and Gomasio
The first time I tried Ginger Scallion sauce was the same night I was introduced to the Momofuku Pork Bo Ssam. The sauce is one of the many that arrives at your table and is meant to be piled on the rice-lettuce-pork wraps. The only problem with the array of sauces is that the rice-lettuce-pork wraps taste so ridiculously good on their own that it’s hard to alter them with condiments. But I tasted the sauce on one or two of my wraps, and I was impressed. Then, at Noodle Bar, with the same Momofuku-pushing friends who’d introduced me to Bo Ssam, I ordered the Ginger Scallion Noodles and ate every last bite of a rather enormous serving.
As if my memory of this noodle bowl wasn’t enough torture, I started seeing the recipe everywhere on the web. Ginger Scallion Sauce must have been one of the dishes David Chang was spreading to promote his cookbook, and suddenly it was ubiquitous. So I bookmarked it and, as I do with most of my bookmarks, ignored the fact that I had.
When I finally got around to making the noodles, I did it right. I got frozen ramen from one of the Japanese groceries downtown, and I quick-pickled some cucumbers in my colander. I can’t remember if it was that or the second time that I even toasted some nori sheets to crumble on top. The point is, I’ve started making Ginger Scallion Noodles a lot for Alex and me–like it might have been two of the last few meals I’ve cooked for him–and I’ve started to venture away from the recommended serving ideas. For one, I’ve found that the noodles work totally well as good old-fashioned spaghetti. For another, that they’re an excellent base for whatever ingredients need to be repurposed from the fridge or the pantry.
The noodles themselves are silky and deeply tasty, though the individual flavors of scallion and of ginger sort of melt away into a greater whole. They take well to practically any vegetable, protein, or seasoning sprinkled on top, though honestly you could also probably just eat a whole bowl of them plain. Best of all, the preparation is easy to streamline for a quick dinner. You start the water boiling at the same time that you grate the ginger and chop the scallions; then you let the sauce rest while you make whatever toppings you’ve chosen. By the time the noodles are drained, the sauce is ready, and you can eat right away.
From my kitchen, where ginger scallion noodles are becoming my go-to, to yours,
Cara, THE QUARTER-LIFE COOK
1 1/2 – 2 cups thinly sliced scallions (greens and whites; from 1 large bunches)
1⁄3 cup grated peeled fresh ginger (from about a 5-inch piece of fresh ginger)
1⁄4 cup grapeseed or other neutral oil
1 1⁄2 teaspoons soy sauce
3⁄4 teaspoons rice wine vinegar
3⁄4 teaspoon kosher salt, or more to taste
12 ounces ramen, spaghetti, lo mein, or noodle of your choice
Mix together the scallions, ginger, oil, soy, vinegar, and salt in a bowl. Taste and check for salt, adding more if needed. Let rest at least 15 or 20 minutes.
Make the noodles according to package directions, boiling them in well-salted water. Drain, rinse with cold water to bring the noodles to room temperature, and drain again. Toss with the scallion ginger sauce and top with any of the below.
1 small eggplant
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
Cut the eggplant into slices 1/3-inch thick. Toss in a colander with the kosher salt and allow to sit for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Pat the slices dry, then toss them with 1 tablespoon of olive oil to coat. Heat a cast-iron pan over medium-high heat for a few minutes, until hot. Add the eggplant in a single layer and cook for about 5 minutes per side, until cooked through. Repeat until you’ve used all the slices.
Picked Radishes, Carrots, or Cucumbers
To make quick-pickled vegetables, slice about 1 cup of any of the above. Put them in a colander with 1 tablespoon of salt for anywhere from 15 minutes to 1 hour. Rinse and squeeze out all the liquid. Then toss with 1-2 tablespoons of rice wine vinegar and 1/2-1 teaspoon sugar, tasting as you the vinegar/sugar.
Toasted Sesame Seeds, Gomasio, and Nanami Togarashi
Black Gomasio is a mix of black sesame seeds and salt. It’s delicious sprinkled on top. Nanami Togarashi is a Japanese seven-spiece mixture that includes several kinds of chili peppers and is another great topping. To toast your own sesame seeds, pour 2 tablespoons into a small skillet. Cook over medium heat until golden and fragrant, keeping an eye on them to prevent burning.
Clean and trim 4 heads of baby bok choy. Before you cook the pasta, submerge the bok choy in the salted, boiling water for about 3 minutes, until the leaves are limp and the white parts are cooked but still crunchy. Use tongs or a slotted spoon to fish them out, then drain while the pasta cooks.
See directions here.