Monday, March 29, 2010

Fried scallion noodles

Don't let the simplicity of this recipe fool you. This is seriously delicious and is so good that the first time I made it, my husband requested it for three days in a row. I find it amazing that something so wonderful can be so easy, and yet it is. In fact, you might find after you taste it that this will be the kind of dish you too will make all the time.

Traditionally, this Shanghainese noodle dish is made with egg noodles and either vegetable or peanut oil. But after a bit of experimentation on family and friends (and myself, of course), I've found that buckwheat noodles (or soba) and olive oil turn a simple bowl of noodles into the food of the gods. Besides, all that buckwheat and olive oil is good for you, and that has to count for something.

The fried onions and oil can be made ahead of time, and I recommend making extra because both are fantastic on just about anything savory. They're great with eggs, sprinkled over poached chicken, steamed fish, or fried eggs, and bread sopped in this heavenly oil and sprinkled with a bit of fleur de sel has been known to make people moan with delight.

The recipe multiplies easily and is great for a party. Any leftovers probably could be stored in the refrigerator, but I've never gotten around to having leftovers, so I really couldn't say for sure. 

Fried green onion noodles 
Congyou mian  蔥油麵 
Serves 4 to 6 generously as a side dish

Fried onions:
12 green onions

1½ cups oil (olive, vegetable, or peanut)


¼ cup light soy sauce, plus more if needed¾ cup salted stock, plus more if needed

12 ounces dry noodles (buckwheat noodles recommended)4 quarts filtered water
3 tablespoons sea salt

1. Clean and trim the green onions, pat them dry (this is important since you don't want them to spatter in the oil), and then slice them into either thin rounds or on the angle into long thin ovals.

2. Line a plate with a paper towel and place it next to the stove along with a slotted spoon. Heat the oil in a wok over medium-high heat. When it just begins to shimmer, add a few pieces of the onion to the oil. What you want is for the onions to gently bubble, so adjust the heat as needed and add the rest of the onions to the oil. Stir the onions every minute or so and let them slowly cook, giving them a chance to release their fragrance and gradually dry out. Keep an eye on the onions, and as soon as they start to smell toasty and a few begin to brown, stir them almost constantly so that they brown evenly. 

3. Once almost all of them are a light brown, remove them from the oil with the slotted spoon and place them on the paper towel. Set the wok with the hot oil aside if you're going to use it immediately; otherwise, let it cool and pour it into a clean glass jar before storing it in a cool area.

4. Pour the soy sauce and stock into a large work bowl and stir in the flavored oil.

5. Pour the water into a large pot and add the salt; bring the water to a boil. About 10 minutes before you want to serve these noodles, stir the noodles into the water and gently swish them once in a while so that they don't stick together. As soon as the water starts to boil, lower the heat to a simmer and cook the noodles until they are barely done. Place a colander in the sink and drain the noodles into it, but don't rinse the noodles, as the starch on the noodles will help to thicken the sauce and allow it to evenly coat each strand.

6. Put the cooked noodles into the work bowl with the sauce and toss them well. You want the noodles slightly soupy since they'll absorb some of the sauce, so add more stock if needed. Taste the noodles and add a bit more soy sauce if you want.

7. Divide the noodles and sauce into your serving bowls, garnish with all of the fried onions, and serve these glorious noodles to a rapturous welcome.

Green onion oil 
Congyou  蔥油 
Makes 1½ cups

Follow the directions for frying the onions. Cool the onions in the oil, drain out the delicious onions, and store the in a cool, dry place for up to a couple of weeks. Pour the oil into a squeeze bottle and keep it next to your stove for easy access.  If you keep the oil longer than a few weeks, taste it before using to make sure that it's still nice and fresh.