Jul 27, 2012

Oodles of Noodles

Bow-tie Pasta with Basil Pesto Sauce
Click on photo to view larger
Humanity has one thing in common, nearly everyone seems to love noodles, including Hawaiians. I recently read that there are approximately 310 different shapes of noodles, with over 1300 names. There are "oodles of noodles" out there. Noodles are cheap, an excellent source of protein, easy to prepare, and they are delicious to eat. They can be served hot or cold, steamed, stir-fried, deep-fried, boiled, or served in a soup, or with sauce.

Nearly all cultures have at least one noodle dish they can call their own, but only the Italians can compete with the Chinese for the title of the culture that most loves noodles. The Chinese have been eating noodles for approximately 2000 years. One legend has it that the Italians first tasted noodles when Marco Polo brought it back from his 17 year trip to China, another says that durum wheat pasta was introduced by Libyian Arabs during their conquest of Sicily in the late 7th century. In early times, noodles were eaten plain, without sauce, in small portions. It was also eaten with your hands, because only the wealthy could afford eating utensils. Later, tomato sauce was introduced to give noodles flavor. That gave way to the complex and sophisticated pasta dishes we enjoy today.

Italian pasta comes in all different shapes and lengths. Chinese noodles vary in width, but unlike Italian noodles, Chinese noodles are long and uncut. This is because long noodles symbolize a long life in Chinese tradition. Chinese noodles, known collectively as "mien", are generally made from either wheat flour, rice flour, or mung bean starch (called cellophane noodles or glass noodles), with wheat noodles being more commonly produced and consumed in northern China and rice noodles being more typical of southern China. Chinese noodles may be cooked from either their fresh or dry forms. They are generally boiled, although they may also be deep-fried in oil until crispy. Boiled noodles may then be stir fried, served with sauce or other accompaniments, or served in soup, often with meat and other ingredients.

Rice is Hawaii's starch of choice but Hawaii has its own favorite noodle dishes. One of them is the local fast food of the Hawaiian islands, Saimin. Macaroni salad is another staple of the Hawaii-style plate lunch, usually served with, you guessed it, two scoops of rice. Hawaii also enjoys all of the Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Filipino, and Portuguese noodle dishes that have evolved into native cuisine called "ono kine grindz" (local talk for "good eats").

Just think, right now, people are slurping, gulping and twirling "oodles of noodles" around the world.

Note: Because their are "oodles of noodles" to talk about, more than I can mention here, I suggest you check out this website. A great source of information on many types of Asian noodles with photos to help you understand the difference between all of them and what they look like.

Thai Spring Rolls with Noodles
1 cup dried rice vermicelli
1 carrot, peeled and cut into matchsticks
1/2 cup snow peas, thinly sliced lengthwise
3 green onions, trimmed and finely chopped
1 cup shelled shrimp, roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled, crushed and chopped
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
1 teaspoon chili sauce
1/2 pound spring roll wrappers, (buy the large size ones) cut into 6-inch squares
1 medium egg white, lightly beaten
canola oil, for deep-frying
sprigs of fresh cilantro, to garnish
sweet chili sauce, for dipping (I use Mae Ploy brand)

Cook the rice vermicelli according to the package directions, then drain thoroughly. Coarsely chop and set aside. Bring a saucepan of lightly salted water to a boil, and blanch the carrot and snow peas for 1 minute. Drain and rinse under cold water, then drain again and pat dry with paper towels. Mix together with the noodles. Add the green onions, shrimp, garlic, sesame oil, soy and chili sauces, and set aside. Fold the spring roll wrapper squares in half diagonally to form triangles. Lay a triangle with the fold facing you, and place a spoonful of the mixture in the center. Roll over the long end of the wrapper to enclose the filling, then bring over the corners to enclose the ends of the roll. Brush the point of the spring roll furthest from you with a little egg white, and continue rolling to seal. Fill a wok about one-third full with canola oil and heat to 375˚F or until a cube of bead browns in 30 seconds. Deep-fry the spring rolls, for or five at a time, for 1-2 minutes or until golden and crisp. Drain on absorbent paper towels. Fry the remaining spring rolls in batches. Garnish with sprigs of cilantro and serve hot with the dark soy sauce and sweet chili sauce. Makes 30 servings.

Singapore Wok Noodles
2 2/3 cups flat rice noodles
3 tablespoons canola oil
2 green onions, peeled and sliced on an angle
2 garlic cloves, peeled, crushed, and chopped
2 tablespoons freshly shredded ginger
1 red bell pepper, seeded and finely sliced into strips
1 hot red chili, seeded and finely chopped
1 1/2 cups shelled raw shrimp
1 1/4 cups boneless pork, diced
2 cups boneless chicken, diced
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 teaspoon crushed fennel seeds
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed
3 tablespoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons fresh cilantro leaves

Put the noodles into a large bowl and add enough boiling water to cover. Let stand for 3 minutes or until slightly underdone according to the package directions. Drain well and set aside. Heat a wok until almost smoking. Add the oil and carefully swirl to coat the sides of the wok. Add the green onions, garlic, and ginger, and cook for a few seconds. Add the bell pepper and chili, and stir-fry for 3-4 minutes or until the pepper has softened. Add the shrimp, pork, chicken, and curry powder to the wok. Stir-fry for an additional 4-5 minutes until the meat and shrimp are colored on all sides. Then add the fennel seeds and the cinnamon, and stir to mix. Add the drained noodles to the wok along with the peas, and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes until heated through. Add the lemon juice to taste. Sprinkle with the fresh cilantro leaves and serve immediately. Makes 4 servings.

Potato-Mac Salad with Surimi and Green Peas
There are many variations to Hawaiian mac salad, but this is my favorite.

1 pound package elbow macaroni pasta
3 large russet potatoes, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces
1 pound surimi (imitation crab), cut into 1 inch pieces
1 1/2 cups frozen peas (defrosted, no need to cook them)
1 cup celery (finely chopped)
1 cup shredded carrots
6 large hard boiled eggs (chopped)
2 tablespoons sweet relish
1/2 cup red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 teaspoon dried dill or 2 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped
3/4 cup chopped green onions (white and green parts)
3 cups mayonnaise
1 cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper, or to taste
1 chopped green onion (white and green parts) for garnish

Boil macaroni and potatoes in separate pots, 10 to 12 minutes, or until cooked to your taste, drain & cool 30 minutes. Add all other ingredients to cooled macaroni and potatoes, in a large bowl. Gently stir to mix everything together. Keep cold in the refrigerator until ready to serve. The macaroni and potatoes will absorb the mayo, so you may want to make your salad a day ahead to let the flavors combine. You might also want to add more mayonnaise just before serving. Garnish with more chopped green onion. Makes 16 generous servings.

Shrimp Lo Mein
Ingredients for noodles:
8 ounces dried Chinese egg noodles, or 1 pound fresh

Ingredients for the sauce:
1 packet chicken bouillon mix, such as Knorr, dissolved in 1 3/4 cups hot water
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon Sriracha chili sauce

Ingredients for shrimp lo mein:
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 teaspoons minced ginger
1 small bunch scallions, white and green parts, sliced
1 pound small shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 cup thinly sliced white button mushrooms
2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
1 large carrot, shredded
1/4 head Napa cabbage, finely shredded
2 tablespoons cornstarch

For the noodles: In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the noodles according to their package directions. Drain and set aside.

For the sauce: Combine the bouillon, oyster sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil and Sriracha in a large glass measuring cup or small bowl and set aside. This may look like a lot of sauce, but you have a lot of noodles and veggies to coat!

For the lo mein: Heat a wok over high heat. When hot, add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, half the garlic, half the ginger and half the scallions and saute 30 seconds. Add in the shrimp and cook until they just start to turn pink and curl up, about 2 minutes. Transfer the shrimp and aromatics to a plate and reserve.

In the same pan, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon vegetable oil and add the remaining garlic, ginger and scallions. Saute 30 seconds, and then add in the mushrooms, celery, carrots and cabbage. Saute the veggies until they begin to brown and caramelize, 4 to 5 minutes.

Whisk the cornstarch into 2 tablespoons cold water. Once dissolved, add to the sauce. Add the sauce to the pan with the vegetables and bring to a simmer. Toss in the reserved shrimp, aromatics and noodles and serve! Makes 4 servings.

Bow-tie Pasta with Basil Pesto Sauce
2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
3 cloves chopped garlic
1/4 cup pine nuts or walnuts or half of each
2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1 pound dried bow-tie pasta
1 1/2 tablespoons Kosher salt

Combine the basil, garlic, and pine nuts in a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Add the oil and half the cheese and process until fully incorporated and smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Meanwhile, in large pot over moderately high heat, combine 8 quarts of water to boil then add salt. Add bow-tie pasta and cook to 1 minute short of al dente according to package directions (pasta should still be quite firm). Add the basil pesto sauce, gently stir and serve with the remaining grated Parmesan cheese on top. Makes 1 cup of sauce for 6 servings.

Linguine with Clams
This is a recipe that is fairly easy, and the ingredients are available almost anywhere, even on a small island in Hawaii. Once you have gathered all of the ingredients, it will take you about an hour to prepare this delicious meal for 4. It's best to eat it right away, naturally with a nice bottle of cold Chardonnay and some hot crusty bread.

1 1/2 tablespoons kosher or coarse sea salt
1 pound linguine dried pasta
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 chopped onion
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
2 pounds fresh clams, shells scrubbed clean
3- 6.5 ounce cans chopped clams with juice
   (Available at Friendly Market here on Moloka'i)
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 cup dry white wine, like Chardonnay
1 (14.5-ounce) can sliced tomatoes in juice,
juice reserved and tomatoes coarsely chopped
1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top of pasta,
   with hot crusty garlic bread on the side

In large pot over moderately high heat, combine 10 quarts of water to a boil with salt. Add the linguine and boil on medium high for 12 minutes until pasta is 'al dente' (quite firm).

Meanwhile, in large sauté pan over medium-high heat, heat butter and extra olive oil until hot but not smoking. Add onion, garlic, and red bell pepper, and sauté until the onion is just golden, about a minute or two. Add both canned and fresh clams and the red pepper flakes and sauté 1 minute. Add wine, tomatoes (chopped) plus the juice, and 1/4 cup parsley and simmer, uncovered, just until clams open, 7 to 8 minutes.

Drain the linguine and return it to the pot with a little olive oil to keep it from sticking together. After the clams have opened in the pan, pour the sauce over the pasta and carefully mix the ingredients together so that the clams remain in the shells. Transfer the linguine with clams to plates or a serving bowl and serve immediately, sprinkled with the rest of the chopped parsley and grated Parmesan cheese. Serve with crusty garlic bread on the side.

Makes 4 servings.

Ramen Noodle Crab Salad
1 pack ramen (discard the seasoning packet)
1 1/2 cups shredded Napa cabbage (the green leafy part)
1/2 cup shredded imitation crab
1/2 cup chopped scallions
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon Hawaiian chili water, or Tobasco
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon salt, or to taste
a pinch of sugar
1/4 teaspoon of white and black sesame seeds (toasted)

Bring water to boil and prepare the ramen noodle. Boil for about 2 minutes or until it’s cooked. Drain the water, set aside and let cool covered in the refrigerator. When cold, transfer the ramen noodle to a bowl and toss it with the shredded cabbage and imitation crab, mayonnaise, and other seasonings. Garnish with chopped scallions and toasted sesame seeds. Serve cold. Makes 4 servings

Glass Noodle Salad
Glass (or "cellophane") noodles are very different than other noodles, they are thin and as transparent as the name suggests. Healthier than wheat noodles, glass noodles are made from green beans, broad beans, and peas, which makes them gluten-free and a source of iron, calcium, and fiber. They are opaque (white) until soaked in water. Look for them at your local Asian store sold in dried bundles/packages (check ingredients to be sure they are "glass" noodles - look for bean or pea flour).

Ingredients for Vietnamese dressing:
2 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
2 fresh long red chiles, seeded and finely diced
2 tablespoons finely minced fresh ginger
4 tablespoons fish sauce
1 lime, juiced
4 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons canola oil
1 teaspoon sesame oil

Ingredients for salad:
8 ounces cooked small shrimp
6 ounces glass noodles
4 ounces sugar snap peas
4 ounces bean sprouts
3 scallions, sliced at an angle in thin circles
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves, to garnish

To make the Vietnamese dressing, simply mix all the ingredients together. The dressing will keep very well in a jar in the refrigerator for at least a week. To make the salad, marinate the shrimp in 1/2 cup of the dressing for about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, soak the noodles in warm water for 15 minutes to soften them. Once re-hydrated, drain them. Snip the glass noodles into smaller sections with scissors, if desired. Bring a pot of water to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the drained noodles to the boiling water. Cook the noodles for 30 seconds to one minute to the desired textured. Drain the glass noodles immediately and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process and avoid mushiness in the glass noodles. Put the sugar snaps and bean sprouts into a colander and pour boiling water over them. Rinse with cold water and drain. In a large bowl, mix the marinated shrimp with the drained noodles, scallions, sugar snaps, and bean sprouts. Dress with 2 tablespoons more of the dressing; add more dressing, to taste, if desired. Sprinkle over the chopped cilantro and toss everything together before serving. Makes 4 servings.

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