Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Crispy Cantonese-inspired Noodles

India and China. Two ancient Eastern civilizations. Two emerging world economies. In the context of The World Tasters: two of the most famous culinary traditions on the planet and... the cultural heritage of Siddharth and Tricia (respectively)! As modern foodies, the two of us are lucky to come from some of the places that started perfecting the art of cooking millennia ago. We're also lucky that both of us like to try both Indian and Chinese cuisine. In this recipe, I (Siddharth) try my hand at crossing the aisle and making Chinese-inspired food. I maintain that it is "inspired" and not "authentic," but I try my best to keep the spirit of Chinese cuisine alive in my dishes. See comments below to check what Tricia thought of it! Maybe someday, I'll get Trish to try doing Indian food...

In any case, this is my recipe for crispy noodles. It took me a while to figure out how to make crispy noodles, so hopefully this can help those of you interested in doing at home too. The Cantonese-inspired part comes from the fact that I use hoisin sauce (a sweet sauce that is favored in Cantonese cooking) and Hong Kong-style pan fried noodles (Chow Mein).

I liked to have fresh vegetables with my noodles, but I like them tender (not too crunchy/raw), so I start by blanching the vegetables. You can choose whatever you like, but here I used carrots, peas, green beans, and corn for a nice mixture of color. I steamed the vegetables, but you could boil them too. After steaming, I wash the vegetables in cold water to lock in the color (you can also use an ice bath, but I think this is unnecessary for Chinese cooking).

There's no set amount of vegetables to use, so just chop as much as you want, making sure to cut them relatively uniformly. The next step is to pan fry the noodles. The correct noodles to use for this are thin egg and wheat flour noodles. If you can get them fresh, that is ideal, but if you can only find the dried version, just soak them in cold water for 7-15 minutes until they are just tender (still a little firm). If you can get fresh ones (found in the fridge at Asian grocers), you can use these without soaking. First add a good deal of oil to a large skillet. The amount of oil below is for 16 oz (1 lb.) of noodles:

After the oil is hot, add the noodles in as flat a pile as possible as shown above. Be patient and let the noodles cook for a while (~5 minutes). Then give them a toss with tongs. They should be a nice golden brown on the side that was facing the pan. Wait another five minutes for the other side to also crisp up. The result will look like this:

The noodles are now done. Back to the vegetables. Heat some oil in a wok. I like some meat in my noodles, so today I used salt pork. Salt pork is like bacon, except it is unsmoked. Since it is a streaky meat from the belly of the pig, it in some ways simulates the ultra popular Cantonese roast pork belly (but it doesn't recover overnight marination and slow roasting). I first chopped up the salt pork and cooked it fully in the oil.

Next I added 3 eggs that had been beaten:

Allow the egg to cook on one side, and then scramble it to get nice fluffy egg pieces in your noodles. After the egg, I add the steamed vegetables back in.

Add salt and black pepper to taste at this point. Then the finishing touches: about 1 tbsp of light soy sauce and 2-3 tbsp of hoisin sauce (for those not familiar with the taste of hoisin - it is often described as "Chinese BBQ sauce" by Food Network personalities. I'm not sure that's a good description, but it is a sticky, sweet sauce with a tangy sort of finish). I also add a few dashes of dark sesame oil. Then I add the vegetable onto the crispy noodles.

Leave the vegetables/pork on top for presenting the dish (don't mix through). When you serve it up, cut through the crisp noodles and serve a big spoonful. Enjoy!


  1. I was quite impressed by the crispiness of the noodles. My mom has had some trouble in making her noodles crispy and yet Siddharth got it on the first try.

    And when my mom makes these, she uses oyster sauce instead of hoisin sauce, but hoisin adds some sweetness to the noodles, which I like as well. Also, try to stick with vegetables that can be chopped lengthwise. In Chinese cooking, you rarely eat vegetables that are round like corn and peas unless you're eating rice. This is because it's a little difficult to pick up round vegetables with noodles. Plus, strips of carrots look a lot prettier with your dish.

    Kudos to Siddharth. And someday I will conquer an (simple) Indian dish

  2. Still waiting on that Indian dish!