Cold Noodles For Hot Days

Call it ramen 2.0, or perhaps a limited summer edition of everyone’s favorite noodle. Chilled ramen dishes are nearly as abundant and diverse as hot renditions, but are overwhelmingly underrated, uncelebrated and overlooked, in favor of more familiar preparations. Not all soups must emerge from the kitchen with a plume of steam, nor gently charred and still radiating heat. When it already feels like you’re standing in an oven just by opening up the front door, nothing hits the spot better than a refreshing bowl of ramen on ice, no matter the flavor.

They start out just as before, made of the very same stuff as their hot brethren and cooked in the same fashion. The difference is that after reaching the perfect state of toothsome tenderness, the spry young strands are immediately plunged into a shock of ice-cold water, simultaneously arresting the cooking process and dropping the temperature down quite a few degrees. Expertly guided once again by acclaimed chef and noodle master Philip Gelb, the results were practically instant- But clearly far superior.

Confronted with a bowlful of fresh, naked noodles, the options of embellishment are simply overwhelming. Every Asian culture has their own unique summertime staples that color the humble alkaline noodles with a rainbow of different flavors. Starting simple, the Japanese tsukemen truly allows the delicate nature of this handmade pasta to shine. Plunging mouthfuls into a bowl of deeply savory chilled broth, topped with a light smattering of scallions and a touch of wasabi for a bright finish, each mouthful is an essential experience of cold noodle elegance.

Kongguksu, hailing from Korea, might be the least known ramen preparation in the western world. It is a great shame that its popularity is not more widespread across the states, as it has no equal when it comes to both refreshment and satisfaction. Floating in a sea of homemade soymilk, enriched with sesame and almonds, ramen noodles are treated to a bath of rich, creamy soup. Ice cubes are tossed right into the bowl to keep things cool, through and through, ensuring that the first taste will be just as brilliant as the last. The secret is all in the soy beans, of course. Taking the extra step of removing the hulls creates the most silky texture imaginable. Though tempting, don’t even dream of taking a shortcut and buying prepared soymilk; once you’ve gone through the trouble of making your own ramen, soaking a few beans should be no big deal.

Finally, bringing the heat through bold spices but no actual fire, Szechuan Sesame Noodles are the most intense yet crowd-pleasing way to cool your noodles. Infused with lip-tingling, mouth-numbing Szechuan peppercorns, there is nothing subtle about this dish. It’s an in-your-face, action-packed thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat from start to finish. That intense flavor can be adjusted according to preference, but the whole point of this dish is to make you sweat to maximize the cooling effect. It’s scientifically proven that sweating is actually one of the most effective ways to beat the heat, and this Chinese staple will definitely yield delicious results.

It would be impossible to pick one favorite from these three completely unique takes on the cold ramen noodle. Luckily, Chef Philip was generous enough to offer his recipes for all of them, so you don’t have to choose. Bear in mind that each preparation will need a new batch of ramen noodles and serve about four hungry eaters.

Now there’s no reason you can’t keep your cool this summer, and still do it in good taste.

Yield: Makes 4 Servings

Japanese Cold Noodles with Dipping Sauce

Japanese Cold Noodles with Dipping Sauce

Japanese tsukemen truly allows the delicate nature of this handmade pasta to shine. Plunging mouthfuls into a bowl of deeply savory chilled broth, topped with a light smattering of scallions and a touch of wasabi for a bright finish, each mouthful is an essential experience of cold noodle elegance.

Cook Time 5 minutes
Additional Time 2 hours
Total Time 2 hours 5 minutes

Ingredients

Dipping Sauce:

  • 1 2/3 Cup Kombu Dashi (Seaweed Stock)
  • 1/2 Cup Sake
  • 4 Tablespoons Soy Sauce
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Salt
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Palm Sugar

Optional Additions:

Instructions

  1. Place all the ingredients for the sauce in a medium saucepan. Set over medium heat, bring to a boil, and simmer for 3 minutes. Let cool and chill completely before serving.
  2. For the noodles, bring 2 quarts of water to a rapid boil. Drop in noodles and cook for about 60 seconds. Once the noodles are al dente, rinse in cold water to immediately stop the cooking process.
  3. Add in as many of the optional ingredients into the sauce as desired, to taste, or set them out in small bowls for diners to mix into the sauce at will.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

4

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 87Total Fat: 1gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 1mgSodium: 1322mgCarbohydrates: 9gFiber: 2gSugar: 2gProtein: 4g
Yield: Makes 4 Servings

Kon Gook Soo / Kongguksu (Korean Cold Soybean Noodle Soup)

Kon Gook Soo / Kongguksu (Korean Cold Soybean Noodle Soup)

Kongguksu, hailing from Korea, might be the least known ramen preparation in the western world. It is a great shame that its popularity is not more widespread across the states, as it has no equal when it comes to both refreshment and satisfaction. Floating in a sea of homemade soymilk, enriched with sesame and almonds, ramen noodles are treated to a bath of rich, creamy soup. Ice cubes are tossed right into the bowl to keep things cool, through and through, ensuring that the first taste will be just as brilliant as the last. The secret is all in the soy beans, of course. Taking the extra step of removing the hulls creates the most silky texture imaginable.

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Additional Time 8 hours
Total Time 8 hours 30 minutes

Ingredients

Kon Gook Soo / Kongguksu (Cold Soybean Noodle Soup)

  • 1 Cup Dried Soybeans, Soaked Overnight, Rinsed and Drained
  • 2 Tablespoons Raw Sesame Seeds, Soaked Overnight, Rinsed and Drained
  • 1/4 Cup Raw Almonds, Soaked Overnight, Rinsed and Drained
  • 6 Cups Cold Water
  • 1 Teaspoon Salt
  • 1 Teaspoon White Pepper
  • 1 English Cucumber, Julienned
  • Crushed Ice, as Needed

Instructions

  1. Cook soybeans in 1 quart of boiling water for 15 minutes. Rinse and drain. Place soybeans in a bowl, fill with water, and gently rub the beans until they split and the hulls come off. The hulls will float to the top and can be easily discarded while draining the water. Remove at least 90% of the hulls.
  2. Add the hulled and drained soybeans to a blender along with the sesame seeds, almonds, and cold water. Puree on high speed for 2 minutes and chill this mixture until very cold. Add salt and pepper, stirring well and adjusting seasonings to taste, as needed.
  3. For the ramen noodles, bring 2 quarts of water to a rapid boil. Drop in noodles and cook for about 60 seconds. Once the noodles are al dente, rinse in cold water to immediately stop the cooking process.
  4. Divide the cooked noodles between four bowls. Place a handful of ice in each, and top the noodles with sliced cucumber. Pour the soymilk on top and serve immediately.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

4

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 145Total Fat: 9gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 545mgCarbohydrates: 8gFiber: 4gSugar: 2gProtein: 10g
Yield: Makes 4 Servings

Cold Szechuan Sesame Noodles

Cold Szechuan Sesame Noodles

Infused with lip-tingling, mouth-numbing Szechuan peppercorns, there is nothing subtle about this dish. It’s an in-your-face, action-packed thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat from start to finish. That intense flavor can be adjusted according to preference, but the whole point of this dish is to make you sweat to maximize the cooling effect. It’s scientifically proven that sweating is actually one of the most effective ways to beat the heat, and this Chinese staple will definitely yield delicious results.

Prep Time 4 minutes
Cook Time 1 minute
Total Time 5 minutes

Ingredients

Sesame Sauce:

Garnish:

  • English Cucumber, Slivered
  • Scallion, Chopped
  • Beansprouts

Instructions

  1. In a blender, add all the sauce ingredients and puree until completely smooth. Chill thoroughly.
  2. To cook the noodles, bring 2 quarts of water to a rapid boil. Drop in noodles and cook for about 60 seconds. Once the noodles are al dente, rinse in cold water to immediately stop the cooking process.
  3. When ready to serve, toss together the noodles, sauce, and all of the garnishes desired. Serve immediately.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

4

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 147Total Fat: 10gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 7gCholesterol: 3mgSodium: 822mgCarbohydrates: 11gFiber: 3gSugar: 3gProtein: 7g

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Fry, Fry Again

The title of “fried rice” is really a misnomer in most cases. Across a wide sampling of restaurant offerings from high- to low-end, this perennial takeout staple rarely, if ever, approaches a state close to being fried. Not deep fried, not pan fried, and in the worse cases, barely even sauteed. Merely warmed in a hot wok at best, it’s little more than a pile of stale, soy sauce-soaked leftovers tossed with a few limp vegetables if you’re lucky. While it’s true that even the worst fried rice is still reasonably satisfying, fulfilling the starchy component of a typically greasy meal in need of a carbohydrate foil, rarely does it stand out as extraordinary. Such a shame that this staple isn’t given just an extra ounce of respect to elevate it beyond the realm of mediocrity.

The trouble is, there’s a real art to crafting actual fried rice, complete with chewy clusters and crispy edges, and a certain brand of bravery required to crank up the heat to high. It’s not actually difficult, but demands a bit more finesse than simply tossing a bunch of grains into a skillet.

  • First of all, needless to say, rice matters. The number of varieties out there are as numerous and unique as snowflakes, but the best options for fried rice are sticky. Be it short or medium grain, sticky rice provides just the right amount of starch to sear nicely and create small, savory clumps.
  • It needn’t be day-old or leftover rice, but it’s certainly easier to work with if it’s not still hot. Freshly cooked rice is a perfectly fine candidate for frying, but let it cool a bit before throwing it back into the fire.
  • Give your ingredients room to breathe! Use a big enough wok or skillet to allow a good amount of direct contact across the grains; a 9-inch cooking surface can accommodate 2 cups of rice at most. When in doubt, break out the big guns.
  • Do not fear oil and use a good amount of it, even if you’re using a so-called “non-stick” pan. There needs to be a thin layer of it across the bottom, shimmering slightly, to make that golden-brown and crispy exterior happen.
  • Speaking of shimmering, your oil needs to be blisteringly hot before any grain ever touches it. Crank up the heat to high and get the pan so hot that it scares you. Start cooking and stop merely reheating that rice!

  • Once it’s in the pan, leave it alone. Don’t fuss with it, but give it some space to work its magic. Excessive stirring will prevent the starch from properly caramelizing or getting crispy. You can turn the heat down slightly if it’s starting to smoke, sure, but don’t move it for at least 15 minutes before flipping the rice over to cook the opposite side.
  • Add more oil if necessary. Do not fear having rice stick to the pan. Those will be the crunchiest, most delicious parts in the end.

It’s the kind of anything goes dish where no recipe is needed, and pretty much every vegetable addition tastes good. As long as there’s a healthy splash of soy sauce, perhaps a bit of sauteed garlic and ginger, you really can’t go wrong. The real beauty of fried rice is its versatility, no matter how you dress it up or down.

Gong Hey Fat Tuesday

If you’re looking for an excuse to celebrate, you needn’t look far. Before the glow of one jubilant holiday fete can fully fade from view, yet another occasion to rejoice arises from its ashes. Depending on which traditions you hold dear, you could easily keep the party going 365 days a year, without even delving into the more dubious list of unofficial observances. Keeping up with the standard routine is hard enough on an average day, but a calendar peppered at random with noteworthy events can become downright intimidating.

Mardi Gras and the Lunar New Year happen to fall on consecutive days this year, each arriving with a riot of colors, rituals, and lucky foods. Pressed for time and sufficient enthusiasm to properly honor both, I was suddenly struck by one unlikely common thread, uniting Creole and Chinese customs: Pancakes.

Fat Tuesday earns its moniker for all the indulgent edibles typically served during the festivities, particularly pancakes. Fluffy, flat, big, or small, every unique twist on the humble breakfast cake is welcomed with open arms- And a sticky pitcher of thick maple syrup. Less common but no less appreciated are savory renditions, ideal for balancing out the inevitable deluge of sugary sweets.

Chinese pancakes exemplify the pinnacle of pancake perfection for revelers craving salty snacks instead of desserts. Impossibly thin, flaky layers cradle flecks of green onion, just assertive enough to be heard above the baseline of nutty toasted sesame. Built upon the simplest of ingredients and just undeniably, apologetically rich, each narrow wedge tastes like a joyous carnival all by itself.

Clearly, it was high time for these two cultures to become acquainted.

Unexpected Cajun and Creole flavors infuse this time-honored dim sum addition, drawing bright citrus notes into the stratified dough itself. The real coup de gras, however, is delivered in the fiery dipping sauce. A cool and creamy base balances out a wide palate of spices, ranging from warming to immolating. Once blended and melded the resulting harmony of heat could easily become a new standby to accompany any cuisine.

Ala Madigra and Gong Hey Fat Choy!

Yield: Makes 20 Pancakes; 1 Cup Sauce

Citrus-Scallion Pancakes with Dynamite Cajun Dipping Sauce

Citrus-Scallion Pancakes with Dynamite Cajun Dipping Sauce

Unexpected Cajun and Creole flavors infuse meet in scallion pancakes, drawing bright citrus notes into the stratified dough itself. The real coup de gras, however, is delivered in the fiery dipping sauce. A cool and creamy base balances out a wide palate of spices draws new life into this dim sum staple.

Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Additional Time 20 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 20 minutes

Ingredients

Dynamite Cajun Dipping Sauce:

  • 1 Cup Vegan Mayonnaise
  • 2 Tablespoons Sriracha
  • 2 Tablespoons Fresh Cilantro, Finely Minced
  • 1 Tablespoon Creole Seasoning
  • 1 Teaspoon Low-Sodium Soy Sauce
  • 1 Clove Garlic, Finely Minced

Citrus-Scallion Pancakes:

  • 2 Cups All-Purpose Flour
  • 6 – 8 Tablespoons Warm Water
  • 1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice
  • 1 Tablespoon Lime Juice
  • 1 Tablespoon Toasted Sesame Oil
  • 1/2 Cup Roughly Chopped Scallions
  • 1 Clove Garlic, Finely Minced
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Lemon Zest
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Salt
  • 3 – 5 Tablespoons Peanut Oil

Instructions

  1. To prepare the dipping sauce, simply mix everything together, adding sriracha to taste. Cover and store in the refrigerator until ready to serve, for up to two weeks.
  2. For the pancakes, mix together the flour, 6 tablespoons of the warm water, lemon juice, and sesame oil in a large bowl. Stir until the liquid is absorbed, adding more water one teaspoon at a time as needed until the dough pulls away from sides of bowl. The goal is to create a cohesive, firm dough that is barely tacky to the touch.
  3. Knead the dough by hand on a lightly floured surface for about 5 – 10 minutes, or until smooth. Cover with a moist towel for 20 minutes to allow the gluten to relax.
  4. Meanwhile, take this opportunity to mix together scallions, garlic, lemon zest, and salt in a small bowl; set aside.
  5. After resting, roll the dough into a skinny snake-like shape and cut into 20 equal pieces. Roll each segment into balls and keep covered with the towel.
  6. Working with one small ball of dough at a time, place on a well-floured surface and roll into a circle approximately 4-inches in diameter. Brush liberally with peanut oil, sprinkle with 1 – 2 teaspoons of the scallion mixture, and roll the pancake up tightly like a rug. Curl the roll around in a spiral, pinch the end to seal, and flatten it back out into a very thin circle, about 1/8 of an inch in thickness. Repeat with the remaining balls of dough.
  7. Heat one tablespoon of peanut oil in a skillet over medium heat. Pan fry the pancakes, one or two at a time, until the bottom is golden brown and perfectly crisp. Keep warm in a low oven or slice into wedges, serving immediately alongside the dipping sauce.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

20

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 139Total Fat: 10gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 117mgCarbohydrates: 12gFiber: 0gSugar: 1gProtein: 1g

Anything but Leftover

With about half the heaping mound still staring back at me, my enthusiasm began to flag. Fragrant, glistening vaguely in the afternoon light, it was some of the most genuinely meaty dumpling filling I had ever prepared, and yet I couldn’t muster the patience to keep stuffing it into those tiny little wrappers. The final total of “40 – 50” is admittedly a wild estimate, a complete stab in the dark if we’re being honest, because I never made it to either of those numbers. An extra set of hands would do wonders on a recipe like this; simple but time consuming, demanding few skills but undivided attention. Giving up on the project never crossed my mind, but it became abundantly clear that there would be leftover filling.

This is not what I’d call leftovers, bearing the negative connotations of unwanted extras. Before neatly packing everything away for a later date, the next recipe was already jumping about through my synapses, the full procedure and list of ingredients unraveling itself in my brain. Perhaps we can call this concept an alternative preparation, since it’s worth making the original filling to enjoy, with or without any dumplings in mind.

Mapo tofu won’t win any beauty contests, but someone who turns down this dish based on looks is making a terrible mistake. Packing in umami flavor with ease, the soft cubes of tofu bear a spicy bite, swimming in a meaty stew of chili-spiked seitan. Naturally, my approach is far from authentic, spanning a number of Asian cultures just through the ingredients. Malaysian sambal oelek brings the heat while a spoonful of Chinese fermented black beans add their characteristic salty and savory twang. You could jump borders again and opt for a Japanese soy sauce, if you were after a genuine cultural melting pot… But it would taste just as delicious no matter what. Mapo tofu is the kind of dish that a cook would really have to try to mess up. Go ahead, experiment with sriracha instead of the sambal, dark miso paste instead of black beans; after it all simmers together and melds as one, it’s all good.

Mapo Tofu

1 1/2 Cups Seitan Dumpling Filling

1 Tablespoon Toasted Sesame Oil
1 Tablespoon Finely Minced Garlic
1 Tablespoon Finely Minced Fresh Ginger
1/2 Teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
3 Skinny Scallions, Thinly Sliced on the Diagonal, Divided
1 – 3 Tablespoons Sambal Oelek
1/2 Cup Low-Sodium Vegetable Broth or Water
1 Tablespoon Cornstarch
3 Tablespoons Fermented Black Bean Paste
2 – 3 Tablespoons Low-Sodium Soy Sauce
1 Tablespoon Brown Rice Syrup or Light Brown Sugar
1 Pound Soft (But not Silken) Tofu, Drained

Prepare the ground seitan according to the dumpling recipe and set aside.

Heat the sesame oil in a medium stock pot or large saucepan over medium heat. Toss in the garlic and ginger once the oil is shimmering and quickly saute, just until fragrant and lightly browned. Add the prepared seitan mixture into the pan and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

Meanwhile, whisk together the black pepper, two of the sliced scallions, the first tablespoon of sambal oelek, broth, and cornstarch. Beat out any lumps of starch so that the liquid is perfectly smooth before using it to deglaze the hot pan. Scrape the bottom of the pan with your spatula to make sure nothing sticks or burns, and turn down the heat to medium-low.

Stir in the black bean past, first two tablespoons of soy sauce, and brown rice syrup. Let it cook and mingle for a minute or two before giving it a taste; add more sambal or soy sauce as desired, but as you adjust seasonings, don’t even think of reaching for the salt shaker. These are all very salty ingredients, and you’ll end up with something inedible if you don’t manage the sodium level very carefully.

Once you’re pleased with the flavors developing, cut your tofu into 1/2-inch cubes and gently lower them into the stew. Soft tofu is rather fragile, so don’t go haphazardly stirring the whole mixture and smashing them to bits. Rather, use your spatula to fold everything together.

Continue to cook until the liquid has thickened and reaches a rapid bubble. Let cool for a few minutes before topping with the remaining sliced scallions, and serve with white rice (or any other cooked grain) if desired.

Makes 3 – 4 Servings

Printable Recipe

Traditional Takeout

As young children across the country feverishly unwrap mounds of tinsel-clad packages, parents tending a huge roast with all the fixings for dinner, an entirely different tradition marks my Christmas day. The classic Jewish Christmas, otherwise known as seeing a movie and getting Chinese food takeout, seems to be growing in popularity. Who knew it was even a thing 5, 10 years ago? Suddenly everyone knows about this once obscure and occasionally controversial plan. In fact, quite a few families that still lovingly string up Christmas trees and sing carols every year also join in on the fun, too. It’s the ultimate secular holiday that everyone can enjoy.

Options may be limited for fellow meatless eaters, but no matter how many times I get plain old broccoli and tofu, it just never gets old. Maybe the MSG makes it particularly addictive, but there are few things quite as satisfying as the instant gratification of savory, salty brown sauce smothering cubes of crispy fried bean curd and tender green florets. Venturing to recreate this endlessly versatile sauce, suddenly the sky is the limit for protein alternatives. As an extra-special treat this year, a rare package of Konjac-based vegan shrimp remained on ice, tucked away in the back of the freezer for just such an opportunity.

Disarmingly similar in coloring and surprisingly bouncy, their chewy texture was disconcertingly similar to actual seafood, according to the omnivores at the table. They imparted relatively little flavor though, for better or for worse, so while novel, I think I’d still prefer my tofu standby. Next time, I’ll gladly fire up the oil and toss in a few cubes instead, although you can’t go too far wrong with a solid brown sauce.

“Shrimp” and Broccoli

1/2 Pound (1 Package) Frozen Vegan Shrimp, or 1 Pound Fried Tofu
1 Pound Fresh Broccoli, Cut into Florets

Brown Sauce:

1 Tablespoon Sesame Oil
3 Cloves Garlic, Finely Minced
1 Tablespoon Fresh Ginger, Grated
1/3 Cup Soy Sauce
1 Cup Vegetable Stock
1/3 Cup Mirin
1/4 Teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
2 Tablespoons Cornstarch

Sesame Seeds, to Garnish (Optional)
Cooked White Rice, to Serve

Thaw out the frozen shrimp if using, or prepare your tofu. Place the broccoli florets in a microwave-safe dish with a splash of water, and steam for 2 – 4 minutes, until fork-tender. Drain and blanch in ice water to stop the cooking and keep the broccoli bright green. Set aside.

To prepare the brown sauce, begin by heating the sesame oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add in the garlic and ginger, and cook briefly, until aromatic. Meanwhile, whisk together all of the remaining ingredient in a separate bowl, being sure to beat out any clumps of starch so that the mixture is completely smooth. Carefully pour the liquids into the hot pan, standing away from the stove in case of any splashback. Whisk gently as the sauce comes up to temperature, until it reaches a full boil and has visible thickened. Turn off the heat and let the sauce cool for a minute or two.

Place the broccoli and shrimp (or tofu) in a large bowl, and toss with a sizable dollop of brown sauce. There will likely be extra sauce, so apply it sparingly. Continue drizzling in sauce until the goodies are coated to your liking. Transfer to a serving bowl and top with a light sprinkling of sesame seeds. Enjoy with a mound of hot rice, and have a very Happy Holiday!

Serves 3 – 4

Printable Recipe