Long Noodles For Long Days

In January it’s so nice
While slipping on the sliding ice
To slurp hot chicken with long rice
Slurping once, slurping twice
Slurping chicken with long rice

Perhaps that’s not quite how the original children’s book begins, but it’s close enough. Closely linked in my mind to the earliest days of childhood, sitting in my Papa Sam’s lap as he read to me from the colorful pages, the lilting cadence of that simple poetry instantly takes me back. Memories of pillow forts and story time, footie pajamas and a bed full of stuffed animals bubble up like a pot simmering on the back burner. It’s fitting that this particular tale is all about comfort food, since that’s the hunger it satisfies in my soul.

Of course, the real story is about soup, but there’s room for more than one home cooked source of solace. Chicken long rice is basically the brothless equivalent.

What is chicken long rice?

First introduced to me by a friend living on Oahu, chicken long rice features thin vermicelli noodles interwoven with shredded chicken cooked in a savory broth spiked with ginger. It’s a cozy dish that satisfies all those wintry cravings, but also brilliantly light and easy to eat in the heat of summer.

The name itself is a bit of a misnomer; while rice noodles are acceptable, it’s most commonly made with mung bean threads (AKA cellophane noodles, glass noodles, or saifun) which are resilient, chewy, and great for soaking in all of that flavorful liquid.

Adapted from Chinese cuisine, it’s now a Hawaiian staple that turns up at luaus, potlucks, and everyday dinners across the island state.

What makes this the best recipe for chicken long rice?

I’m so glad you asked! Naturally, it’s plant-based like everything else I make, putting it firmly within the grasp of hungry vegans and vegetarians at last. Additionally, the starch-based noodles open up the possibility of catering to gluten-free eaters; just use wheat-free tamari instead of soy sauce, and double-check that your meatless chicken follows suit, too.

Do yourself a favor: Bookmark this page right now. Just like in the children’s story, there’s no bad time for a bowlful of comfort. You’re going to want this one for the months ahead.

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Noodle Kugel, Kit and Caboodle

I didn’t grow up eating noodle kugel. In fact, my dad’s distaste for the starchy staple was so severe, it was effectively banished from our household. No amount of gentle cajoling could convince me to try this odd noodle pudding later in life and to be perfectly honest, I’m still not a fan.

Lokshem (“noodle” in Yiddish) kugel existed as early as the 1500s, neatly fitting into orthodox and kosher homes as a dairy dish without meat. It truly rose to fame as a facet of Ashkenazi Jewish cuisine in the 1800s with the sudden infusion of cheap sugar flooding in from refineries in Poland and Hungary. Raisins, cinnamon, and nutmeg were other popular additions, creating a very sweet, rich noodle casserole that could be served for breakfast and dinner alike.

Still, savory versions did exist, relying on fried onions and black pepper instead, which gave me hope for revitalizing this time-honored tradition in a way better suited to my tastes.

Breaking With Tradition

Apples are the subtle source of natural sweetness here, balanced out by the tangy bite of sauerkraut. The combination hearkens back to German cabbage and apples, simmered together with warm herbs for a heartwarming wintry stew. Meanwhile, tofu, unsweetened yogurt, and shredded vegan cheese create a high-protein base that replaces the dairy in one fell swoop.

Let’s not forget about the noodles themselves, which were typically egg ribbons, wide flat strands undulating in a sea of sweet pudding. You could simply use any ruffled or broad shape, but my favorite is broken lasagna noodles, smashed into large chunks to replicate that texture in a more free form approach. This is especially handy if you have a half-box leftover after your last recipe but can’t stand to fuss with all those layers again. Just grab a rolling pin and let out your frustration!

Now I’d compare this more to a baked ziti without marinara, or any other pasta casserole that can be scooped out hot or sliced when cool. Serve with a side salad, steamed vegetables, or simple soup to complete the meal.

How To Make A Healthier Noodle Kugel

This rendition already beats the competition by a mile when it comes to nutrition. Typically composed of one or two sticks of butter, a half dozen eggs, and up to a cup of white sugar, there’s really no comparison. Still, if you’re following a more restrictive diet, there are plenty of ways to adapt this formula further to suit your needs.

  • Gluten-free: Use your favorite gluten-free pasta instead of conventional noodles.
  • No Refined Sugar: Use no sugar-added apple butter.
  • Oil-Free: Replace the vegan cheese with 1/4 cup nutritional yeast and swap the butter or oil for aquafaba.

Make-Ahead and Meal Prep Options

Noodle kugel is the best guest you’ve ever invited to dinner. It can wait patiently to be served and is great with crowds.

Leftovers can keep for 5 to 7 days in the fridge, covered tightly with plastic wrap. Individual servings can be microwaved for 2 to 3 minutes if you’re in a rush.

For longer term storage, you can freeze it for 4 to 6 months. Simply let it thaw at room temperature and re-heat in the oven at 350 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes, until hot all the way through.

You can double the recipe and bake it in a 9 x 13-inch baking pan for twice as many servings, which makes it ideal for potlucks and holiday gatherings alike.

There are truly a million ways to make noodle kugel. If you haven’t been fond of the sweet stuff in the past, give it another try through a more savory lens.

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Breakfast of Champions

Who says noodles aren’t for breakfast? The mere idea that any food is off limits at a certain hour of the day is enough to send me into a fit of rage. No one’s going to tell me what I can and cannot eat without explanation. While Americans are more likely to reach for cereal or toast, noodles are established in Asian cultures as a reliable staple starch to fill that same void. It goes well beyond reheated leftovers, like finding yesterday’s pizza in the fridge for a quick fix. There’s a reason why ramen shops open at 7am in Tokyo, and it’s not just for a cup of green tea.

When I saw the Fortune Noodle Blogger Recipe Challenge had only two categories for entries, I knew right away what I needed to make. You could submit a stir-fry, or “for your creative side, create a Fortune Noodles breakfast recipe.” I could almost see the smirk on that smug face, daring me to step out of line. The gauntlet had been thrown down.

Inspired by a combination of Japanese okonomiyaki and Korean buchimgae, my crispy noodle pancakes aren’t the type you’d slather with butter and drown in maple syrup, but a more savory morning entree. Bound by an eggy chickpea flour batter, they’re almost like little omelets with chewy yaki soba inside. Laced with carrots and scallions, they’re simple and comforting, quick and easy, and completely adaptable to any taste preferences.

If you want something spicier to really wake up your taste buds, try using the Hot and Spicy flavor noodles and swap out the shredded carrots for roughly chopped kimchi. Amp up your veggie intake by adding a handful of peas or corn into the mix. Top things of with sliced avocado or guacamole if you can’t face the day without your beloved avo toast. In fact, try all of the above, all at once! The only way you can go wrong is if you don’t embrace breakfast noodles to begin with.

Not a morning person? Don’t worry, these are perfect to make in advance! Just cook as directed, let cool, and then pop them in an airtight container in the fridge for 5 – 7 days. Pop them in the toaster oven or air fryer to reheat in minutes. For long term storage, you could even toss them in the freezer to keep for up to 6 months, though I seriously doubt they’ll stick around that long.

I strongly believe that noodles are, and always have been, the true breakfast of champions. Hopefully the judges agree with me! Check out more inspiration from JSL Foods via Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook.

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Black Magic

Halloween is not just a one day event for me. Decorations go up in early September, regardless of lingering summery weather or unspoken rules of neighborhood conduct. By this time, while everyone else is finally getting into the spirit, I’ve already been rocking my skeleton shirt in public for well over a month. Don’t forget the little pumpkin I’ve been walking, clad from paws to nose in bright orange jack-o-lantern attire.

Other people might celebrate the holiday with an enchantingly festive meal on the 31st, but why wait until the witching hour to create some magic in the kitchen? A good example is this ghoulish version of mac and cheese that’s become a daily staple around here during the past few weeks.

Black as night, homemade pasta takes on a ghastly ashen hue thanks to a touch of natural witchcraft… Also known as edible coconut charcoal. Just a touch is enough to tint a whole pound of pasta without leaving a trace of off-flavors, yielding a stunning visual impact without sacrificing taste. Plated atop rich cheese sauce bolstered by creamy pumpkin puree, the stark color contrast is bright and bold enough to get anyone into a mischievous mood.

What are you waiting for? The time is ripe to get down with your witches. Invite your besties over and treat them to a wickedly good meal.

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Of Siblings and Spaghetti

Repeatedly recalled for decades, certain family stories become the stuff of lore. So vividly told that they seem like my own memories, I can practically see, taste, and feel these moments that happened long before I was born. The funny thing is, most of these moments are completely inconsequential, with many of the main players unconsciously or selectively choosing to forget the specifics. Regardless of the plausible bias coming from just one source, there’s a particular bit of family lore shared by my dad that I just can’t shake.

The second eldest of four children, he grew up in a boisterous household with plenty of sibling rivalry. Everyone had their quirks and irritations, which each knew exactly how to provoke. Meal time could be particularly fraught, as hunger drained what little patience might remain for the usual shenanigans.

As the story goes, my uncle Jim was throwing a fit about his spaghetti. It was always exactly the same but completely at random, he would inexplicably decide that it didn’t taste as good. Well, as the story goes, my dad finally got fed up with this routine. When Jim abandoned the table for just a moment, my dad swooped in and made his move. Deftly pouring his glass of chocolate milk into the forsaken noodles, my aunts could barely manage to stifle their giggles. Much to everyone’s surprise, upon his return, Jim proclaimed the pasta… Suddenly, miraculously improved!

The secret remained a mystery for all of about two seconds before the jig was up, launching an equal and opposite reaction of chocolate milk being poured into my dad’s white rice. Such an ultimately trivial moment that could have easily become forgotten somehow became wrapped up in our larger family lore, a fundamental piece of my personal history, despite taking place many decades before I was born.

History is destined to repeat itself, manifesting in unexpected ways, and so here I am today, recreating my Uncle Jim’s chocolate milk spaghetti.

Yes, you read that right; looking beyond the dessert course, blending cocoa into cream sauce isn’t the craziest idea. My dad was onto something in this moment of reckless provocation, little did he know at the time. Deep, dark Dutch process cocoa has both sweet and savory notes, waiting for the right sidekick to coax either side out into the light. Though we typically focus on more sugary pairings, the subtly bitter edge inherent in raw cacao comes to the fore alongside garlic, nutritional yeast, and black truffles. Twirling stands of al dente noodles within that mysterious, tawny sauce, crunchy bites of toasted cacao nibs deliver a shock of texture, hammering in the duality and versatility of this single ingredient, found in many forms.

Who knew that such an innocuous event would stay with us for generations, and perhaps, many more to come? Truffles certainly weren’t on the menu on that fateful night, but there’s no reason why we can’t learn from our “mistakes” and improve upon them- If only we can be so fearless by taking that first step to pour chocolate milk into pasta.

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