10 articles Articles posted in noodles

butter-poached lobster pasta with lobster-roe sauce

When we first arrived in Grenada, I was disappointed with the lack of fresh seafood available on the island. It seemed strange to me that on an island surrounded by water that is only 131 square miles large, one would have to travel all the way into town to have access to fresh seafood. Even then, you have to go early in the morning, and the selection is spotty. The few times I’ve gone, there have only been 1-2 kinds of fish available. Where was the shrimp, the clams, the conch, and the lobster?? Conch, or “lambie” (pronounced lam-bee”), is found frozen in most grocery stores here, and since it is local, is relatively inexpensive. Shrimp, on the other hand, I’ve only seen as frozen imports at ridiculously high prices.

Now let’s talk about the lobster. I’ve had lobster once here — at Fish Friday in Gouyave, where I paid a hefty 50EC ($20 US) for a grilled half lobster. And that’s a bargain for cooked lobster here. At the nicer restaurants, restaurants where you’d find lobster, they can charge anywhere between 100-120EC (about $40-50). This seems pretty pricey to me, especially since all the lobster is locally fished. I was determined to find my own lobster monger from whom I could buy fresh lobsters to cook at home.

We pass by the sign below every day on the way to school. I’ve long wanted to stop here and take a look at the seafood selection, and last week we finally had a chance. We found out that they did, indeed, sell lobster! They also sell snapper, conch, and various other fish. Below are the two beauties we took home.

We had our choice from all these lobsters you see here. The owner dumped the bag of lobsters on the ground, and they were all still squirming and moving around. (That big grey guy in the bucket is a snapper!) We ended up choosing the two smallest lobsters, which still weighed about 4 lbs together.

Now these lobsters aren’t like the kind you’d eat in America. They’re called spiny lobster,  and they actually don’t even have claws. Instead, they have these giant antennae on their heads, and their bodies are covered in spikes. It makes handling them a little scary.

Pretty ugly, huh? It’s no wonder they’re called the cockroaches of the sea.

We decided to get two lobsters so that we’d have enough lobster goodness to last us a few meals, but you only need one lobster if you’re only planning on making the butter-poached lobster pasta with roe sauce. We ended up making butter-poached lobster and lobster carpaccio with the tail meat; lobster-roe sauce with half the roe; lobster risotto with the other half of the roe and meat from the body, antennae, and legs; lobster bisque with the shells; and tomalley garlic bread with the tomalley. Mind you, we didn’t eat it all at once. :)

Here are the recipes for the butter-poached lobster with roe sauce and the tomalley garlic bread.

Butter-poached Lobster with Lobster-Roe Sauce
adapted from various sources
Serves 2

1/2 pound linguine
1 female lobster (1-2 lbs)
1 Tbsp. water
1  cup butter
1 tsp tomato paste
1 cup heavy cream
1 tsp fish sauce
salt to taste

1. In a large pot big enough to hold your lobster, bring 3 quarts of water to a boil.

2. Put your lobster into the freezer and leave it there for about 20 minutes. This puts it into a deep sleep that makes it unaware when you take on the next step…

3. Remove your lobster from the freezer and plunge it headfirst into the boiling water for 30 seconds. This helps the meat detach more easily from the shell.

4. Remove the whole lobster and place into an ice bath.

5. When cool, scrub your lobster all over with a hard-bristled brush. You’ll really want to get all the dirt off if you’re planning to use the shells to make lobster bisque or for some other use.

6. Ok, here’s the gory part (though the guy should already be dead by this point). Grasp the lobster with the tail in one hand and the head in the other. Be sure to use thick gloves or a kitchen towel to prevent getting stabbed by the spines. Holding the head in place, twist the tail and gently detach the tail from the head. Be sure to do this over a bowl to catch all the juices.

Look at that beautiful, succulent meat and the bright red roe in the head area. Remove the roe and set aside for the roe sauce later. Remove tomalley (green gooey stuff) from the head and set aside for the garlic bread. There is still meat inside the lobster head, which you can save for another dish. The shells and legs can also be saved for making bisque and soup.

7. With a pair of sharp kitchen shears, snip down the middle of the tail and carefully pull the tail out of its shell. It should come out quite easily, even the tail fins.

Isn’t this gorgeous?? You can see my thumbs-up in there next to the smaller lobster tail, for some scale reference. :) At this point, you can use the lobster meat for just about anything. Keep in mind the meat isn’t actually cooked yet. It’s just been briefly boiled to detach from the shell and then shocked in ice water. If you’re going to make lobster sashimi or carpaccio, I’d suggest popping the meat into the freezer for 20 minutes or so for easier slicing.

8. Cut lobster into smaller pieces for butter poaching. I used my shears and cut straight down the middle, so the tail shape stayed intact.

9. To butter poach the lobster, bring 1 Tbsp. of water to a simmer over medium heat. When the water simmers, slowly add in the butter, 1 tablespoon at a time. When all the butter has been melted and incorporated into the water, place your lobster pieces into the butter. Poach for 2 minutes on each side. While it is poaching on one side, use a spoon to ladle the hot butter over the top to help even out the cooking.

10. When cooked, remove the lobster pieces and set aside; keep warm. Turn the heat for the butter from medium to low.

11. The roe that you set aside earlier will be used for the sauce now. Gently whisk the roe until the eggs have broken up, and whisk it into the melted butter. Stir in the extra lobster juices, cream, fish sauce, tomato paste, and salt to taste.

12. Plate the pasta, top with lobster pieces. Pour sauce over the lobster and pasta. Serve hot with a side of tomalley garlic bread.

Lobster Tomalley Garlic Bread
Serves 2

We tried this without the garlic, and it tasted absolutely divine as well. In fact, I think I prefer the version without garlic because I feel like the garlic overpowers the subtle flavor of the lobster tomalley. It’s like a rich pate spread that would go great with crackers and a glass of wine.

lobster tomalley from 1 lobster
1 Tbsp. butter
1 clove garlic, minced (optional)
salt to taste
toasted bread

1. Melt butter in a small saucepan.

2. If using, add in minced garlic and saute until fragrant.

3. Add in tomalley and saute until it thickens and turns into a homogenous paste.

4. Remove from heat and add salt to taste.

5. Serve over crusty bread.

steamed rice noodle sheets (banh uot)

Some people have childhood memories of their moms making pancakes on weekend mornings. My sister and I have memories of our mom making banh uot or Vietnamese steamed rice noodle sheets.

When I visited Vietnam last year, I got to watch the ladies at the markets making these fresh. It’s a painstaking process that involves pouring rice flour batter in crepe-like fashion over a steamer that resembles a drum. And then you use a chopstick to carefully lift the delicate sheet off.

Now, my mom never made rice noodle sheets from scratch. She bought them premade, rolled up in a bundle from the store. But my sister and I were delegated the task of separating the individual sheets from the bundle and tearing them into smaller pieces. It was perhaps almost as painstaking a process. But it also meant we were all in the kitchen making breakfast together.

A little while back, my husband and I took a short roadtrip to Philly and discovered a huge Vietnamese supermarket there, where I found fresh rice noodle sheets. I couldn’t resist getting some, bringing it back with us, and making our own Sunday morning breakfast of banh uot.

Steamed Rice Noodle Sheets (banh uot)
Serves 2-3

1 12- to 14-oz package of rice noodle sheets
scallion oil
1/4 steamed pork roll (cha lua, also known as Vietnamese ham)
bean sprouts
1/4 cucumber, julienned
Vietnamese herbs, such as mint, Vietnamese coriander, red perilla, etc., cut into a chiffonade
fried shallots
nuoc cham sauce

1. Separate the rice noodle sheets and tear into pieces about the size of your palm.

2. Divide the rice noodle sheets into individual-size servings and set on plates. Drizzle a bit of scallion oil over each plate. Heat each plate in the microwave for about a minute. (My mother always used the microwave, but you could also steam it in a bamboo steamer or a wok.)

2. Cut the steamed pork roll into thin slices. Lay over the rice noodle sheets.

3. Top the rice noodle sheets and sliced pork roll with a handful of beansprouts, julienned cucumber, chiffonaded Vietnamese herbs, and a sprinkling of fried shallots. Serve with nuoc cham dressing.

taiwanese beef noodle soup (niu rou mian)

Happy birthday to my wonderful husband!

He is in Istanbul today, probably stuck in meetings. I hope they are at least feeding him well!

I figured he probably wouldn’t be able to enjoy the day as much being on the job, so I made him an early birthday meal this week to celebrate before he left. After his comment a few days ago about needing more meat, I decided to do something meat-inspired for the occasion. Grilling is not so much of an option where we live. And given that our schedules were pretty tight this week, I wanted to try and make do with what I already had on hand. I had been saving this beef shank in the freezer, so I thought I’d try to make Taiwanese beef noodle soup with it. Despite his earlier comment, lucky for him it takes a SE Asian not to balk at the idea of making a hot noodle soup in the middle of a DC summer. I think he didn’t mind eating it either. :)

Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup
Adapted from Viet World Kitchen
Serves 3

Normally I’d make this in a Dutch oven or stock pot, but to cut down on some of the heat from the stove in the summer, I browned the meat and pan-fried the aromatics and spices in a skillet before transferring everything to a thermal cooker to slowly stew. Ideally I’d let it sit overnight, but since I didn’t start this until the day of, I just waited a few hours. The meat could have been more tender, but it was still flavorful. I’ve kept the recipe’s original instructions for cooking in a pot here but incorporated a few of the modifications I made. Next time I would use chicken or beef stock instead of water for fuller flavor.

1.5 lb bone-in beef shank
1 Tbsp canola oil
5 garlic cloves, bruised
1-inch fresh ginger, cut into 3 slices, each one bruised
2 scallions, halved crosswise
1/2 tsp Chinese five-spice powder
2 star anise
1 tsp Sichuan peppercorns
1 Thai bird chili, split lengthwise (seeds and ribs removed if you want less spice)
2 Tbsp chili bean sauce (doubanjiang)
1/3 cup Shaoxing rice wine
1 oz yellow Chinese rock sugar
3 Tbsp light soy sauce
1 Tbsp dark soy sauce
5 cups water or chicken or beef stock

1/2 lb broccolini, broccoli, or baby bok choy, cut into bite size pieces
1/2 lb Chinese wheat noodles
1 Tbsp coarsely chopped cilantro

1. Pat the beef dry and then season all over with salt. In a 5- or 6-quart pot, heat the oil over high heat. Sear the beef on both sides until there is some browning, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Remove and set aside.

2. To the same pot, add the garlic, ginger, five-spice, star anise, peppercorns, chili, and bean sauce. Stir for 1-2 minutes until fragrant. Add the rice wine. Scrape up any browned bits at the bottom of the pot. Add 1 teaspoon salt, rock sugar, both soy sauces, and water.

3. Bring to a boil, skim off the scum that floats to the top. Lower the heat to medium-low to gently simmer. Cover and cook for about 2 hours, until the beef is tender. The broth will simmer under cover.

4. Turn off the heat and move the lid askance so that there’s about a 1/2-inch opening. Let the soup cool. The beef will finish cooking to fork tenderness as the broth cools and concentrates in flavor. (If you make the soup in the evening, let it sit overnight.)

5. Remove the meat and set aside. Strain the broth into another pot. Discard the solids. Skim off the fat if desired. Reheat the broth over high heat.

6. Meanwhile, cook the vegetable and noodles in a large pot of water. Divide among soup bowls.

7. Cut the meat into 1/2-inch-thick pieces; if it the beef is cold, use a mesh strainer or skimmer to warm it in the hot broth. Divide it among the bowls.

7. Bring the broth to a boil, taste and adjust the flavors. Ladle the broth into the bowls. Top with cilantro and serve.

zha jiang mian (炸酱面, Beijing fried-sauce noodles)

In Chinese, a person of a particular trade is called by the title of shifu, which means “master.” I’m more used to hearing shifu in the context of kung fu movies, but in Beijing I was quickly grateful for the term, which makes it easy to refer to people older than you, whom you’re not familiar enough to call uncle but also can’t call by name. Xie Shifu was the driver at my husband’s office, and it wasn’t long before I found out he was master of more than just driving. When I heard from one of the office researchers that he occasionally cooks at the office, I knew I couldn’t leave China without learning a dish or two from him. So I shyly asked the researcher whether she thought he might be willing to teach me something, and she said she was sure he’d love to.

The only thing was that my last week in Beijing happened to be during the national holiday, when everyone is off for a whole week. But luckily, Xie Shifu lives in Beijing and wouldn’t be going out of town. On one of my last weekends there, he brought along his wife and daughter to the office (his office actually happens to be the kitchen!) to teach us how to make zha jiang mian (literally “fried-sauce noodles”) — a traditional Beijing dish consisting of wheat noodles, pork, and fermented bean sauce. It reminded me of Saturdays in the kitchen with my family growing up. :)

Noodles seem to be something everyone in northern China learns how to make at home growing up, especially if you are poor (flour is cheap, and rice is expensive). Xie Shifu said he often made noodles as a kid, but it’s been a long while since he’s done it, so I felt pretty grateful that he was making it especially for us that day. My dad has also told me that he used to eat my grandfather’s hand-pulled noodles at home, which his own father (my great-grandfather) taught him how to make.

We started with the dough, which we used for both noodles and dumplings, and Xie Shifu said you could also make mantou or steamed bun with it. The method is similar to the hand-pulled noodles I learned to make at The Hutong. After mixing and kneading, we let the dough for the noodles sit to rise while we made the sauce (dough for dumplings doesn’t need to sit and can be used right away).

Xie Shifu likes Korean soybean paste because he says it contains more yellow beans and has been allowed to ferment for a year or two. He started by slowly mixing water into the sauce to thin it out, so that it wouldn’t dry out as easily when fried.

Next, he heated up a wok, added oil, and stir-fried some pieces of fatty pork. Then he added the thinned-out sauce and let it simmer down until it returned to its original thick consistency.

As the sauce simmered, it was time to make the noodles. Xie Shifu rolled the dough out to about 1/8 inch thick (as thick or thin as you want your noodles), then folded it, and cut.

We also pulled a few noodles for fun, following the method I learned last time.

We boiled the noodles for about 3-5 minutes in hot water, then drained, put into bowls, and added a dollop of the pork and bean sauce on top. The sauce is pretty salty, so better to start with a small amount and add to taste. We also julienned some cucumber, carrots, and king oyster mushrooms to add on top of the noodles. The carrots and mushrooms were boiled, but the cucumber was kept raw. We made dumplings as well that day, but I’ll save that for my sister to write up sometime, as she makes dumplings often with her husband’s family.

Lunch that day was a true northern Chinese meal of noodles and dumplings. And Xie Shifu’s family taught us how to drink the milky water that the noodles were boiled in as a soup, just like the locals do. It was one of my favorite memories from my whole time in Beijing.

Next: A few summaries of the foods I ate on my travels to Malaysia, Singapore, Shanghai, Chengdu, and of course, Beijing.