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EASY WEEKNIGHT DINNER: CHINESE MINCED PORK NOODLES

Grits and ChopsticksWe recently discovered this great blog, “Grits and Chopsticks“, where East Meets South… “it’s a little bit country, a little bit wok ‘n roll”.  Besides being a wonderful blog, they have some really tasty looking recipes published.  With their permission, we’re posting their recipe for “Chinese Minced Pork Noodles“.  It looks SO YUMMY!!  

I’m sure we’ll post some more of their recipes in the future, and perhaps we can even entice them to write an article or two for The Chinese Quest.  In the meantime, please check out their website at http://www.gritsandchopsticks.com/

Chinese Minced Pork Noodles

by Ann from “Grits and Chopsticks

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At some point during my late adolescence, I began to pride myself on graduating past certain foods that I’d eaten as a kid.  For example, when I was a kid my parents used to make wonton dumplings from scratch, spending hours carefully crafting tray after tray.  My dad would then boil them and serve them up to be eaten in soup.  But not for eight-year-old me, oh no.  I was so desperate as a kid to have American food all the time that I’d slather my won tons with Heinz 57 ketchup (is there any other kind)?  It was utterly disgusting.  But back then, I felt like I was chanting “USA!  USA!  USA!” with every slippery, tangy bite.

Luckily, my palate has evolved a little since those early days when I tinkered with my own version of fusion cuisine.  Even so, there’s one dish that I always am excited to eat whenever I go home — my dad’s zha jiang mian, or Chinese minced pork noodles.  The noodles are usually served with fresh cilantro, green onion, julienned cucumber, and blanched bean sprouts on the side.  I love it so much that I make it frequently as an easy weeknight staple for the hubby and me.

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Above, top: the cucumber garnish has to be peeled and de-seeded, sliced lengthwise four times and cut width-wise into finger-long chunks; bottom: to julienne, slice each finger-long chunk thinly, then lay the thin slices down on the board and slice into thin matchsticks

My dad has made modifications to his version of zha jiang mian over the years, and every adjustment he’s made has made increases the delicious factor.  I’m not as successful as he is, and my recipe varies from his considerably.  One of the main differences is that I don’t put baked tofu in my version.  For whatever reason, I’m having the hardest time finding baked tofu here in Kuala Lumpur (he usually adds some brunoise to his minced pork to give it more texture).  My recipe below omits the baked tofu, but you can find it in just about any Asian grocery store in the US.

The best part about having zha jiang mian is that it doesn’t take long to prepare, especially if you have a sous chef willing to help wash and chop the garnishes (enter: hubby).  At most, you can have dinner on the table in about 30-40 minutes.  One key, however, is that the cucumber garnish must be julienned, not shredded in a Cuisinart or grated.  The cucumber has to retain its water to be a crispy counterpart to the sweet minced pork, and by grating or shredding it you lose that crispiness.  Also, I blanch the bean sprouts after removing the noodles from the pot.  It just makes for one less pot to clean up afterward.

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The spread for zha jiang mian looks impressive, but is really easy to prepare; by laying out all the garnishes on the table, everyone can choose their own culinary adventure by deciding how much of each garnish to add to their own serving

The hubby and I had a batch of zha jiang mian earlier this week, and while my recipe doesn’t even approach my dad’s, it’s still comfort food for us.  The hubby drenches his in chili oil and balsamic vinegar, another adaptation my dad made a few years ago to make the flavors a little subtler (typical Chinese recipes call for black vinegar as a garnish).  We polished off two bowls each while recounting our day to each other (his: bringing home the bacon; mine: playing Shanghai Rummy with some serious card sharks).

It was a perfect start to the week.

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The condiments you’ll need, from left to right: Japanese shiro miso, Hoisin sauce, light soy sauce (which is the type of soy sauce you would typically eat with sushi; it’s a coincidence that the kind I have is also low-sodium), and dark soy sauce (which is thick, with the consistency of molasses)

EASY WEEKNIGHT DINNER: CHINESE MINCED PORK NOODLES
PREP TIME
COOK TIME
TOTAL TIME
This classic Chinese noodle dish will always taste like home to me.
Serves: 4-6
INGREDIENTS
  • 1 pound minced pork
  • 8 ounces Chinese dried flour noodles (I use Wei-Chuan brand, but any flat flour noodle will do)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 shallots, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
  • 2 tablespoons shiro miso
  • 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
  • Optional: ¼ pound baked tofu, brunoised
  • For the garnishes:
  • 1 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 4 green onions, chopped, including green and
  • white parts
  • ½ pound bean sprouts, blanched
  • 1-2 cucumbers, peeled, de-seeded, and julienned into matchsticks
  • Balsamic vinegar and Chinese garlic chili sauce (not Sriracha, but the kind that comes in jars)
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil; add noodles, stirring occasionally.
  2. When noodles are cooked al dente (approximately 9-11 minutes), drain noodles from pot using a pasta strainer, retaining the hot water in the pot.
  3. Set noodles aside.
  4. While noodles are cooking, heat olive oil over medium-low heat, then add garlic and shallots and saute until translucent.
  5. Add minced pork, hoisin sauce, miso, dark soy sauce and light soy sauce and saute 7-9 minutes until pork is cooked through.
  6. Remove from heat. Reheat noodle water to boiling and add bean sprouts, blanching for about 3-5 minutes.
  7. Drain bean sprouts and set aside for garnish.
  8. Top individual portions of noodles with minced pork and serve.
  9. Update: after my dad read this recipe, he suggested that the bean sprouts should be blanched for only about a minute and removed before cooking the noodles, not after as I’ve written above. That way, the bean sprouts don’t get gummy from the noodle water.

We hope you enjoy!  If you try it, please let us know!  And if you have some other recipes to share with The Chinese Quest, please share!

Humbly submitted for your consumption,

Mee Magnum  (“Chop!  Chop!”)

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