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Our cookbook of the week is That Noodle Life by Mike Le and Stephanie Le. Over the next two days, we’ll feature another recipe from the book and an interview with the authors.
To try another recipe from the book, check out: Really pretty soba with cucumber and avocado.
This speedy dish is quicker than take out. It’s also better, say husband-and-wife photographer-writer team Mike Le and Stephanie Le.
Their second cookbook, That Noodle Life, is – naturally – all about the noodles. And chunky Shanghai-style (cumian) shine in this satisfying dish.
“I grew up eating Shanghai noodles. And I love Shanghai noodles, because they’re so thick and chewy in your mouth, ”says Stephanie, laughing. “Noodles, to me, are about the mouthfeel.”
Udon – a thick, wheat noodle from Japan – is a common substitute and you can use either in this recipe. But they chose to feature cumian, Stephanie adds, as a way of highlighting that “there are thick, wheat noodles from Shanghai, too.”
Both come precooked: Find Shanghai noodles in the fresh noodle section of Asian grocery stores; udon in the freezer section (Mike and Stephanie prefer frozen udon).
Cook this: Really pretty soba with cucumber and avocado from That Noodle Life
Cook this: Scallion oil noodles from My Shanghai
Cook this: Chilled soba noodles with walnut dipping sauce from Japanese Home Cooking
There are a few key elements to this recipe, they write, which comes together in 20 minutes or less. Marinating the pork belly in a mixture of Shaoxing wine, sugar and cornstarch amps up its tenderness and encourages a golden-brown crust; dark and light soy sauce add seasoning and color; and high-heat cooking gives the dish a smoky char.
The result is reminiscent of the Shanghai noodles Stephanie grew up eating, with a twist.
“We just kind of modernized it a little bit with pork belly instead of (the usual) pork loin,” she says. And then we added the kale for health and to have a little bit of bitterness to counteract the super savoriness of the sauce. ”
BETTER THAN TAKE OUT
Fried Shanghai Noodles with Pork Belly and Kale
2 tbsp light soy sauce
2 tsp cornstarch
1 tsp Shaoxing wine (see note)
1 tsp sugar
1/2 lb (225 g) pork belly, sliced into matchsticks
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 tbsp hoisin sauce
2 tbsp sodium-free chicken stock
2 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 lb (450 g) fresh traditional Shanghai thick noodles or frozen udon (see note)
1 tbsp neutral oil
1 bunch kale, stemmed and chopped
Sliced green onions
Crispy fried onions (see note)
Chili oil (preferably homemade, Mike and Stephanie include a recipe in the book)
Combine 1 tablespoon of light soy sauce with the cornstarch, Shaoxing wine and sugar in a large bowl. Mix in the pork to coat thoroughly. Set aside.
Make the sauce: Combine the remaining 1 tablespoon light soy sauce with the dark soy sauce, hoisin sauce, chicken stock and sesame oil in a small bowl. Set aside.
Fill a large bowl with hot tap water and add the noodles. Let soak until loosened and warmed through, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Drain and set aside.
Heat a large wok or skillet over medium heat. When the wok starts to smoke, add the neutral oil and swirl until shimmery. Add the pork with its marinade and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is golden brown and crispy, 3 to 5 minutes.
Add the kale and toss to combine. When the kale has wilted slightly, add the noodles and the sauce. Turn the heat up to high and toss to combine. Sear until everything is smoky and slightly charred, about 2 minutes. Serve hot.
Notes: Shaoxing is a Chinese fermented rice wine that adds depth and complexity and that subtle difference between your average home-cooked Chinese food and high-end Chinese restaurant food. Try to choose an unsalted wine – it should have subtle nutty notes of vinegar and caramel without being overwhelming. Pagoda brand is our favorite and is what we use in the recipes throughout the book; make sure you season to taste if you’re using a different brand. You can find it in the Asian food aisle, at an Asian grocery store, and online (eg, umamishop.ca). Pale dry sherry will work as a substitute in a pinch.
If using frozen udon in Step 3, soak them until defrosted, 2 to 3 minutes.
Find crispy fried onions at an Asian grocery store or even IKEA.
Type: This basic fried noodle recipe is very versatile – you can use this technique and sauce with any combination of protein or veg. The sky’s the limit.
Recipe and image excerpted from That Noodle Life by Mike Le and Stephanie Le, photos by Mike Le. Workman Publishing © 2022.