9-Minute Garlic Noodles
Welcome to 2023.
The things I’ve been cooking in the last few weeks have been pretty low key. OK, that’s actually a lie: on New Year’s Day we did a mussel stew with orzo and saffron from Ixta Belfrage’s superb cookbook, Mezcala. That was pretty extra. Apart from that, though — actually, no, we made Nigella’s oat-milk gingerbread from Cook, Eat, Repeat, which wasn’t hard exactly but it’s not the sort of thing you knock out with one eye closed, is it. But apart from that, yes it’s been very low key and easy thanks for asking.
One thing I’ve found helpful when the fridge is a little bare is focusing on dishes that use store cupboard staples. The definition of ‘staple’ or even ‘store cupboard’ might vary from person to person but I’m talking specifically about a flavoursome sauce for your lunchtime noodles or a quick marinade to pour over a piece of steamed fish. If you keep your freezer stocked with veg and protein, and you make sure you’ve got some rice and noodles in a drawer somewhere, the only thing you really need is a quick sauce.
Before Christmas, Rob and I went waaaay up to Collindale on the Northern Line to visit Bang Bang Oriental Food Hall. It’s a giant space full of vendors serving all kinds of things like Sichuan noodles, roast duck pancakes, and big bowls of rich brothy soup. Downstairs is an Asian supermarket, too, which we hit up to stock up on stuff we can’t get in Sainsburys like black vinegar, sichuan peppercorns, and baked shrimp crisps.
All of which is to say: this is such a good time to stock your cupboards. If, like me, you can never find dried Calabrian chillies, buy some online and make your own chilli paste with them on a Sunday afternoon. Get some noodles you’ve never tried before and see what they’re like.
9-Minute garlic noodles
I first saw these in the New York Times, where they were developed from a recipe in a cookbook called “The Wok” by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt, which was in turn based off a dish served at Thanh Long in San Francisco. Since then, I’ve used it as a base palette to play around with different ingredients (for one, the NYT recipe features parmesan, which I cut, and I favour chewier noodles over the spaghetti, too).
The main thing is the sauce: a mix of oyster sauce (4tsp), soy sauce (2tsp), and fish sauce (2tsp). It’s irresistibly savoury, with salty, sour, and rich umami notes. If you don’t own oyster or fish sauces, please pick some up — they keep for ages and are so versatile to have at home.
You start by melting a puck of butter in a saucepan, before adding sliced garlic. The recipe calls for 20 cloves, feel free to dial that back based on your evening plans or proficiency at chopping (also, if you have a mandolin, slicing really is best here, rather than crushing). While the butter and garlic is cooking, boil your water and cook your noodle of choice.
After the garlic has cooked for two minutes, add your oyster-soy-fish sauce mix, stir to combine, and take off the heat. Drain your noodles and add to the sauce, toss, and add some noodle water, if needed, to loosen the sauce.
That’s it. I timed it and it literally took 9 minutes start to finish. Some things you can do: add some sliced spring onion, add crunchy sesame seeds or crispy fried onions. You can chuck some raw prawns in with the garlic, or toss in any leftovers from a roast chicken. Lime juice might be nice to cut through it, or flake in some crab meat if you’re that way inclined. Also, if you have some stock, you could flip this into a noodle soup.
Your new go-to Sichuan sauce
This is actually from a recipe we made this weekend — Thomasina Miers’ steamed fish with Sichuan sauce and steamed greens. I first made it last January and we had it again last night — but the sauce is made in a fairly low quantity; you spoon it over steamed fish and it kind of clings to the wobbly flesh and the fish soaks it up. Make double, and you can add it to stir fries or anything that needs a bit of a kick.
Miers used five ingredients —1 star anise, 2 tbsp light soy sauce, 1 tsp caster sugar 1 tsp chilli oil (such as Lee Kum Kee’s Chiu Chow) and 1 tsp sesame oil. I added 1 teaspoon of Sichuan peppercorns. With the peppercorns, some recipes suggest bashing it and then sieving it, to remove the husks, but I sometimes don’t bother with this.
I think it’s versatile enough to scribble away and have in your back pocket because, again, once you have these items in, you can whip it up in five minutes.
Next time on Scraps will feature part two of the rotisserie chicken edit; crunchy Vietnamese salads for the meat, and a really good chicken soup to use up the carcass.