Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Mee Goreng

Ah, the holidays!  I love them so much, but there are some definite downsides.  Like being so busy you don't have time to cook a meal.  These past couple of weeks I've been running around like crazy, traveling, and eating out way too much.  Last Saturday night, however, I finally found time to really get in the kitchen.  I think things might be heading back to normal.

I decided to cook something out of my new cookbook Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi.  After a bit of skimming through the book with Olie, my partner in crime, we decided on Mee Goreng.  This dish was full of firsts for me.  It's a Malaysian street dish.  Never had Malaysian food before.  Honestly, I couldn't even tell you exactly were Malaysia is (I have many skills buy geography is not one of them).  Also, this dish had ingredients in it that I had never cooked before, and some that I had never even heard of.  After scanning the recipe list, I decided it was time for my long anticipated, but often put off trip to the Vietnamese grocery around the corner, Viet Hoa.

Here is another first: I had never been to an Asian grocery store before.  This one is absolutely incredible.  It's a bit intimidating at first since half of the ingredients there I had no idea what they were and then the other half were labeled in another language, but this store is a gold mine.  Their produce is fresh and full of interesting, hard to find items.  There was a whole aisle devoted to dried mushrooms.  A whole aisle!  They had quail eggs, duck eggs, and bright purple pickled eggs.  A huge variety of fresh noodles, tons of cheap, fresh fish (and by fresh I mean swimming around in tanks waiting to be murdered for my culinary enjoyment), and more sauces than you could ever imagine.  And all so cheap!  I spent $23 on everything you see pictured below:

And here are a couple of photos that Olie took with his iPhone at Viet Hoa.
Lobster for $8.99 per pound.  Pretty amazing.
More sauces than you could ever imagine.  It took Olie and I 15 minutes of diligent searching to find the thick soy sauce we were looking for.
Some snails, cuz, you know........everyone needs some snails.

And my favorite: catfish heads for 59 cents per pound.  What do you do with a catfish head?  I kind of want to find a reason to buy one.  Maybe a fish stock?
Now on to the recipe!  Once you've acquired all of your ingredients, this dish is super fast, super easy, and super delicious.

Mee Goreng by Yotam Ottolenghi
2 tbsp peanut oil
1/2 onion, diced
8 oz firm tofu, cut into 1/4 inch strips
4 oz green beans, trimmed and cut at an angle
4 oz choi sum (this is a type of bok choy.  While the grocery had about five different types of bok choy, they didn't have choi sum.  So I just picked the bok choy that I thought was the prettiest)
11 oz fresh egg noodles (I used udon noodles)
1 1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp sambal oelek (most major grocery stores carry this, it's a savory chile paste)
2 tsp thick soy sauce
2 tsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp water
2 oz Mung bean sprouts
Handful of shredded iceberg lettuce
1 tbsp crisp-fried shallots (I wasn't sure if this was a pre-packaged thing or not, so I just fried some shallots in a little peanut oil)
Lemon wedges to serve

This recipe calls for a wok, but I used a large pan and it was fine, though a wok probably would have made it easier.  Heat your wok or pan on a high heat.  Once it is hot, add the peanut oil and onions.  Cook for about a minute to soften the onions.  Add the tofu and the green beans and cook for about 3 minutes to give the tofu a little color.  Stir every so often.  I stirred with a spatula so as not to break up the tofu.

Now add the choi sum (bok choy).  Once it wilts, add the noodles.  Mix gently, cooking for about 2 minutes.  Now add the spices, sauces, water and bean sprouts.  Toss gently.
Top mixture with lettuce and transfer to serving bowls or plates.  Sprinkle with shallots.  Serve with lemon wedges and some extra sambal oelek.

End result: awesome.  Olie and I ended up cooking this again the next night.  It was so good.  What I'm most excited about is this spice/sauce combo.  When it comes to Asian food, I never know which sauces to use.  I just end up pouring a bunch of soy sauce on everything.  This combination will be great in all sorts of dishes (I'm actually using it for a dish that I'm about to cook right after I finish typing this sentence!)

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