Zha Jiang Noodles

Do you like spaghetti with meat sauce? I like spaghetti with meat sauce. Up until a few years ago, I just called it spaghetti because I didn’t know that the meat was optional. My mother made okay spaghetti with meat sauce but my cousin Susana, and by extension her mother who is the person who taught her how to make it, made great spaghetti with meat sauce. I don’t think you could really classify it as a sauce because it was very chunky but I loved it. My mother’s sauce was runny but Susana’s was basically just ground beef with a bit of tomato paste and some seasoning. Any time she made it, I’d beg my mother to “drop by” so they would invite us to join them for dinner. It never failed; we were always invited in and ate plates of it along with buttery, greasy garlic bread. I’ve often tried to replicate it but like my mother before me, my sauce always ends up runny. James makes great spaghetti with meat sauce, almost as good as Susana’s, so he is the official spaghetti maker in the house.

Zha jiang noodles are basically the Chinese version of spaghetti with meat sauce.

Sidenote: how many times can I say “spaghetti with meat sauce”?

What makes zha jiang noodles so special is the frying of the sauces before adding the meat. Traditionally the sauces are a yellow soybean paste and hoisin sauce. This is what gives it the super desired “umami” flavor that all the foodies are craving nowadays. The ease of customization is also pretty appealing but it’s the umami that gets everyone. It is a traditional Chinese dish, however, when many Chinese left China to Korea during China’s civil war, the dish picked up some Korean flair. This is probably why it reminded me of the Spicy Cold Buckwheat Noodles from Korean week.

Chinese or Korean this dish was spectacular! It couldn’t have been easier to make: fry meat in sauce, boil noodles, eat. I unfortunately didn’t have soybean paste so I just used hoisin sauce but it was still delicious. I can only imagine how much I would have liked it had I prepared it properly. I kept the noodles cold and I think that tricked me into eating multiple bowls. I was in a bit of a food coma afterwards but it was worth it. It had a weird peanut taste, even though there were no peanuts in it, and I couldn’t stop eating it. James had a couple of bowls, the girls were uninterested, so that meant I had plenty of leftovers the next day. Which meant my belly was happy two days in a row.

My mouth is literally salivating at the memory of this meal. Seriously, go make this tonight. Or tomorrow, you probably need to buy the ingredients. Make it tomorrow, you won’t be disappointed.

Recipe

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Breaded Pork Cutlets, Noodles with Cabbage, and Tomato Salad

Now that I’ve gotten all of the feels out of the way, it’s back to posting about food! I was going to apologize for being a Debbie Downer but feeling bad about feeling bad is part of the problem! Moving forward.

This was the second and last meal I prepared for Hungarian week. There was a reason I only did two but I can’t remember what it was, it was over three weeks ago…We actually drove up to Sun City and prepared this meal for James’ grandparents since his grandmother is Hungarian-American. Cooking in another person’s kitchen was an experience. James’ grandmother was very accommodating but taking over someone’s personal space is weird. It felt odd rummaging through cabinets and drawers, looking for a certain pot or spoon, like I was going through their underwear drawer. My kitchen is my space, it is one of the few rooms in the house where I claim complete ownership, and I don’t like people messing with my stuff. I don’t even like James messing with my pantry because he always puts things based on where he thinks they should go and, no! It’s my room! So I was extra respectful of the space I was in and made sure to put everything back from where it came.

Everything turned out great, though. The cutlet recipe said to not crowd the pieces together or to use two pans if necessary. I didn’t want to create an even bigger mess so I stacked the chops on top of each other and followed the rest of the recipe to a T. I think this created some additional moisture and as a result, the chops came out exceptionally juicy considering they were fried. I didn’t really know what to expect with the noodles and cabbage. I’d never had that combination before but I had a small inkling that it would be very bland. Um, it was not. It had a nice richness to it and I think that was because I had to brown sugar in oil beforehand. Had the sugar been missing, I think it would have been pretty forgettable. The tomato salad was fine, nothing exceptional, but it was easy and tasty so I will save that recipe.

Everyone enjoyed the meal, even the girls. James’ step-father took home seconds so I took that as a good sign. GrandMary also asked for some leftovers and believe me, that’s a pretty big deal. I’ll post the recipes tomorrow. Right now I just want to go veg out and watch Empire. I need to know what happened to Andre!

Spicy Cold Buckwheat Noodles, Spicy-Sweet Shredded Squid, and Soy and Sesame Spinach

This week we are eating food from Korea. I love Korean food. I say that with having only eaten beef bulgogi, bibimbap, kimchi, and japchae BUT I love everything I’ve eaten. My cousin’s wife is from South Korea and every time she posts their meals on FB, I’m left drooling and wondering if moving back to Uvalde would be worth it just to be able to eat dinner with them on a weekly basis. Fyi, it wouldn’t be. Based on what Sujin has posted and the few meals I’ve eaten, I knew we had to do Korean food for this project. James and I were giddy about it all weekend.

Koreatown: a Cookbook came out earlier this year and I’ve had my eye on it since. It got on my radar when Food 52 named it one of the best cookbooks to come out this year and honestly, the cover is what got me. I totally judge books by their covers, literally. I don’t do it with people so I at least have one redeeming quality. But yes, the cover of the book is very simple yet appealing. Look at it! Very basic black, no crazy font or a chef holding a bowl of rice, it really lets the food speak for itself. I loves it. And I mean it, I really love this cookbook. It’s the first book during this entire project where I’ve sat and read through the entire thing. Well, not the entire thing, there were some interviews that bored me, but I’ve read most of it. The tone is very conversational and it doesn’t treat cooking or food as something precious. There’s no pretension about it, they are making food that you like to eat because it’s good. Not because it’s trendy or has some hard to find ingredient, it’s just good food. I cannot recommend this enough.

Which is why I won’t be sharing the recipes. I really want people to check this book out. It’s not terribly expensive, $30 at Barnes and Noble, and I think it’s a great book to have if you like cooking and like eating. If you are really not into buying it, check out the preview on Google Books. I’m not saying you can Google the names of the recipes and they come up on Google Books. I’m not saying that at all.

This meal was kinda just thrown together. I ran out of time this week and didn’t plan my meals but I did earmark all the recipes I wanted to makein the book. I was running short on time Tuesday because I spent so much time grocery shopping so I just went through the book, found three recipes that didn’t require marination or a two hour fermentation, and made them. I’ll be doing the same today because, ugh, you don’t care why. So yeah, these meals were pretty quick. Most of the work was in the prep. I had to chop a good amount of veggies so I’ve decided my next tool purchase will be a mandolin slicer. I also forgot to set the rice cooker to the “Quick Cook” option when making the rice so it took a little longer than usual to get our rice. If I use the “White Rice” setting, it takes over an hour to make two cups of rice. Hello rice cooker? I need rice now! Haha, I need it rice now! Lame joke.

The buckwheat noodles were good but they did remind me a lot of the Indonesian Gado Gado in terms of fresh veggies. Although instead of a delicious peanut sauce, we ate a molten lava based chilie sauce. Gochujang does not mess around! The spinach was fine as well but it wasn’t anything special. The belle of the ball was the squid. Oh man, I loved that squid so much! I didn’t know what to expect with dried squid because I’ve never had squid except in bento boxes. It’s very chewy and I can’t say it’s my favorite. I don’t like it when my jaw hurts from chewing so hard. The scent from stir frying it wasn’t all that appealing either; my kitchen smelled very fishy and at one point James walked in and said “Oh, wow, um, that’s strong…” and walked out. When it was finally time to eat, I took a deep breath and shoved some squid in my mouth.

The burning. So.much.burning. I know I’ve mentioned it before but I’m not a fan of spicy food. It’s not that I don’t like the flavor or that the heat bothers me that much, I just physically can’t take it. “You just said the heat doesn’t bother you” It doesn’t hurt me but it does numb my mouth. Seriously, anything hotter than a banana pepper and my tongue and lips go numb so I’m not able to enjoy the full flavor of the food. I recently looked into this and apparently it doesn’t happen to everyone so that explains why some people can eat a ghost pepper and continue eating while I eat a quarter of a jalapeno and have to chug warm water just so I can taste the rest of my meal. Also, if you are eating spicy food, drink warm water, not cold. Warm water lifts the oils off your tongue while cold water sets them in. Science!

The squid was delicious! It was spicy and sweet and so, so chewy! But it didn’t make my jaw sore! The only way I can describe it is that it’s like the small nuggets of batter in General Tso’s chicken. You know what I’m talking about. The itty bitty pieces of batter that always get thrown in with the rest of the chicken and are crunchy yet chewy? That’s what this squid was like. And I can’t wait to make more of it. I’m not joking when I say this will be a snack staple from here on out. It took all of fifteen minutes to make and it was amazing. You need this squid in your life.

And if you’re wondering, the girls ate sandwiches. I was not in the mood to hear about how spicy everything was.

I can’t wait for the rest of the week!

Mie Goreng

This is my fourth attempt at posting this but Squarespace, or maybe my computer, was being difficult. OVER IT. I also spent an hour and a half driving to New Braunfels today, spending thirty minutes doing what I had to do, and then another hour driving back to Austin so maybe I’m more over that than anything else. Actually, I’m over many things right now. Let me list them so I can get this out of my system:

– searching for a dresser/buffet for the dining area that doesn’t cost over $500.

-this heat that requires me to wake up at six in the morning so I can run.

-my inability to wake up at six a.m. the past two mornings because I haven’t been getting enough sleep.

-the character of Rebecca Bunch on Crazy Ex-girlfriend. She is the worst! I can’t even hate watch the show anymore.

-me whining. I’m over it.

Now that I’ve gotten that out and woo-sawed, let’s talk about this meal! So I actually made it last week. It was really easy to make. The hardest part was mixing all the ingredients together in the wok because the noodles made things a little cumbersome but overall it was pretty quick to put together. The recipe called for Indonesian soy sauce, which is a soy sauce sweetened with palm sugar, but I didn’t have it so I just added some palm sugar to the mix. My noodles were also a little thinner that what I think is typically used but I don’t think it made a huge difference. We all liked it but the baby especially loved the noodles so I was very pleased.

This week is another off week from cooking. A last minute opportunity came up for the almost four year old to have private swim lessons so we’ve taken it and are spending evenings at the pool. It’s not really an off week, I’m still cooking and experimenting, sort of. We had a birthday party last weekend for my mother’s 70th birthday and were left with almost four pounds of sausage. FOUR POUNDS. Dinner for the past two nights has involved sausage and I plan on doing the same for the next two nights because I refuse to just throw all that sausage away. I’ve made very simplified versions of gumbo and jambalaya that turned out surprisingly well. I think I’ll do a stir fry tonight. Or maybe I’ll say the heck with it and get pizza. 

Recipe

Chicken with Bratwurst and Noodle Pudding

This was a spectacularly easy meal to make and spectacularly unhealthy. Spectacular!

But honestly, this was a heavy meal and I could see this being served at Wurstfest for a bunch of drunks.  No offense to drunks, they’re my favorite people! They find me hilarious and think I’m a great dancer. And by “they” I mean myself. When I’m drunk I think I’m the next Amy Schumer and MJ, r.i.p.

<img src="http://static1.squarespace.com/static/56ca481801dbae727e4f992a/t/56e1a89d74e8d64aef8a4ef0/1457629739123//img.jpg.fry. I could feel the oil seeping into my pores when frying the chick-wurst (no one take that name, it's mine!). And all that meat! No one needs all that meat! The chick-wurst is such a great example of privilege. I don't mean to get all political here but seriously! When you are in a position to stuff one meat with another meat for a fun meal, you don't have real problems in life. Just sayin'…

The egg noodles, regardless of the fact that mine were ‘yolk free’ were super yum! And let’s go back to that ‘yolk free’ mess. I didn’t realize I bought basically non-egg noodles until I was making this meal, I just grabbed whatever bags I saw. Had I been paying attention, I never would have done that (story of my life). Yolk free egg noodles are like gluten free bread or tofurkey, it ain’t right! I get why we have these alternatives but the fact that they exist makes me so sad. 

This meal was so filling, I drank some Oban Scotch with the hopes that it would burn the food out of me. It worked, a little. 

Thank goodness the next week is Myanmar. My body needs some roughage

Recipe