I am back in London and staying in a large house full of wonderful friends who I have imposed on far too much this current trip. Yesterday I decided that a nice way of showing my gratitude would be to cook everyone dinner. The lovely thing about this household is that they often share communal meals (many of which I have indulged in over the past few weeks) – this is exactly the kind of home of which I would love to be part. There are also lots of guests over all the time, and on this particular evening it turned out that on top of the five people living there (I include myself in this for the moment) there was also one boyfriend, three friends, and the request to make enough left overs that my friend Friede could take them in for lunch the following day. So I wracked my brain to think of something that would not be too expensive to make, and that I could produce without too much difficulty for such a large group of people.
These ginger scallion noodles are one of my favourites – they are the one vegetarian dish on the menu at the Momofuku noodle bar in the East Village, one of my favourite restaurants in the city, and, as such, I have often had them. So it was when I discovered that my favourite (lots of favourites this morning) food blogger, the Amatuer Gourmet, had posted the recipe taken from the Momofuku Cookbook, I was very excited to try it out myself. It is almost disappointingly easy to make, but also a wonderfully cleaver and simple combination of flavours. It was a wonderful hit last night.
Keeping in mind that this really fed ten people well, I started with three large cucumbers, finely sliced (note that the original recipe asked for Kirby cucumbers, but, as I couldn’t find any of those, the regular ones worked just fine).
Pickling the cucumbers is wonderfully easy – they are actually extremely delicious on their own (everyone kept stealing them from the bowl as they walked through the kitchen), and you could do this well before you cook. In fact, they would probably keep quite well for a few days in a jar in the fridge and you could then add them to a whole range of things. Basically you want to make a mixture of two parts sugar, one part salt. You rub this into the cucumber in a big bowl and then put them to one side for at least 20 mins (the longer you leave them, the better they taste). You should try them, add more sugar and salt to taste, or, if they are too strong then you can wash them off and start them again.
Next, I made the ‘sauce’. I finely chopped up three large bunches of shallots (or, spring onions in English; scallions in American), and mixed this in a bowl with a little over half a cup of grapeseed oil, four or five teaspoons of sherry vinegar, a big clump of grated ginger, three teaspoons of light soy sauce and a pinch of salt. This should also be put to one side and left for at least 20 mins. It doesn’t look like much, but it works wonders. This amount was just enough for all the noodles, you can always make more. It is also something you can do well in advance.
(On the side, while the water was boiling and I was working on the cauliflower, Friede made a large bowl of prawn crackers. These were the great star of the evening because all you do is heat a pan with a bit over an inch of oil in it until it is quite hot and then throw in these little prawn cracker disks and suddenly they they pop into full size prawn crackers and you take them out right away ready to gorge yourself on. Everyone in the household took many turns. Here is Friede hard at work:)
Back to the main meal, I lightly coated the bottom of a frying pan with grapeseed oil, threw in the cauliflower in small batches (the Amateur Gourmet advises that you don’t put in too many at the one time or otherwise they will sweat in the pan), and then added a little salt. Once one batch was toasty brown I put it to the side and started on the next batch:
We made about thirteen packets worth of ramen noodles (I bought a very large ‘family pack’ from the local Chinese supermarket). Once they were drained I really should have mixed the ‘sauce’ into them, but forgot so ended up just putting a dollop of the stuff on top of each individual bowl of noodles.
And finally, I arranged the cucumbers and cauliflower on each bowl just as they do it in Momofuku. Everyone loved it and there was even enough left over for some people to have seconds. In other words, it was a triumph.