Friday, October 14, 2011

Cantonese Pork Fried Noodles

I think I've professed my love for Asian noodles plenty of times. I don't know why I love noodle dishes so much, but I can't resist them.

I visited DC to attend the National At Home Dads Convention and stayed with some dear old friends who took me to Chinatown where I had some very delicious noodles. I wanted to try to recreate the dish at home and found this recipe. It looks virtually identical to the one I had in DC, so I wanted to give it a shot.

This dish is also called "Pork Chow Mein" and has mushrooms in it. I'm not a huge fan of mushrooms, but when I had this in DC, I was blown away at how much the mushrooms added to the dish. If you don't like them, leave them out. No blame here.

On a side note - we must all remember that it is IMPOSSIBLE to recreate great Chinese food at home. The seasoned woks and BTUs of the burners used in Chinese restaurants are far superior to anything the home cook can come up with (Alton Brown notwithstanding). It's ok though. We can come close and "close" is still pretty good.

This dish is pretty easy to get together, and like any stir-fry, organization is key. The biggest challenge in this dish is frying up the noodles. If you're not very good at flipping food in a pan, this may be difficult for you. You can use other tricks to do it, which I'll get into below, so don't fret.

Let's get started!

Cantonese Pork Fried Noodles
(adapted from here)

2 packages (170g each or 12 oz total) dry chow mein noodles (not the crispy, already fried ones)
12oz pork chops, sliced thin
4 fresh shiitake mushrooms
1 cup bean sprouts
1 bunch scallions, chopped into 1/2" inch slices (I had 10 in my bunch)
1" fresh ginger, julienned thin
1/2-3/4 cup canola oil

Marinade for Pork:
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp sherry
1 tsp corn starch
1 tsp oil
1/4 tsp pepper

Sauce:
2 tbsp oyster sauce
2 tsp soy sauce
2 tsp corn starch
1 tsp sugar
3/4 cup water 


==

First, go ahead and trim up the pork chops. 

I found these bone-in chops for a very good price.
 

Trim off the fat and slice as thin as you can. Mine weren't very frozen (I usually do this frozen) so I couldn't get them paper thin, but they worked out fine.


Toss the pork in a bag and add the 1 tbsp soy sauce, 1 tsp wine, 1 tsp corn starch, 1 tsp oil and 1/4 tsp pepper.

Give it a good shake and combine well. 

Stash in the fridge for a few hours. I'd do 30 minutes at the very least. 


==

You can also pre-stage the noodles.

Cook them according to package instructions (generally 3-5 minutes).

A note on the noodles: I used 2 full packages of noodles. Frying them up was kind of a chore. We ended up having leftovers, so if you're not a huge eater, I'd scale back to one package of noodles or maybe one and a half or something. You could also do this in two parts to make the frying easier too.


When they are finished, rinse them immediately in cold water. 


Lay them on a plate as flat as you can and stick them in the fridge. You can split them onto 2 plates to make the frying easier too. I'll probably do that next time.

This will help dry them out a bit and ensure crispy noodles when we fry them up. 


==

When you're close to dinner, go ahead and prep your veggies. 

I recommend having them all ready to go when you start the meal as there's not enough time to prep as you cook.

==

I found fresh shiitake mushrooms at the store. You can also use dried mushrooms but you'll have to soak them in salt water for about 30 minutes before use.


Remove the stems and slice as thinly as you want. I went really thin.


Julienne your ginger. I used a small, 1 inch piece. 


Slice up your onions. 

The Chinese like to do this on the bias at about a 20 degree angle. 


Beautiful.
 Rinse your sprouts.


==

When you're ready to go, get 1/2 a cup of oil in your wok and crank your biggest burner to high.

Wait for the oil to get very hot. Nearly smoking.


You're going to try to slide the noodles into the pan. Mine were really sticky so I actually inverted the plate they were on to another plate, then sprayed the original plate with cooking spray, then put the noodles back on that plate and then slid them into the oil. Sounds more complex than it is, but it allowed me to slide the noodles directly into the wok. 

Cook the noodles for about 10 minutes. Try to angle the pan so that the oil cooks the bottom evenly. 


Now, the flip.

If your'e comfortable, give the noodles a flip and be aware you may splash a ton of burning oil all over the place. Be careful and be aware of your feet and your children. I managed to do it without too much drama. 

If you don't want to do this, simply drain the oil from the noodles and slide them out onto a plate. You can flip the noodles using another plate and inverting them and then putting the uncooked side back in the wok with the oil you drained (or just use new oil).

We're simply looking to crisp up the top and bottom of the noodles. The middle will still be noodly soft. If you don't want to do the flip at all, I'm sure this dish will still be ok with only one side fried. It's up to you.


You can flip the noodles over as you see fit to ensure they browned to your liking.

When they are finished, drain the oil off and slide the noodles onto a big serving plate. We'll be pouring the pork/sauce over the noodles to serve.


==

While your noodles were cooking, you could have made your sauce. 

2 tbsp oyster sauce
2 tsp soy sauce
2 tsp corn starch
1 tsp sugar
3/4 cup water 

The sauce is actually quite delicate, but if you want it to be more agressive, just double the oyster and soy sauce, keeping the corn starch, sugar and water the same. I liked it as written.



After the water is added you're going to have to stir well to combine.


==

Get your wok back on the heat and add a tablespoon or so of oil. Let it get up to temp and add the mushrooms and ginger.

Stir-fry until the ginger just begins to brown on the ends. 


Throw in the pork. No need to drain the marinade.

Stir-fry constantly for about 4-5 minutes or until the pork is no longer pink.


Add the sprouts and scallions.

Stir-fry for about 30 seconds.


Add the sauce (make sure you give it another quick stir to get it going) and toss to combine.


Cook for 30-60 seconds or until you get a boil going. This will start the sauce to thicken quickly. 

Cook until it is thickened to your liking, not more than 2 minutes. It'll still be runny, that's how it's supposed to be.


Pour over the noodles and serve family style. 

While this dish wasn't as great as the DC Chinatown version, it was still very satisfying. The crunchy noodles made a great texture element and seemed to soak up the sauce very well. The pork had a great texture and was moist and tender and I have to admit that the mushrooms really did add a savory note that balanced out the sweetness of the sauce and meat.

Overall, while frying the noodles was an extra step, I found this dish delicious and will make it again. Next time I'll do it in two portions I think, to make it more manageable. 

I hope you'll give it a try. If you're a noodle lover, you will not be disappointed! 


Enjoy!

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