Thursday, March 7, 2013

(Belated) Chinese New Year Meal #3: Yunnan-Style Cold Noodles

It's time for the third recipe for (Belated) Chinese New Year - Yunnan-Style Cold Noodles.  I know that it's still a little cold outside for cold noodles, but I really wanted to add a recipe from (or inspired by) Yunnan province to our series of meals and this recipe was the one I was most excited by.  I also found a few recipes in Hot Sour Salty Sweet from Yunnan province, but none of them appealed to me quite as much as this one.   Coincidentally the recipe was by the chef at Yunnan Kitchen and the meal we had there last week really sealed the deal for me.  The fact that this recipe filled my noodle niche for Chinese New Year was an added bonus.

I'm happy to say that this dish was my favorite of the dishes we have made for Chinese New Year thus far.  I thought it had great flavor and it was fresh, bright and clean.  Sometimes stir-fried noodles (or other stir-fries) can be a little heavy and greasy, but these noodles felt light and wonderful.  I think a large part of that is due to the fact that the noodles were served cold (and were never actually stir-fried).  Unlike some noodles, these aren't going to leave you in a food coma with what feels like a noodle brick in your stomach.  Beyond that, the dish had great balance.  Star anise and Sichuan peppercorns can both be a little overwhelming, but I think the amounts in the dressing were spot on.  I was a little worried that there wasn't going to be enough salt for the pork or the noodles, but once you drizzled the dressing over the pork and noodles it all came together.  The herbs and cucumber make it perfect for a hot sticky summer day, but I think the pork and aromatic dressing made it rich enough to work for winter.  Throw in a little crunch from the peanuts and you have the complete package, texturally and otherwise.

Recipe after the jump!

Yunnan-Style Cold Noodles
Recipe by Travis Post, Yunnan Kitchen, New York City
Available at Tasting Table

Seasoned Pork
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
½ pound ground pork
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic (about 2 medium cloves)
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger (about one 1½-inch piece)
1 teaspoon light brown sugar
1 tablespoon Soy Sauce
Soy Dressing
3 tablespoons Soy Sauce
1 tablespoon dark soy sauce (substitute regular soy sauce if you can’t find dark soy sauce)
1½ tablespoons Chinkiang or Black Vinegar (substitute rice vinegar if you can’t find black vinegar)
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
Pinch freshly ground Sichuan peppercorns (substitute white pepper if you can’t find Sichuan peppercorns)
Pinch ground star anise or Chinese Five-Spice Powder
12 ounces Thai or Vietnamese rice noodles (look for the round or flat, thick variety)
⅓ medium English cucumber, thinly sliced into rounds
½ cup roughly chopped mint leaves
½ cup roughly chopped cilantro
½ cup chopped roasted peanuts
Chile-garlic sauce (optional)

Heat a wok or large skillet over high heat. Add the vegetable oil to the hot wok and immediately add the pork. Cook until browned and pork is nearly cooked through, about 2 minutes. Drain off half of the cooking fat and add the garlic, ginger and brown sugar. Cook until the sugar begins to caramelize, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the soy sauce and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, dark soy sauce, vinegar, brown sugar, pepper and star anise until the sugar dissolves. Set aside.

In a large saucepan, bring water to a boil. Add the noodles and cook until tender, 4 to 6 minutes. Drain the noodles from the water and submerge in cold water, then drain the noodles and divide among four bowls.

Add a large spoonful of the cooked, seasoned pork mixture to each bowl and drizzle with soy dressing. Top each bowl with the cucumber, a sprinkling of mint, cilantro and peanuts. Add a drizzle of chile-garlic sauce if desired and serve.

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