My Very Own Spicy Fried Noodles

I woke up yesterday feeling very much like a plate of really spicy, oily fried noodles. It may have been the couple of magnums I downed with friends in anticipation of yet another lock-down, but whatever its was, the result is this entirely delicious noodle recipe that I claim as my very own! It’s part Hokkien Char, part Chilli Pan Mee with a bit of Kata Yakisoba thrown in for good measure. And no! It does not taste like the dog’s dinner, it’s a very finely balanced dish of spicy oil, creamy noodles, wonderful dark sauce, sour pickled vegetables and spicy oil. I know the spicy oil is in there twice, but that because, well… I added quite a bit of it.

Christian’s Best Spicy Fried Noodles

For the Meat Part:
  • 200g thinly sliced meat of any kind, thinly sliced
  • 1½ Tbsp rice wine
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 heaped tsp corn starch
  • 1 Tbsp fat or oil for frying

I used pork belly, but really any type of meat will work. The noodles are so tasty, the meat only plays a supporting role and with all the oil added, a leaner cut is actually better. I stick my meat of choice in the freezer for an hour, so it just firms up without freezing through. This will make slicing it thinly very much easier! Now simply mix the sliced meat with the rice wine and soy sauce, add the corn starch, mix and then add the sesame oil and mix again. Leave to marinate for half an hour.

Heat the oil in a wok until smoking hot and stir fry the meat for just a minute, until it is just about cooked on the outside, then spead it in a single layer and leave it alone for about a minute, so it can brown nicely. Give it another stir and leave to it for 30 seconds to brown on the other side, then take out and reserve.

For the Noodles:
Here’s a store-bought version
  • 400g udon rice noodles or thick yellow mee
  • 200g sliced cabbage, well drained
  • 150g pickled vegetables
  • 4 spring onions
  • 1 Tbsp roughly chopped cilantro
  • 2 Tbsp flowering garlic chives (or plain garlic chives)
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp thick soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp oyster sauce
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 2-3 Tbsp fragrant fried chilli oil
  • 2 Tbsp oil or fat for frying

Now before you throw up your hands in dismay and ditch this recipe, let me explain. Yes, I did make my own pickled vegetables and chilli oil, but you don’t really have to. simply shred or julienne some carrots, celery and beans (or indeed whatever else you have at hand, drizzle with a tablespoon of vinegar and leave that to sit while you do the rest. As for the chilli oil, any good store-bought chilli garlic oil will do.

Start by mixing the soy sauce, thick soy sauce, oyster sauce and sesame oil in a bowl. This will be your noodle sauce that you will add to the noodles just before finishing the cooking. Wash your noodles in some warm water and drain well.

We are going to use the green part of the spring onion for garnish and the white part for flavouring, so cut the white part of the spring onions into 1cm lengths and the green part into 3cm lengths and keep the two separate. I am using flowering garlic chives because they have thicker stems and a wonderful full flavour and don’t wilt away in the hot noodles like the flat garlic chives do. If you can’t find them, just leave them out.

Heat one tablespoon of oil in your wok and when it’s smoking hot, add your cabbage. Do not salt or pepper at this stage. First stir fry the cabbage, then leave it to brown at the edges before you stir it again. Once it has browned a little, add the pickled vegetables, stir fry for two minutes and remove it all from the wok. Reserve on a reasonably flat plate or bowl. You don’t want the cabbage continuing to stew in a piled heap.

We are about to finish our noodles. You can do all the previous parts in advance and then it will take you just ten minutes to cook. Heat the last tablespoon of oil in the wok. When it is smoking hot, add the noodles and fry for two minutes. Pour in the sauce mix and keep frying for another minute, then add the meat, cabbage, pickled vegetables, garlic chives and white part of the spring onions. Last, add in as much fragrant chilli oil as you like, but remember to scoop the solids and not add too much of the oil, or your noodles will become very oily. Garnish with the chopped cilantro and green part of the spring onions and there you have it!

The lightly pickled, crunchy vegetables give a really nice zingy-ness to the dish. You have all the right flavours there; the sweetness of the cabbage, the sour vegetables, the spicy, smokey dried chilli oil, the super umani sauce; it’s just delicious.

You could stop reading here and still make a wonderful noodle, but if you can be bothered, make the chilli oil yourself. It does make a difference.

For the Fragrant Fried Chillies:
  • 2 Tbsp fermented black beans, soaked
  • 5g dried red chillies, soaked (about 6 chillies)
  • 3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 1½ Tbsp finely diced or chopped ginger
  • 3 Tbsp canola oil

Chop the soaked red chillies. It’s really up to you how rough or fine you chop them. It will change the texture of your oil, but not the taste. Chop the soaked and drained black beans medium fine. Heat the oil in a small saucepan or wok and when it is medium hot, add the chillies. Fry until they start to turn darker, then add the garlic and fry until it starts to brown at the edges. Add in the ginger and black beans and fry for another minute. Pour into a bowl or jar and reserve. This will keep in the chiller for a very long time, as both the ginger and garlic have antibiotic properties and the chillies are not a favourite of any known common critters.

For the Fermented Vegetables:
  • 2 small carrots, cut into fine julienne
  • 2 long beans, cut into 3cm lengths
  • 1 celery branch, cut on the bias into 1cm pieces
  • 2 dried chilles, finely sliced
  • 10cm piece of konbu
  • 2.5% of the vegetable weight of salt

Cut the konbu into thin strips using a pair of clean scissors. Mix all the ingredients together and massage the salt in with perfectly clean hands. If you have a vacuum machine, you can vac the vegetables into a bag, but putting it into a zip lock bag and squeezing out as much air as you can. Keep the vegetables out at a reasonable room temperature for 24 hours, then put it into the chiller for a week or more. I put mine into the wine chiller, which is at 12ºC and the pickles are ready within a week.

Note that the bag will puff up with the gases that develop. This is perfectly normal and nothing to worry about. The vegetables will have acquired a nice acidity by the end of the process. If they smell bad or off in any way, or if there is any mould on them, don’t even try them, just throw them away. I have never seen that happen, but it is wise to be careful. These pickles will keep in the chiller for a month or two.

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