During freshman year of college, I lived off of Kraft mac ‘n cheese and Cocoa Puffs. Not because I couldn’t cook-but because Mother never let us have awful artificially flavored junk food in our household since it would “OH MY GOD, ROT OUR TEETH.” Never mind that our home had chipped lead paint, asbestos in the attic and that I’d wrestle with Brother on the lawn 10 seconds after Dad sprayed DDT.
I gorged on Kraft mac ‘n cheese until I noticed my skin turning the shade of cheese-powder-orange-yellow. Whoah! That color whipped my heart back 28 years to North Platte, Neb., second grade, where I was the only Asian kid in the entire school. This was before “cultural sensitivity” became all the rage.
We didn’t have a lot of money back then; while the other kids scored the 64 pack of Crayola with built-in sharpener, I got only 24. Well, 12 really, but I broke each one in half. I remember having trouble coloring the skin of my family, as Peach just wasn’t right, and Indian Red made me look like I’d swallowed a bottle of Taco Bell hot sauce. The darker kids in school already had dibs on Raw Sienna, so I had to adapt the technique of lightly rubbing a fat Yellow on its side, which made me look rather jaundiced. As a joke, one of the snickering Peach kids tossed his Ultra Orange at me, but I refused to let him see my embarrassment and pretended to be delighted at his generosity. So for the rest of the school year, everyone in my family was colored in Ultra Orange, which brings us back to why I ditched mac ‘n cheese.
If you think about it, mac ‘n cheese really isn’t that convenient. It takes nine minutes to boil water (11 if you watch), 14 to cook the mac and two to reconstitute the “cheese”. Twenty-five minutes for 580 grams of sodium and 49 grams of carbs? I can give you a better fast food. My 15-Minute Asian Noodles are actually healthy and come with real vegetables.
Take a trip to your local Asian market to stock up. Oyster sauce, Maggi sauce and Chinese rice wine are all inexpensive pantry items. The yellow noodles are “fresh” so they only take a couple of minutes to cook.
Be creative with your vegetables. Red bell peppers, carrots, cabbage, scallions, onions, celery, mushrooms, bean sprouts or snow peas are all wonderful in this dish. The only rule is to cut the vegetables as thin as possible to make for a fast stir-fry. This dish is also a great way to use up last night’s leftover chicken slices, seafood, etc.
The same day that that I submitted column this to my editor, Andrew came home with this artwork:
Dammit! Ultra Orange will haunt me forever.
Here are the “fresh” egg noodles – boiled for less than 2 minutes! Just like fresh homemade pasta – you don’t really need to cook more than a couple of minutes. These are found either in the refrigerated section or they are frozen in the freezer (duh!) They both are great! I like keeping a couple of packs in my freezer for emergency noodle snacking or for a lazy dinner. They can be thick with a nice bite like photo below, or really thin and labelled “won ton” noodles. Just make sure you read the package directions for cooking times.
Selection of veg that I used – enoki mushrooms, scallions and julienned carrots. Those perfectly julienned carrots took less than 1 minute to cut – with one of these nifty gadgets – Oxo Julienne Peeler – I also saw it at Target this past weekend. LOVE IT. Take a large thick carrot, peel it with your normal peeler. Stick a fork on one end to anchor the carrot down flat on the cutting board. Use the julienne peeler to cut strips lengthwise down.
Your veg should be cut into thin strips – cuts the cooking time down!
My arsenal of sauces: oyster sauce, Chinese rice wine and my beloved Maggi sauce – which makes EVERYTHING taste better. If you don’t have Maggi – get some! I know I’m not the only one who has a serious Maggi addiction. And if you must know, Epicurious even has 6 recipes using Maggi sauce.
You can add last night’s leftover chicken slices or just go vegetarian like I did below. If I’m extra extra lazy, I get a cooked rotisserie chicken from the market and shred the meat to serve.
Servings: 2 as main dish, 4 as side
1. Boil 6 cups of water and cook noodles according to package directions (timing depends on thickness of noodles). Use your chopsticks to jiggle and separate the noodle strands in the water. Reserve 1/4 cup of hot noodle water. Drain noodles, set aside. While water is boiling, thinly slice your vegetables. Multitask!
2. Heat wok or large fry pan over high heat. When hot, add cooking oil. Add scallions, fry for 10 seconds. Add carrots, fry until softened, 30 seconds. Add mushrooms, fry 30 seconds.
3. Add oyster, Maggi, rice wine and the reserved hot water. Cook for 30 seconds. Add your noodles, fry another minute to incorporate all ingredients.
Don’t forget to vote! I’m cooking live on our local ABC station next Tuesday – and have decided to feature of our fellow blogger dishes. Vote for your favorite dish! I think it’s a great way to promote the world of food blogs. I’ve gotten over 530 votes so far, but the race is close between The Delicious Life‘s Bulgogi Burgers and Rasa Malaysia’s Coconut Butter Prawns! Vote here.