Thursday, December 30, 2010

Yakisoba

This is the dish that brings memories of my high school years in Saipan - J's Restaurant was the spot to go for late night eats. My friends and I huddle in one of the booths,  orders were given for the usual fare (chicken wings, spam/eggs/rice, pork chops).  I always got yakisoba - a Japanese style fried noodles soaked in a soy-sauce base sauce that's salty, sweet, peppery and nutty.  Good lord -  I am hungry again! This dish is typically stir-fried with meat or tofu and veggies.  This is then topped with hard boiled eggs and pickled ginger. The combination of savory, sweet and the tanginess from the ginger may sound weird,  but soooo good!  The egg absorbs all the flavors and provides a nice texture when you take that first bite.  While the ginger helps clear out your palate so you don't get tired after a couple of forkfuls.
For nights that I need something quick and hearty,  this is it.  You can use what you have in the fridge -  left over veggies and some meat.  You can always mix and match these, so be creative. However, there are 2 things that must always remain consistent when making this dish:  you have to have the noodles and the aromatics. Purists would insist on buckwheat noodles,  but I'm opting for the quick and easy. Yakisoba noodles and the seasoning is widely available in many grocery chains, so go for it.  Instant noodles would also work (remember I mentioned quick earlier??),  just boil the noodles and save the seasoning to make the sauce. As for the aromatics:  onions, ginger and garlic. 
For tonight I have a mixture of tofu, carrots and zucchini. To add some extra flavor to the tofu,  I marinated it with some oyster sauce, and  chili paste w/ garlic. The sauce is a mixture of the seasoning that came with the noodles, cornstarch and a little water. There really is no secret to creating this "perfectly" -  I think of it as putting things together in order.  Quick tips: 
  • Prep all your veggies prior to cooking, stir frying takes only a couple of minutes so forget fantasizing you're Rachel Ray chatting while chopping and heating up the pan. 
  • To ensure evenly cooked crisp veggies: think about how long it takes for each vegetable to cook.  Chop veggies that cook quickly a little bigger and add them to the pan once the other veggies are halfway cooked.  
  • Pan must be hot
Yakisoba 
Servings: Makes 4 side-dish or 3 main-course servings. 
For sauce
Seasoning that came with the noodles
1 tbsp cornstarch
2 tsp soy sauce
3/4 cup water or stock

For tofu
1 1/2 cups tofu, cubed
2 tsp chili paste
2 tsp oyster sauce
2 tsp olive oil

For noodles
2 servings of yakisoba noodles
1/2 cup onions, julienned
1/2 cup carrots, julienned
2 tsp ginger
1 tbsp garlic
1 1/2 cup zucchini, julienned diagonally
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp olive oil for garlic and ginger

Sauce: In a small bowl - mix seasoning, soy sauce, cornstarch and water/stock until cornstarch is dissolved. Put aside.

Tofu: In another bowl -  toss tofu, chili paste and oyster sauce. Heat skillet pan -  once it's hot,  add olive oil. Once the oil starts to shimmer,  place tofu in the pan.  Do not overcrowd or it will not brown,  fry in 2 batches if needed. When the tofu is brown on all sides, put in bowl and set aside. 

Noodles:  Boil noodles for 2 minutes, and drain in colander. Wipe the skillet pan clean and heat oil for noodles. Add onions and carrots and cook for 3 minutes . Mix 1/2 tsp oil with garlic and ginger,  make room in the pan and cook ginger and garlic mixture for 20 seconds. Add zucchini and cook for 2 minutes.  Add noodles and sauce.  Mix everything until it is well coated with the sauce.  Turn off heat and cover for 2 minutes. Serve immediately.

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