If you’re a regular here, and if you know me even a little bit, you’d know I am not adept at cooking. It’s mostly a hit or a miss with me. Post lockdown, my practice has been hit and following this April, when COVID struck my family, I’ve had little to no will to cook. Whenever I cook, even when I have a recipe on hand, I always rely on my instincts. Sometimes, they serve me well; while there have been times when things have gone horribly wrong. Not burn the kitchen down horrible, but throw in the bin ASAP level for sure. Today, I shall recount one of the few instances when the stars aligned and everything came together beautifully.
When it comes to cooking, I always needlessly get stressed. I find this supremely annoying about myself. If the cook doesn’t land up one day, I will fret to no end thinking about the vegetables that need to be peeled or chopped, protein that needs to be thawed well before time, spices and sauces that I may need to reach out for… it’s endless and chaotic. You can imagine what the early days of the pandemic and the subsequent lockdown did to my nerves last year. Not to mention the overwhelming stress that my housemate K had to deal with. *shudder*
So on a particularly rainy August morning, when the cook decided to stay home, I only had to worry about dinner. Breakfast is not much of a stress, usually, and thankfully we had enough leftovers to cover us for lunch. What could I make for dinner? With a box of slightly-shriveled mushrooms and some chicken mince in the freezer, I knew I was sorted. I only had to look up one of my favourite food bloggers and pick out a recipe to suit the mood and my palate for the night.
If you want to know some of the food bloggers I follow, check this post out. I’ve mentioned, as well as shared their links here. Take a look!
So for this night, I chose Korean food blogger Seokyoung Longest’s Dan Dan Noodles recipe and Australian food blogger Marion Grasby’s Hoisin Beef Noodles recipe. Yes, I did a mash-up of two very different recipes and I am not sorry because it turned out really well. Shocking, yes!
When it came to the first recipe, I only followed the part related to marinating of the meat. I used chicken mince and marinated it with chopped garlic, grated ginger, soy sauce, shaoxing wine (which I love to use) and black pepper. I avoided adding salt because soy sauce in any case has a fair bit of salt and I know mine isn’t the one with low sodium. Once this Lee Kum Kee bottle gets over, I’ll probably try Kikkoman soy sauce. But with Asian cooking not being a daily affair, it’ll take some time before I can make the switch.
Once the meat was thoroughly mixed, I covered it and left it in the fridge while I chopped the onions, garlic and mushrooms. I had no other vegetables lying around in the pantry otherwise I would’ve loved to add some bok choy, zucchini, or even bell peppers (not capsicum). I didn’t even have spring onions. For the second part of the cook, I leaned on Marion’s recipe. I made my stir-fry sauce mix with hoisin sauce, oyster sauce, dark sweet soy sauce and vinegar. The rest is basic stir fry.
Once everything was prepped, I first cooked the marinated meat. Always ensure you hear a wonderful sizzle in the pan or kadhai. Am always a bit on edge when it comes to cooking meat of any kind. No one wants to be the person who serves undercooked meat. Once this was cooked sufficiently, I removed it and then tossed in the garlic and onions, followed by the mushrooms. I did not want to cook the mushrooms a lot because I wanted them to retain their plumpness. This was followed by the stir-fry sauce and the cooked minced meat. After cooking this down a bit, I added half a cup of chicken stock. I’ve got some vegetable, chicken and prawn stock cubes and love adding them to both Asian and pasta dishes. I feel it adds more body to the dish and amps up the flavours as well. K is always hankering for gravy in one-meal noodle dishes but I did not want a lot of it either. I wanted enough to coat the noodles well.
Talking about noodles, I was in the mood for clearing out the pantry a bit and so I used the little udon noodles and egg noodles I had. I know, it’s a huge gamble… it’s a cardinal sin to be tossing two different kinds into one pot. Fair enough. But I wanted to cut down my standing-and-sweating-over-the-stove time. However, it definitely did not turn out so bad. I managed to pull them out just at the right time and transfer them slickly to the pot with the bubbling sauce. The gravy was just enough to coat everything well and it wasn’t gloopy or gluggy one bit. I really wish I had some spring onions to garnish it with, but it’s okay. I didn’t even have the energy to toast some sesame seeds. It would have to be a plain Jane affair, but it was delicious and flavourful.
I served it in the new The Strange Co cereal bowls that have a light blueish-grey glaze on the inside and are the perfect size to serve noodles, pasta or anything, really. I’m obsessed with these.
Coming back to my dinner, I must say it was divine. It was not too dry or swimming in gravy, the umami hit of the hoisin sauce and the oyster sauce combined was truly a revelation. I mean, it had me thumping the table and K was happily slurping the noodles and complimenting me! For once, I managed to cook with ease and this meal came together quite quickly to be honest. Do give this a shot if you’re up for it. Of course, tweak things the way you want it. Everyone’s personal taste differs and home cooking (for me) means we should be able to rustle up meals as per our convenience and preference. I just wish I had some chilli oil to drizzle on top. I love the spicy kick it gives to just about anything. But an not fretting. One is already on its way to me and I can’t wait to try something else the next time.
Header image is by The Creative Exchange on Unsplash.