A Chinese take-out favorite, and it doesn’t even take long to make! This is an extremely savory dish, whose flavor is built by double black soy sauce, sesame oil, fermented bean paste, and high heat cooking. Once you’ve made it a couple times, it’s totally possible to put together in a half hour, which is a sharp contrast to most of what I cook. : )
1 reasonable handful thin rice noodles
double black soy sauce
3 cups napa cabbage, hacked into bite sized pieces
3/4 cup sugar snap peas, topped, tailed, and halved
2 portobello mushroom caps, in bite sized dice
veggie oil (i’ve had sunflower in the house lately, but this dish is particularly good with peanut)
1 shallot, thinly sliced
1 mild red chili, seeds removed, thinly sliced
1/2 tsp ginger, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tsp chinese fermented bean sauce
2 tsp sugar
1 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tbsp rice wine
3 tbsp light soy sauce
First off, boil some water for the noodles. If you’re trying to be quick you can get done all the veggie and sauce prep while the water is coming to a boil. When your water is ready, boil the noodles using the instructions on the package as a guideline. I find noodles this size take about 3 minutes usually, so start tasting them at 2 so you can be sure. As soon as they’re a texture that you’d be happy eating straight out of the pot, toss them in a strainer and rinse them under cold water. The water will bring their temperature down quickly and stop any residual cooking. Keep rinsing though, the noodles get a starchy film on them when they cook, and the more of this stuff you wash off, the easier it will be to get an awesome texture when you stir fry them. Set them aside to drain, and heat a wok or large non-stick pan on high heat. When the pan has come to temperature, scatter a little veggie oil around and wait for it to begin smoking. (Oil gets added a bunch of times throughout this recipe, so each time try and add the smallest amount that you think will work. In most cases, you have a little time to add more after the initial guess.) Add the noodles to the pan (careful of splatter!) and immediately scatter a teaspoon or two of sesame oil over them. Toss them around quickly to evenly distribute the oil.
So there are a couple things to be accomplished by your stirfry technique here. The noodles are already cooked, so we don’t need to worry about making sure everything gets even heat, or enough heat, or anything like that. This allows us to selectively impart flavor and texture to some of the noodles, while conveniently forcing a little bit of water out of the rest of them. Getting rid of some water now will allow them to take up the sauce later without getting soggy. So once you’ve tossed your noodles in oil, let them sit and sear for about 30 seconds. You can give the pan a little jiggle to get as much of the heat stored in the pan onto the noodle surface as possible, just make sure the same surfaces are in contact with the pan for the whole sear time. If your noodles are sticking to the pan, that either means the pan is not hot enough, or you haven’t used enough oil. Break the noodles apart and give everything a nice toss. You don’t have to be thorough, just make sure to expose new surfaces to get seared, and then wait again. Repeat this process until the noodles begin to take on a golden color and stick to each other a bit. Scatter a couple teaspoons of double black soy sauce over all the noodles and give them a good toss. Once they’ve been sauced you should shorten up your waiting period significantly, as the noodles will take on color much more quickly. After 2 or 3 tosses, give them another hit of the soy sauce and a final sear, and set aside.
Sugar snap peas:
The mushrooms get cooked very similarly to the snap peas, except they will only need water once or twice at the beginning. Mushrooms contain a lot of water internally, and as soon as you get it boiling, you won’t need to add any more of your own. I find that they take very well to being stirfried almost well-done. If you’re careful, you can really bring out a good smokey flavor, so I’ll generally try to push them as far as I can. Use your nose! Get close to the pan (careful of splatter etc..), and really take in the aroma. If you pay close attention and investigate often, you can go quite a ways before they burn. As you feel like you’re getting to the end, keep them in constant motion and it’ll reduce the burn chance even further. When you think they can’t take anymore, set them aside with the other veggies.
The unique character of this sauce comes from fermented soy beans. There are literally hundreds of different bean sauces available at asian markets everywhere, and they each have their own unique taste. As you’re shopping around just be aware of sketchy ingredients that sometimes show up in these things. Koon Chun Sauce Factory makes a bunch of nice Chinese cooking products that seem to be free of scariness, at least based on the label. The Koon Chun bean sauce is the one I used in this particular recipe, but I’ve also included a picture of another one (“Comrade Brand”) that I had in the house. Experiment, try a few different ones! Sometimes you get them and the soybeans are still whole, which is cool for certain applications, but in this dish I’d recommend smashing them up.
In something that can measure liquid, mix together the bean sauce, sugar, rice vinegar, rice wine, and light soy sauce. Add enough water to bring the total volume up to about 3/4 cup, and set aside. Return your pan to the high heat with a little oil and when it is smoking, add the shallot. Stirfry the shallot until it has gotten a little bit of color, and then move it all to the outside edge of the pan. In the center of the pan, pour a puddle of sesame oil about 1 tbsp.
Add the chili, ginger, and garlic, and stir to ensure they all get coated evenly in sesame oil. Once you’ve done that you can mix the shallot back in, and let everything continue to brown.
When your aromatics have got a nice golden brown color, add the liquid ingredients you mixed earlier. They’ll rapidly come to a boil and you should stir nearly constantly while the sauce reduces. Continue reducing the sauce until it’s thick enough that it doesn’t immediately run back when you push it around the pan.
Add in the contents of your big bowl of veggies, and toss to quickly coat with sauce. Then add in the noodles, and stir to combine everything well. Give everything a final shake of double black soy sauce and serve!