Here at Food52, we love recipes -- but do we always use them? Of course not. Because once you realize you don't always need a recipe, you'll make your favorite dishes a lot more often.
Today: Tom Hirschfeld teaches us how to make stir-fried noodles with whatever's in the fridge -- and not a takeout box in sight.
There are two things I get hung up on when it comes to making Asian food at home -- woks and procuring hard-to-find ingredients.
But I look at it this way: I make Italian pasta at home, so I know I can make any noodle at home.
There are a few technical issues that are really the key to stir-fry success. I need to get my pan hot enough, generally impossible to do with a wok because of the BTUs of American stoves and the thinness of the wok metal, but a non-stick skillet will do what I need it to do perfectly.
The other misstep is when I try to cram too many ingredients into the wrong-sized pan -- this is my most common stir-fry failure because I get anxious or cocky. Easily solvable, with a little thing called patience.
How to Make Any Stir-Fried Noodles in 6 Steps
1. Stir-fries cook quickly so act like a scout and be prepared. Cut all vegetables small enough that they'll cook fast and line up all ingredients next to the stove in the order they'll go into the pan. (Always dilute soy sauce in ratio of 1 part soy to 1 part water -- when it hits the hot pan it will reduce, gaining back its strength.)
2. Choose your noodle. I find all noodles are good noodles as long as they are long. Cook them to al dente and cool them -- I like to steep rice noodles instead of boiling them, which only takes about 10 minutes.
3. Cook the protein first, adding half the diluted soy after the protein has caramelized. Remove the protein to a plate, wipe out the pan and reheat it.
4. Sear the vegetables till tender. Be sure to add the vegetables that take the longest to cook to the pan first. Carrots first, ginger and garlic last.
5. Combine everything in the pan and toss just till it's warmed through, adding the remaining diluted soy sauce last.
6. Add the garnish -- here, chives and scallions -- which in Asian food isn't optional. It is an actual ingredient that needs to be added for flavor.
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Photos by James Ransom