Ways with noodles by Hugo Arnold

Slurpy noodles are one of the world’s most comforting foods -the fast food of the 21st century, high in complex carbohydrates and low in fat.

Noodles are central to Asian cooking. They star in a myriad of dishes in Japan, Korea, China, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. They add substance to soups, salads, meat dishes and make a pleasing accompaniment to curry. They can be stir-fried, or cooked in an aromatic broth. Some frizzle up deliciously when they are deep-fried. Their flexibility and sheer convenience make them a thoroughly modern food.

Noodles come in a mind-boggling array of sizes, shapes and colours.

1. Rice noodles – sometimes called rice stick noodles or vermicelli noodles. They only need to be soaked in boiling water for a few minutes, drained, and then they are ready to be used in soups, salads, stir-fries, spring rolls… Rice noodles have the added bonus of being gluten and wheat free.

2. Buckwheat noodles – are an unappetizing shade of browny grey, but don’t be put off – they’ve got a delicious nutty flavour. In Korea they are called naengmyon. In Japan they are called soba and are often served cold, dipped in a light sauce – also gluten and wheat free. 

3. Bean thread noodles – sometimes referred to as cellophane noodles, great in salads and laksa.

4. Wheat noodles – purported to be the oldest form of Chinese noodle, have a firm silky bite. The thin version called somen noodles are great in soups, while the thicker fat white unctuous, slippery Udon noodles are better in stir-fries or in dishes with a rich sauce.

5. Egg noodles – the word immediately conjures up images of the archetypal Chinese noodle – they come both thick and thin.

Ramen, also egg noodles have a defined place in Japanese cooking.

All the above come dried, so they are a brilliant option for the kitchen store cupboard, and once you get on the noodle groove, there are millions of recipes that you can whip up in a matter of minutes.

If you are already nutty about noodles, or need further inspiration., a terrific book has just been published by Kyle Cathie - Wagamama – ways with noodles. 

Author Hugo Arnold’s enthusiasm rings through every page of the book. He is a self confessed noodle head, so when he was asked to write the Wagamama Cookbook the opportunity to indulge in even more noodle dishes was too great a temptation to ignore.

The name Wagamama has become synonomous with noodles, particularly Ramen, ever since they opened the first Wagamama in London in 1992 . Wagamama which opened in Cork in March 2005, was the 45th world wide, and by the end of last year there were 50 and still going strong.

The food is all about speedy, nutritious dishes which satisfy deliciously but don’t make on feel over full.

Here are some recipes from Wagamama – Ways with noodles by Hugo Arnold, published by Kyle Cathie.  Buy from Amazon

Stir-fried Chicken and Mushrooms with Somen Noodles

Serves 2
100 g (4 oz) somen noodles
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 chicken breasts, cut into bite sized slices
75 g (3 oz) button mushrooms, thinly sliced
75 g (3 oz) shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
3 cm (1¼ in) piece of ginger root, peeled and grated
2 garlic cloves, peeled and mashed
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon sake
1 tablespoon mirin – see note
1 lime, cut into wedges
Handful of coriander leaves

Cook the noodles according to the instructions on the packet, drain and refresh under cold water. 

Heat the oil in a hot wok over a medium heat and stir-fry the chicken, mushrooms, ginger and garlic for 2-3 minutes. Add the soy sauce, sake, mirin and 2 tablespoons water, continue to stir fry for 2 minutes or until the chicken is cooked.
Stir in the noodles to heat through and serve with a wedge of lime and a scattering of coriander leaves.

Note: Sake, which is combined with sugar so it has a sweet, tangy flavour. It is used in small quantities to give a smooth roundness to dishes.

Hot and Sour Pork and Prawns with Ramen Noodles

Serves 2
125 g (5 oz) ramen noodles
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
125 g (5 oz) minced pork
6 button mushrooms, sliced
Bunch of spring onions, cut into 6 cm (2½ in) lengths
100 g (4 oz) raw, peeled prawns
2 red chillies, deseeded and finely-sliced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced with a little salt
2 teaspoons muscovado sugar
1 tablespoon fish sauce (nam pla)
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
2 handfuls of beansprouts
2 tablespoons roughly chopped coriander leaves
1 lime, halved

Cook the noodles according to the instructions on the packet, drain and refresh under cold water. 
Heat the oil in a hot wok and stir fry the pork for 3 minutes, then add the mushrooms, spring onions, prawns, chillies, garlic, sugar, fish sauce and rice vinegar. Stir-fry for a further 3 minutes.

Add the noodles and toss to ensure that everything is well combined. 
Divide between 2 bowls and serve topped with the beansprouts and coriander and a lime half to squeeze over.

Wide Noodle Hot-Pot with Seven Vegetables

Serves 2
2 small pak choi, quartered lengthways
75 g (3 oz) broccoli, cut into small florets
50 g (2 oz) wide rice noodles
150 ml (5 fl oz) chicken stock 
2 tablespoons mirin
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons sugar
1 garlic clove, peeled and mashed
2 cm (¾ in) piece of ginger root, peeled and grated
1 red chilli, chopped
Handful of finely shredded Chinese cabbage
Handful of mangetout
2 carrots, thinly sliced
1 small courgette, thinly sliced
4 shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
Handful of coriander leaves

Blanch the pak choi and broccoli in a pan of boiling water until just tender. Drain and refresh under cold water.
Cook the noodles according to the instructions on the packet, drain and refresh under cold water.

Put the stock, mirin, soy sauce, garlic, ginger and chilli in a heavy, lidded saucepan, cover and bring to the boil. Add the Chinese cabbage, mangetout, carrots, courgette and mushrooms and cook for 4 minutes, or until softened but still crunchy. Add the blanched vegetables and noodles, check the seasoning and simmer over a gentle heat for 2 minutes. Allow to rest for 2 minutes, stir in the coriander and serve.

Soba Noodle Salad

Serves 2
for the dressing
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon fish sauce (nam pla)
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoon mirin

100 g (4 oz) soba noodles
Zest and juice of 1 lime
8 radishes, thinly sliced
½ cucumber, deseeded and finely sliced
1 carrot, julienned
bunch of mint, leaves roughly chopped
2 handfuls of spinach, roughly chopped
salt and white pepper

Cook the noodles according to the instructions on the packet, drain and refresh under cold water.
Mix together the dressing ingredients in a small pan, bring to the boil and set aside to cool. Stir in the lime zest and juice.
Combine the noodles with the radishes, cucumber, carrot, mint and spinach, add the cooled dressing and toss to ensure that everything is coated. Check the seasoning and serve.

Seafood Salad with Wilted Greens

Serves 2
for the dressing
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
½ teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 spring onions, finely sliced
3 cm (1¼ in) piece of ginger root, peeled and grated
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced with a little salt

100g (4 oz) cellophane noodles
1 head little gem lettuce, trimmed and shredded
small handful of mangetout, thinly sliced lengthways
small handful of beansprouts
¼ cucumber, deseeded and julienned
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
4 scallops, trimmed (if large, slice horizontally)
4 raw, peeled prawns
8 clams, well rinsed and drained
handful of spinach
bunch of coriander, leaves picked

Soak the noodles according to the instructions on the packet, drain and refresh under cold water. Roughly chop and put into a large bowl.

Combine the dressing ingredients and stir to dissolve the sugar. Add to the bowl with the lettuce, mangetout, beansprouts and cucumber, toss well and check the seasoning. Heat the oil in a hot wok over a medium heat and stir fry the scallops, prawns and clams for 2 minutes until cooked and the clams are open.
Add the spinach, wilt briefly over the heat and add everything to the salad bowl. Toss well, adding in the coriander as you go, and serve.

Marinated Duck Salad

Serves 2
for the marinade
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon soy sauce

1 duck breast, sliced on the diagonal
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
200 g (8 oz) somen noodles
bunch of spring onions, sliced lengthways
½ cucumber, deseeded and julienned
1 carrot, julienned
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
salt and white pepper
2 teaspoons sesame seeds, briefly toasted in a hot, dry frying pan

Combine the marinade ingredients in a small pan with 100 ml (3½ fl oz) cold water, bring to the boil and remove from the heat as soon as the honey has melted. Allow to cool completely and pour over the duck slices. Toss gently and set aside for 1 hour; overnight in the fridge is even better.

Pour the marinade off the duck and discard. Heat the oil in a hot wok and stir fry the duck for 3-4 minutes until cooked. Set aside.
Cook the noodles according to the instructions on the packet, drain and refresh under cold water.

Combine the noodles with the spring onions, cucumber, carrot and hoisin sauce in a large bowl. Add the duck and toss everything gently so it is well mixed and coated. Season to taste with salt and pepper. 
Serve topped with the sesame seeds.

Stir-fried prawns and pork with crispy noodles

Serves 2
100g (3½ oz) raw, peeled tiger prawns
50g (2oz) rice vermicelli
Vegetable oil
2 tablesp. finely chopped shallots
3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely sliced
Pinch of chilli flakes (or to taste)
200g (7oz) minced pork
Large handful of beansprouts
½ teasp light brown sugar
1 tablesp. Fish sauce (nam pla)
1 tablesp. mirin 
Small handful of coriander leaves
Juice of 1 lime

Butterfly the prawns by cutting each one lengthways almost right the way through, and open out the two halves.

Put the vermicelli into a small bag and break into short lengths. Heat 3cm (1¼ in) oil in a hot wok and stir fry the shallots for 1 minute. Add the garlic, chilli flakes and pork and continue stir frying for a further 2 minutes or until the pork is almost cooked. Add the prawns, beansprouts, sugar , fish sauce and mirin and continue stir frying for a further 2-3 minutes or until the prawns are cooked. Toss the coriander through.

Serve the pork and prawn mixture on top of the noodles with the lime juice squeezed over.

Foolproof Food

Sweet Chilli Dipping Sauce

Makes about 200 ml
250 g (10 oz) red chillies, trimmed
3 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
100 g (4 oz) light brown sugar
2 teaspoons white wine vinegar

Combine everything in a small pan with 100 ml (3½ fl oz) water, bring to the boil and simmer over a moderate heat until soft, about 5 minutes. Blitz in a blender and season with a scant teaspoon of salt. Return to the pan; simmer for a further 10 minutes, taking care not to let it catch on the bottom. Allow cool and refrigerate.

Many bought sweet chilli sauces deliver too much sweetness and not a lot of character in the chilli, two things which you maintain control over when you make this all-purpose sauce at home. It will last indefinitely in the fridge and is, according to some, rather good on a bacon sandwich in place of ketchup.

Hot Tips

For a selection of noodles try Mr Bell’s stall in the English Market in Cork, the Asia Market at 18 Drury St. and the Oriental Emporium at 25 South Great Georges Street, both in Dublin 2.

East Cork Slow Food present Paul Waddington, author of ‘21st Century Smallholder at Ballymaloe Cookery School, Shanagarry, Co Cork on Wednesday 24th May at 7pm - €15 members and €20 non-members – booking essential. Tel 021-4646785 or email info@cookingisfun.ie  

‘What food is practical to both grow and raise at home, whether you have just a tiny balcony or a garden? The focus of this talk is on practicality: how much time does it take, is it worth the bother, how much will it cost me? There will be an emphasis on the gourmet and nutritional reasons for growing your own food.’

Another opportunity to hear Paul Waddington at the Cork City Slow Food Workshop on Tuesday 23rd May at 7pm at the Imperial Hotel –

‘Growing and Raising Food with Paul Waddington and Caroline Robinson’ - €8 members and €10 non-members, includes glass of wine. Optional supper at Jacques Restaurant in Cork at 9pm – set dinner and glass of wine - €36 members and €41 non-members. Tel Clodagh McKenna on 087-7971776 email:clodaghmckenna@eircom.net 

The Organic Centre, Rosinver, Co Letrim
Workshop on Cooking with Seaweeds by Dr. Prannie Rhatigan 27th May.
Tel. 071-9854338 Organicentre@eircom.net  www.theorganiccentre.ie  

Glebe House, Baltimore, Co Cork
Plant sale today Saturday 20th May from midday – Café open weekends till June and then Wednesday to Sunday inclusive till September. Driving into Baltimore there is a ‘Baltimore’ sign on the left – entrance is directly opposite on the right.

Wise Woman Weekend 26-28 May 2006 at Dromahair, Co Leitrim
A weekend of learning, discovery, celebration and fun. www.wisewomanireland.com  info@wisewomanireland.com  Tel 071-913 4913 or 086-8286303

About the author

Darina Allen
By Darina Allen


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