Spicy, Sensational, and just damn good!


If you hadn’t guessed by now, I have a bit of a confession to make. I’m really not much for eating out. Oh sure, I am a regular at many cafes around town, but that is for rarely more than the odd breakfast, copious pots of tea and the occasional unbaked dessert. The reason for my lack of restaurant visits comes down in the end to three things:

1. A student budget doesn’t really allow for many nice dining out opportunities,

2. Most of the places within my budget that I’ve tried have let me down in one way or another

3. I love to cook, so I figure that I can use the money I’d spend out on a mediocre meal to buy some deliciously fresh ingredients and whip up something marvellous at home.

I do have to be completely honest and admit that this doesn’t exactly pan out. Sometimes I start out with the most grandiose ideas and end up burning the lot, but more often than not, after I’ve gone to the effort of tracking down my ingredients and spending a few hours grocery shopping (and this coming from a lass who actually loathes shopping – egads!), I get home and cannot manage much other than grilled cheese on toast, perhaps with a few slices of fresh tomato with freshly cracked pepper on top.

Utterly shameful.

HOWEVER – sometimes, just sometimes, it appears that the planets are aligned just right and I end up managing to create something which leaves me grinning from ear to ear…as well as my mother proudly boasting that I learnt how to cook from her, so this usually indicates a success of sorts. As reading this blog indicates, I tend to do most of the sweet cooking around the house and only act as sous-chef to my mother for her Korean dishes which make up the majority of our savoury meals at home. This has slowly been changing over the past year as I try my hand at more and more non-Korean savoury dishes, and though there have been many failures, there have also been some successes along the way, like this delicious spicy seafood noodle salad!

Spicy Seafood Noodle Salad

One thing I have to wonder is whether men ever develop cravings. Not the “Oh, I could really go a piece of chocolate cake right now” sort of craving. No no, I’m talking about the kind of craving which completely overtakes your thought processess, sitting right there in the forefront of your mind, rendering you barely able to think of anything else while images of a particular dish float in front of your eyes.

And no, I’d like to interject here and mention that I am NOT pregnant. Let’s just say I’d bloody well have to be the Virgin Mary for that to be the case, but moving on…

As it so happened, about mid last week, whilst in the middle of a late night study session, my mind suddenly decided to think about a dish that I’d tasted at the Nudel Bar (Bourke St, Melbourne) over a year ago. Believe it or not, it wasn’t even my order as I’d had a noodle soup, but my friend had ordered a cold noodle dish that I remember tasted absolutely sensational, just the kind of dish that would be perfectly refreshing on a warm day. The memory of the mouthful of this dish lingered in my mind, and I was suddenly overwhelmed with an extremely strong desire to make it for myself at home!

The problem? Well, first of all, it was 10pm on a Wednesday night, so nowhere that I could source some fresh seafood. Secondly, I was honestly just too buggered to cook anything at that moment. However it was the third problem which posed the greatest difficulty. You see, while the memory of that mouthful was powerful enough to have my mouth watering while sitting at my desk…I could not, for the life of me, remember what the hell was actually in the dish! In fact, I only remembered three components – lots of Asian mushrooms (cloud-ear, enoki and shiitake), green tea soba noodles and a distinct lemony tang in the sauce.

I knew there was more than that, but I honestly could not remember what the other components were. Possibly not much of a surprise, seeing as I have difficulty remembering the birthdays of my family members, and even my own at times (though strangely enough, never really had a problem remembering the birthday of the dog…)

Seeing as I could no longer concentrate on my studies, I decided to push my books to the side and attempt to write a shopping list for the next day so I could set out straight away, but the whole not knowing what the dish consisted of proved to be a bit of a sticking point. By this time it was close to midnight, so my tired mind scribbled out a list of foods that I felt a bit of a craving for, and left it at that.

The next day, after I had prepared all the seperate components and sat staring at them while wondering how to bring it together, I had a mild panic attack. What the hell did I think I was doing? It suddenly struck me as just a little bit stupid that I hadn’t actually just called the restaurant in the morning to ask what the dish consisted of.

Uh-huh, yeah.

(Sometimes I swear I’d forget to breathe if it weren’t an automatic function…)

Despite my in-the-moment misgivings, I took a deep breath, grabbed my huge mixing bowl and (how shall I put this eloquently) quite decidedly dumped everything in. My hands dove in after the noodles and I have no shame in admitting the fact that I was giggling like a maniac as I frantically tossed all the ingredients together to get them nice and evenly mixed up. A few prawns and calamari pieces were lost in the combat between noodles and hands, but they were immediately rescued by Mr Woofy and thus did not go to waste.

Once all the colours looked fairly evenly distributed, I stopped molesting the noodles and carefully grabbed a little between to fingers and popped it into my mouth. “Hmmm…” I thought, “methinks this needs a little extra something…perhaps in the way of a sauce?”

It tasted good, but the fresh lemony tang which had stuck in my memory was lacking, so I quickly grabbed a few ingredients and did a little haphazard pouring and mixing till I got something which sat just about right with me. And after seeing my mother devour two bowls, and my brother three, I think its safe to say that this dish is definitely one for the ‘successes’ pile.

Oh, and by the way – I still can’t remember what was in the original dish. Hah!

Spicy Seafood Noodle Salad

Spicy Seafood Noodle Salad
(Serves 5 – 6)

2 squid hoods – cleaned, cut open and lightly scored
200g fresh raw prawns, shells removed and deveined
1 salmon fillet (about 200-300g), skin on
12 dried shiitake mushrooms, rehydrated, stems removed and sliced into about 5mm thick strips
100g fresh shiitake mushrooms, cleaned
100g fresh enoki mushrooms, cleaned and broken into small clumps
100g fresh oyster mushrooms, cleaned and broken into small clumps
150g bean shoots
1 Lebanese cucumber (or similar sweet, thin-skinned cuke), cut lengthways in half then sliced
1/2 red bell pepper, deseeded and finely diced
1 carrot, grated
2 spring onions, washed and finely chopped
200g green tea soba noodles (cha soba), snapped in half

1/4 cup light soy sauce
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp dried chilli flakes
2 tsp caster sugar
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp freshly cracked pepper

Salad Dressing
2 tsp toasted sesame seeds
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tsp caster sugar
1 tbsp fish sauce

1. Mix up the marinade, then put the squid, prawns, salmon and sliced rehydrated shiitake mushrooms and massage in well. Leave to marinate for at least an hour in the fridge.

2. Heat a cast iron grill over medium heat, then drain the marinated ingredients, reserving 2 tbsp of the marinade liquid. Toss the calamari on first and grill for no more than 1-2 mins per side, do not overcook! Then remove to rest on a plate and grill the salmon fillet, skin side down first – once again, do not overcook, the centre should still be translucent and the salmon should be silky in texture and melt in your mouth. Finally, add the prawns and shiitake mushrooms and grill till cooked, then set aside to rest.

3. Add the reserved marinade liquid to the grill, then add the fresh mushrooms (enoki, shiitake and oyster) and the bean shoot. Rapidly move the ingredients about so they do not overcook (pretend you’re using a wok…or you can just use a wok at this stage if its easier and you don’t mind the washing up). Only cook for a minute or two, or till the mushrooms and bean shoots have slightly wilted, then remove to a plate to allow them to cool.

4. Bring a pot of water to the boil, then boil the green tea noodles till they are just done. Immediately drain them and give them a good rinse under cold running water to wash off any excess starch, then drain them well in a colander and set aside. Break up the salmon into small chunks with your fingers.

5. Mix together the salad dressing, then dump all the ingredients into a large mixing bowl and lightly begin to toss them together with your hands, trying to get everything evenly mixed together. Once well combined, pour the salad dressing over the top and toss once again to lightly and evenly coat the salad.

6. Serve alongside some iced green tea for a super refreshing meal :)

Oh, and any leftovers? Just as good the next day 😉

[tags]recipes, Asian, soba noodles, green tea, seafood, healthy[/tags]

(P.S. Yes, I’m still alive. Still in the last throes of study-hell)

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