Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Instant Ramen Noodles... with a Vietnamese Twist...

Ramen noodle has been a craze over the last two years in Toronto with Japanese noodle joints popping up everywhere. The four primary soup bases are shoyu (soy sauce), shio (sea salt), miso and tonkotsu (pork bone). My favourite is tonkotsu and shoyu and some restaurants actually combine the two flavours in one bowl making it even more delightful. This is a whole other topic for a separate post which I will surely cover, but today I want to share with you some inspiration to customizing instant noodles cooked at home. It's not just adding a few interesting ingredients, but looking at instant noodle from a totally different lens and making a cheap quick staple a culinary taste adventure.

My bowl of noodle soup is inspired by a simple yet intricate dish called
Cơm Hến in Vietnam. This dish combines a variety of flavours from cooked clams, tart green apple, fresh herbs such as mint and Vietnamese cilantro, banana flower, fried pork fat or rind, fried shallots, and roasted peanuts.  Shredded napa cabbage was added for a bit of vegetables. Traditionally served over rice,  Nong Shim's brand of Korean noodles provide the perfect twist on the base with its’ chewy thick noodles to hold all the hearty toppings. The seasoning package lends its’ gourmet salty and spicy flavourings to match well with the finishing drizzle of fermented shrimp sauce. The result culminates a distinctive taste of saltiness, sweet, sour and spiciness with a whole lot of crunch and textures for a unique gourmet Ramen taste experience with a nod to the Southeast!

Recipe for One

Total Time: 20 minutes
1 tsp. canola oil
1 shallot, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
½ can (184 g) chopped clams in juice, drained and juice reserved
1 Nong Shim Shin Ramyun noodles seasoning package, a pinch
1 leaf napa cabbage, shredded
½ Granny Smith apple, cut into matchsticks
2 to 3 sprigs each mint and cilantro with leaves removed
¼ cup prepared banana blossom, store-bought in produce section
5 pieces of fried pork rind, broken into small pieces, store-bought
½ Tbsp. fried shallots, store-bought
2 Tbsp. of roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped
1 package Nong Shim Shin Ramyun noodles and its’ dried vegetable pouch
Red chili slices and lime wedges

½ Tbsp. fermented shrimp sauce
1 tsp. Korean hot pepper paste
1 Tbsp. reserved clam juice
Banana blossom is a banana flower with purplish husks that needs to be stripped away to reveal its tender white leaves inside which is typically sliced into strips and used in Southeast Asian dishes such as soups and salads.

Prepared strips can be found in Asian supermarkets. Soak them in water with some lemon juice to prevent browning. 

1)  Heat oil in a pan over medium heat and sauté shallot and garlic until golden about 1 min. Add clams and cook another two minutes. Sprinkle with seasoning, stir and remove from heat.
2)  Prepare all the ingredients up to the peanuts and set aside.
3)  Mix shrimp sauce, hot pepper paste and clam juice until well blended. Set aside.
4)  Cook noodles with the dried vegetables in 2-1/4 cups of water for four to five minutes until done. Drain.
5)  Pour 1-1/4 cups boiling water in a single serving bowl. Add 1/2 package of seasoning package and mix well. Add the noodles. Next, top with the ingredients in the order of the recipe.
6)  Drizzle with shrimp sauce mixture. Mix and serve with chilies and a squirt of fresh lime juice.

Next time you reach for the instant noodle pack, think how your leftovers or other ingredients in your fridge such as salad greens, cabbage or fresh Asian herbs and condiments can turn your dinner into a new noodle taste sensation!

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