Noo­dles and dumplings done right

Connecticut Post (Sunday) - - Sunday Arts & Style - Jane Stern, a Ridge­field res­i­dent, co- au­thored the pop­u­lar “Road­food” guide­book se­ries with Michael Stern.

The best com­fort food on the planet is noo­dles, oo­dles of noo­dles. Noo­dles should be eaten 365 days a year. Asian sesame noo­dles are as great as Hun­gar­ian egg noo­dles with sweet but­ter, farm­ers cheese and poppy seeds. Dare I say: there is no such thing as a bad noo­dle, even Chef Boy- R- Dee spaghetti out of a can is palat­able.

With a great de­sire for noo­dles, I found my­self walk­ing around the pop­u­lar craft store Michaels, talk­ing to my­self about noo­dles. This was not a pri­vate dis­cus­sion, I was ac­tu­ally talk­ing quite loudly as I cruised the aisles look­ing for glue and beads and glit­tery things.

I live alone and work from home and so un­less the phone rings I can go all day with­out say­ing a word to any­one ex­cept my two dogs, who are not great con­ver­sa­tion­al­ists. To make sure my vo­cal chords still work, I have be­come in the habit of lit­er­ally talk­ing rather loudly to my­self.

How­ever, things have changed for us soli­tary types. Years back if you saw some­one walk­ing alone in pub­lic hav­ing an an­i­mated dis­cus­sion it was a pretty sure guess they were nuts and talk­ing to the voices in their head. Cell phones ( es­pe­cially the ones with ear pieces) blew that as­sump­tion out of the wa­ter and for the most part these days when we see some­one in a one way dis­cus­sion it is likely they are ask­ing their hus­band what he wants for din­ner, or telling the kids to walk the dog.

At Michael’s, I was not on the phone, and while I may not have crossed the thresh­old to Crazyville, I was rather loudly de­bat­ing with my­self a thorny is­sue con­cern­ing sesame noo­dles. I tried to make my­self feel bet­ter my think­ing that truly nutty folks would be talk­ing about the CIA spy­ing on them, or alien ab­duc­tion, but not noo­dles.

I adore sesame noo­dles but they are time con­sum­ing to make. The process be­gins by finely grat­ing fresh gin­ger root, blend­ing sesame oil with minced gar­lic and peanut but­ter, adding a squirt of sriracha or chile paste, some sugar, soy sauce, and rice vine­gar all in the cor­rect pro­por­tions. Then you must use the right Asian noo­dles and cook them in boil­ing wa­ter un­til they are al dente and not mushy. A sprin­kle of chopped scal­lions and co­rian­der com­pletes this de­light.

There are a hun­dred Asian restau­rants in our area and pretty much ev­ery one serves sesame noo­dles. I have or­dered un­told quan­ti­ties of this dish and af­ter one bite wish I hadn’t. I am usu­ally served a wad of over­cooked spaghetti noo­dles swim­ming in a gloppy sauce that tastes only of peanut but­ter. It is more like some­thing a kid at sum­mer camp would cook then fine Asian cui­sine.

And so my hopes were low when with my shop­ping bags filled with glit­ter and glue I en­tered Ren. What I got when I or­dered was quite an amaze­ment, and re­stored my faith that at least one place was do­ing this dish cor­rectly. The “Cold Noo­dles with Sesame Hot Sauce” as they are listed on the menu tasted just like I make at home. With no work on my part ex­cept hand­ing over my credit card they ap­pear. How can you beat that?

Be­cause the name of this res­tau­rant is Ren Dumpling & Noo­dle House it was manda­tory that I try some of the other of­fer­ings in these cat­e­gories. This was no hard­ship.

I or­dered fried pork dumplings, and again I was de­lighted. They are small dumplings, bright with sea­son­ings and again not served in a mushy heap swim­ming in soy sauce. You can or­der all the dumplings on the menu fried or steamed and while I usu­ally find steamed dumplings to be too bland, I liked them at Ren. On the side of the dish you will be served a spicy dip­ping sauce. You do not need it to fla­vor the food. Like ketchup dumped on french fries or burg­ers, the dip­ping sauce served here is not a mask for a lack of fla­vor.

I highly rec­om­mend the Steamed Crab Meat Pork Soup Dumplings. Small and well made, they are meant to be sa­vored not gulped down.

An­other unique dish that I have not seen on lo­cal menus are the Chicken Sticky Rice Dumplings. These lit­tle gems fiercely hold to­gether around their core of minced chicken and rice. They are at once very del­i­cate and very fill­ing. This is a dish I would be afraid to try and make my­self at home. I think my ver­sion of it would be lumpy noo­dle dough around lumpy rice.

The term “dumpling” cov­ers a lot of ter­ri­tory. At Ren, the Steamed Roast Pork Bun is ter­rific. There are many va­ri­eties of streamed buns here, all good. Com­pared to the fin­ger tip sized dumplings they are large, and come three to an or­der.

In ad­di­tion to the buns, dumplings and noo­dle dishes I would rec­om­mend any of Ren’s noo­dle soups. Choose be­tween pork, shrimp and chicken, be­tween skinny or broad noo­dles and you will get some­thing not only de­li­cious but so hearty that it could eas­ily make meals.

I have al­ways found the staff at Ren’s to be ex­tremely cheer­ful and help­ful plus with my mouth stuffed with sesame noo­dles I do not talk loudly to my­self.

Face­book / Con­trib­uted pho­tos

Drunken noo­dle with shrimp, above,, and the ra­men, be­low, at Ren Dumpling and Noo­dle House in Wil­ton.

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