Ben ben noo­dles

The Guardian - Feast - - Feast -

Prep Cook Serves 15 min 25 min 2

250g shi­itake mush­rooms

1 tsp Sichuan pep­per­corns

1 tbsp oil

40g gherkins or pick­led cu­cum­ber, finely chopped

2 spring onions, sliced on the di­ag­o­nal, whites and greens sep­a­rated

1 tbsp Shaox­ing rice wine (or dry sherry) 2 tsp light soy sauce 200g whole­wheat noo­dles

200g baby pak choi or sim­i­lar greens, shred­ded

For the sauce

3 tbsp tahini

3 tbsp light soy sauce 1 tbsp Sichuan roasted chilli oil, with sed­i­ment, plus an ex­tra driz­zle to fin­ish

1 tbsp Chi­ank­ing black-rice vine­gar There are a few in­gre­di­ents here that you might need to pop to a Chi­nese food shop for, such as the Shaox­ing wine, Chi­ank­ing vine­gar and chilli oil (Lee Kum Kee does a great one), al­though some are also avail­able in larger su­per­mar­kets and on­line. If you can’t get hold of the wine, use dry sherry, and swap the Chi­ank­ing for white-wine vine­gar; you could even make your own chilli oil, too.

Blitz the mush­rooms in a food pro­ces­sor to len­til-size pieces – be care­ful they don’t turn to soup.

Put the pep­per­corns in a dry fry­ing pan on a low heat and toast un­til fra­grant – about four min­utes, but be vig­i­lant be­cause they burn eas­ily – then re­move and grind. In the same pan, heat the oil on a high flame. When hot, fry the chopped mush­rooms, press­ing them into a sin­gle layer to max­imise con­tact with the pan, for eight to 10 min­utes, un­til dark brown and be­gin­ning to crisp up. Add the gherkins, spring onion whites and the ground Sichuan pep­per, fry for two min­utes, then add the wine and soy, and cook for two min­utes more, un­til dry and crunchy.

Mix all the sauce in­gre­di­ents in a small bowl. It will look a lit­tle split at first, but just keep mix­ing un­til it comes to­gether.

Cook the noo­dles in boil­ing wa­ter ac­cord­ing to the packet in­struc­tions, stir­ring to sep­a­rate them, and add the pak choi for the fi­nal two min­utes. Just be­fore the noo­dles are done, re­move a mug­ful of the cook­ing wa­ter, then drain and put the noo­dles and greens in a large bowl. Mix in the sauce, the mush­rooms and the re­served cook­ing wa­ter, ta­ble­spoon by ta­ble­spoon (I needed six), un­til the noo­dles are nice and saucy.

Di­vide be­tween two plates, sprin­kle with the spring onion greens and a driz­zle more oil, and serve.

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