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Garlic Soba with Broccoli Rabe
Spicy Sesame Noodles
Spicy Sesame Dressing
Cinnamon Beef Noodles
Rainbow Peanut Noodles
Chinese Peanut Dressing


March 12, 1997

I love pasta and am always looking for new ways to use it. I've come to love the Japanese soba noodles, and much as I have researched fresh and dried pasta, up and down Italy, I've always been mystified by the many forms of Chinese, Thai, and Japanese noodles. Which ones have egg? Which are made with wheat-flour, which with buckwheat, and which with rice? Do the names change by country, and are the noodles then the same or do they have to be cooked differently? Is rice-flour really starch? Are some noodles deep-fried before they are packaged? Can Italian pasta or American or German egg noodles be substituted in recipes for Chinese or Japanese noodles?

Now a new book by Nina Simonds -- a Boston area writer who since her college days has been traveling back and forth to China -- sorts it all out, in very brief and brisk but useful fashion. I've long admired the substance of Simonds's books, but Asian Noodles is especially great-looking as well: full of witty attractive pictures and fresh design. I love looking through it and want to try almost every recipe. I'm giving an especially large selection here because so many of the recipes are simple and tempting.

The short answer to my questions above is that you'll be able to substitute Italian or German store-bought pasta for a number of Asian noodles: garlic soba with broccoli rabe is obviously an Asian-flavored version of a classic southern Italian dish, for instance, and any string pasta will do in preparing it. And fortunately, you can find Asian noodles in an increasing number of specialty stores.

As I write the wind is howling -- March is entering in a leonine fashion -- so the first thing I want to cook are the cinnamon beef noodles, the ones that Simonds wrote, "comforted me... when I was tired, homesick, or chilled to the bone" when she was a "penniless student in Taipei in the early seventies." This dish will warm anyone, any time -- and it can be adapted to Italian fettucine or German egg noodles.

    -- Corby Kummer



From Asian Noodles, by Nina Simonds


Garlic Soba with Broccoli Rabe


I first fell in love with soba in the little noodle houses in Japan. There the noodles are served hot in soups or cold with a fiery horseradish dressing. I stir-fry them with all kinds of vegetables and light sauces. In this recipe, they're simply tossed with lots of garlic, crisp-cooked broccoli rabe, and toasted pine nuts. Substitute broccoli or cauliflower if you can't find broccoli rabe.

6 Servings

1 1/2 tablespoons safflower or corn oil

1 1/2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil

2 tablespoons very thinly sliced garlic

l 1/2 teaspoons crushed red pepper

1 1/2 pounds broccoli rabe, trimmed, leafy tips discarded, and cut on the diagonal into l-inch lengths

1/4 cup Chinese rice wine or sake, mixed with 3 tablespoons water

1 pound soba, cooked until just tender, rinsed under warm water, and drained

3/4 cup toasted pine nuts (optional)


Sweet Soy Sauce: Mix together
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons water
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar

1. Heat a wok or a heavy skillet over medium heat. Add both the oils and heat until hot, about 30 seconds. Add the garlic and red pepper and stir-fry until the garlic is lightly golden, about 30 seconds. Add the broccoli rabe, turn up the heat to high, and add the rice wine mixture. Stir-fry for 30 seconds, then cover and cook for l 1/2 to 2 minutes, or until the broccoli is tender.
2. Add the noodles, sweet soy sauce mix, and pine nuts, if using, and stir-fry to blend. Transfer to a serving bowl and serve.





Spicy Sesame Noodles


Toasted sesame paste is the creamy base for the spunky sauce here. Drizzled over smooth flat noodles and a spray of crisp vegetables, it transforms them into a luscious appetizer perfect for a picnic basket. For a sumptuous vegetarian salad, leave out the chicken and add more vegetables.

6 Servings

1 pound flat Chinese egg noodles or other flat noodles, such as fettuccine or linguine, cooked until just tender, rinsed under cold water, drained, and tossed with 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

2 English (seedless) cucumbers, peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded, and grated

1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and thinly sliced

1 1/2 cups bean sprouts, rinsed and drained

1 1/2 cups sliced cooked chicken (cut into thin strips)

3 tablespoons minced scallion greens

2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds (optional)

Spicy Sesame Dressing

1. Arrange the noodles on a large deep platter.
2. Scatter the cucumbers, red pepper, and bean sprouts over the noodles, leaving a shallow well in the center for the chicken. Arrange the chicken in the center. Sprinkle with the scallion greens and sesame seeds.
3. Serve with the spicy sesame dressing on the side.





Spicy Sesame Dressing


Don't confuse dark, rich Chinese sesame paste with the blander untoasted Middle Eastern tahini paste; the two are not interchangeable. Peanut butter, though, is an acceptable alternative here.

Makes about 2 cups

8 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced in half

One 1/2-inch-thick slice fresh ginger, peeled

7 tablespoons Chinese sesame paste, stirred well to blend, or more if necessary

5 tablespoons toasted sesame oil

5 tablespoons soy sauce

1/4 cup Chinese rice wine or sake

1 1/2 tablespoons Chinese black vinegar or Worcestershire sauce

1 1/2 tablespoons sugar

6 tablespoons chicken broth or water

In a food processor fitted with the metal blade or in a blender, finely chop the garlic and ginger. Add the remaining ingredients in the order listed and process to blend. The dressing should be the consistency of heavy cream. If it is too thin, add up to 2 tablespoons additional sesame paste. Refrigerated, in a covered container, the dressing will keep for up to a week.





Cinnamon Beef Noodles


This is the dish I crave when I am feeling a cold or the flu coming on -- a big bowl of noodles topped with spinach and tender pieces of beef infused with garlic, ginger, anise, and cinnamon. The flavor gets better and better every time you reheat it.

6 Servings

1 teaspoon safflower or corn oil

Chile-Cinnamon Seasonings:
6 scallions, trimmed, cut into 1 1/2-inch sections, and smashed lightly with the flat side of a knife

6 cloves garlic, peeled, smashed lightly with the flat side of a cleaver, and thinly sliced

4 slices fresh ginger (about the size of a quarter), smashed lightly with the flat side of a knife

1 1/2 teaspoons hot chile paste

2 cinnamon sticks

1 teaspoon aniseed

8 1/2 cups water

1/2 cup soy sauce

2 pounds chuck or beef stew meat, trimmed of fat and gristle, and cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes

10-ounces spinach, trimmed, rinsed, and drained

1/2 pound flat Chinese wheat-flour noodles, udon, or other flat noodles, such as fettuccine, cooked until just tender, rinsed under warm water, and drained

3 tablespoons minced scallions

1. Heat a large pot or casserole over medium-high heat. Add the oil and heat until hot, about 30 seconds. Add the chile-cinnamon seasonings and stir-fry until fragrant, about 15 seconds. Add the water and soy sauce and bring to a boil. Add the beef and bring back to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 1 1/2 hours, or until the beef is very tender. Skim the surface to remove any impurities or fat. Remove the ginger slices and cinnamon sticks and discard. Add the spinach and bring to a boil.
2. Divide the noodles among six soup bowls. Ladle the meat, spinach, and broth over the noodles and sprinkle with the scallions. Serve.





Rainbow Peanut Noodles


I'm invited to neighborhood parties not for my witty conversation but for my peanut noodles. In fact, I started a craze when I served this noodle salad at a street gathering. Everyone demanded the recipe and soon it appeared in different forms at every neighborhood get-together. The spicy peanut dressing is superb on almost any salad. During the summer I keep extra on hand and always have a package of noodles and some vegetables in my refrigerator for a cool, ready-in-minutes meal.

6 Servings

1/2 pound thin noodles, such as linguine, cooked until just tender, rinsed under cold water, drained, and tossed with 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

5 carrots, peeled and grated

2 English (seedless) cucumbers, peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded, shredded, and squeezed dry

2 cups bean sprouts, rinsed and drained

1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into thin strings (about 1 cup)

2 cups sliced cooked chicken (cut into thin strips)

1 1/2 tablespoons minced scallion greens

Chinese Peanut Dressing

1. Arrange the noodles in a large serving bowl.
2. Arrange the vegetables in concentric circles over the noodles and then pile the chicken in the center. Sprinkle the scallions on top.
3. Serve at room temperature or chilled, with the Chinese peanut dressing.





Chinese Peanut Dressing


My refrigerator would seem empty without a batch of this all-purpose peanut butter-based sauce. I serve it with vegetable and noodle salads, and as a go-with-anything dipping sauce.

Makes about 1 3/4 cups

One 1/2-inch-thick slice fresh ginger, peeled and sliced in half

8 cloves garlic, peeled

1 teaspoon hot chile paste, or more to taste

1/2 cup smooth peanut butter, or more if necessary

1/4 cup soy sauce

3 1/2 tablespoons sugar

3 1/2 tablespoons Chinese black vinegar or Worcestershire sauce

3 tablespoons toasted sesame oil

5 tablespoons chicken broth or water, or more if necessary

In a food processor fitted with the metal blade or in a blender, finely chop the ginger and garlic. Add the remaining ingredients in the order listed and process until smooth. The dressing should be the consistency of heavy cream. If it is too thick, add more water or chicken broth; if too thin, add more peanut butter. Refrigerated, in a covered container, the dressing will keep for 2 to 3 weeks.


  • More by Corby Kummer in Atlantic Unbound

    Copyright © 1997 by Corby Kummer.
    Recipes from Asian Noodles by Nina Simonds. Hearst Books: New York, New York 1997. 131 pp. ISBN: 0-688-13134-4. $21.00. Copyright © 1997 by Nina Simonds.
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