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Ginger scallion noodles

[one_half][O]ccasionally, a shockingly simple combination of ingredients will transcend the sum of its parts. Marcella Hazan’s Chicken with two lemons is a notable example. David Chang’s ginger scallion sauce is another. Both now make regular appearances in my weekly diet.

If you follow this blog, or say, talk to me for about five minutes, you’re likely to get the impression that (1) I am a hardcore carnivore, and (2) I have recently become more than a little obsessed with David Chang. (But you know, not in like a threatening way … More like, You are my culinary soulmate. Let’s hang out together; maybe check out some antiques! Text me?) It’s true. I am a big fan of the meats (and David). So honestly, when I first read this recipe excerpted on Amazon.com, I was a bit dubious that a vegan dish could elicit such a passionate response from a devout porkatarian like Chang. I just didn’t get it. It’s basically a bunch of raw onions and ginger. How good could it be? I’m not even a huge ginger guy. But there wasn’t much to lose, so I gave it a shot.

As my sister described in her über-popular guest post, it ain’t easy to impress my mother in the kitchen. The one dish I remember making for her that she liked was a rice salad that I saw on Lidia’s Italian Table. She liked it so much, she told me how she planned to make it herself:

I’m not going to use cheese. I’m going to make my own way. Some chamgireum, a little bit of gochujang, some gim …
So you’re basically going to make bibim bap.
Yeah.

Mom was visiting from LA, and I was pretty certain she’d never had this before, so I made her the ginger scallion sauce. She was, as always, deeply suspicious of my measuring the ingredients. She’s constantly giving me a hard time about this.

Why did you measure that?
I just wanted to make sure I was close. It doesn’t have to be exact, but the ratio should be close.
[disapproving silence]

She was actually most excited about trying the fresh ramen noodles, which she had never had before. We ate lots of the instant stuff growing up. Sapporo Ichiban, Original Flavor, soup base diluted two-fold. I joke with my Asian friends all the time about this. How much soup base does your mom use? To a man: half. My mom actually felt the need to remind me of this fact. You know, you should only add half of the powder. Yes, Mom. I remember. And I don’t eat instant ramen.

Bottom line: Not only were the noodles a hit, my mom ate the noodles, continued to spoon more of the sauce onto her rice, and started listing things that she would use that sauce on. Bibim bap. Brown rice noodles (good call). Mook (another excellent call). Dad’s really going to like it. Jason might not like it, because he doesn’t like ginger. She ate the rest of the sauce the next day while I was at work, and asked me to buy more green onions on the way home. And then went out and bought green onions herself. She made the sauce herself that night, and—I am not shitting you—measured  the ingredients. I could not believe what I was seeing. Mom, are you actually MEASURING that??? She short of shushed and waved me off. I didn’t push it, and instead took it as the greatest possible compliment. She was so intent on reproducing the recipe that she sucked it up and used measuring spoons. I’m 38 and I’ve never seen that happen. Mom also emailed me several times after she went home to ask me where I thought she might be able to find usukuchi and exactly what kind of sherry vinegar to buy.

So what is it about this dish that makes it so magical? It’s the transformation that occurs when you combine ingredients that, if taken alone, would be unpalatable to most people. The intensity of the onions and ginger is cut by the oil. The oiliness is mitigated by the acid. The sauce does not taste overwhelmingly of onions or ginger, but instead adopts an emergent third flavor that is robust and clean. It gives you the sensation (which I rarely get from vegan food) that you’re eating something substantial. And it’s fucking delicious.

* * * * *

Ginger scallion sauce
from Momofuku
(dresses roughly 6 – 8 four oz servings of noodles)

2 1/2 C thinly sliced scallions (greens and whites; from 1 to 2 large bunches)
1/2 C finely minced peeled fresh ginger
1/4 C grapeseed or other neutral oil
1 1/2 tsp usukuchi (light soy sauce)
3/4 tsp sherry vinegar
3/4 tsp kosher salt, or more to taste

Mix.

That’s the whole recipe. The additional tips Chang offers are: correct the seasoning (if necessary) and allow the mixture to sit for 15 – 20 minutes. That’s it. Of course, being who I am, I couldn’t possibly let you off the hook without offering a few tips of my own.

Ingredients Since scallions and ginger play such a prominent role in this recipe, it stands to reason that you want those particular ingredients to be as fresh as possible. It’s usually pretty easy to find fresh scallions. My go-to neighborhood grocery does not generally have good fresh ginger. How can you tell? It should be firm, fragrant, and have smooth skin. Break off the size you want from a larger piece. If it is dry and fibrous on the inside, dump it! And make a mental note to scold your grocer. It is worth being anal about this. I get mine from a Chinese market, because I know that it’s high turnover.

Re: usukuchi. This is a type of soy sauce that is lighter, sweeter and saltier. Kikkoman and Yamasa are common brands. If you can’t find it, you could substitute 1 tsp of regular (not low sodium) soy sauce. You may need to add a bit more salt to taste.

Prep My only comments here are about the ginger. Since the skin is very thin, you can remove the peel easily and quickly by scraping it with a spoon. A vegetable peeler also works. Can you use a microplane here, instead of mincing? You could. I like knife work, so if a recipe calls for mincing, I generally do it with a chef knife. The reason I don’t use a grater or a microplane to mince is that I find that doing so releases a lot more juice. You also end up with very fine strings instead of small pieces, so the texture is different.

Yield I usually don’t discuss yield, because people tend to have their own ideas about what constitutes a “serving.” But in this case, the book claims that the recipe makes about 3 cups. Not the case. The sliced scallions take up space because they’re little rings. When you add liquids, they occupy a lot of the empty space, and on top of that, the scallions eventually wilt. So you get about 1.5 cups, which isn’t too bad. Correspondingly, I add about half of what’s recommended of the sauce to noodles, and that works out about right.

Use The sauce can be deployed as a general, magical condiment. As presented above, it works great with noodles. What kind of noodles? In Chang’s world, ramen is king. But he acknowledges that fresh ramen is not always so easy to come by. When I don’t feel like hoofing it all the way to J-town, I have been known to use fresh chow mein noodles (known in NY as lo mein), which can be found at virtually any Chinese supermarket, and even some American ones. I’ve also had good luck with what Chinese markets call “vegetarian” noodles, which are eggless and contain alkaline salts (sodium and potassium carbonate). Thus, they are basically the same as ramen noodles. And as my mom brilliantly notes, this sauce would be fantastic on brown rice noodles. I don’t recommend using soba noodles. Why? Because craft, hand-cut soba noodles are quite delicate and I think would be overpowered by this sauce. I find the dried soba noodles you can get at the supermarket to be more or less inedible.

Putting the dish together If using fresh noodles, cook about 4 oz of noodles per person in boiling water that has been adequately salted. I cannot stress this enough. It’s striking how much flavor these noodles have if properly seasoned. If not, they taste like nothing. I like my noodles hot, so rather than shocking them, I cook until almost done. With fresh noodles, you need to start checking at about 2 minutes. When they are softened, but still quite toothy, remove from heat and drain. Add about 3 T of the sauce, and mix. If desired, garnish with sliced scallions, togarashi, and any number of other condiments: meat, pickles, a fried egg, pan-roasted cauliflower, etc. Serve immediately.

What’s up with the picture? If you check out the accompanying picture in the book, you’ll see Chang stuffing his face with some ramen noodles that have brown stuff on them. That’s not the ginger scallion sauce (which is presumably what’s in the tiny bowl in the center). My guess is that it’s hoisin sauce, or some liquid from the sliced pork belly nearby, which likely contains hoisin. [/one_half]

[one_half_last]

sliced scallions and minced ginger

[/one_half_last]

50 replies on “Ginger scallion noodles”

Hi, Lisa. I like them too, but I haven’t had them in years. Nong Shim Kimchi Bowl noodles were definitely in my heavy rotation after college! When I was little, I could not resist eating dry Sapporo Ichiban noodles. My mom claimed that they would make worms grow in my stomach …

Funny, I had made your sister’s mandu and ate them with this ginger scallion sauce I had lying around in the fridge. I love this sauce with anything chicken.

SB, I just tried ginger scallion sauce with mandu on Saturday. It was phenomenal!! Thanks for the tip!

One of my favorite things to eat in Hong Kong is steamed (or boiled? I never know how they do it) chicken with a salty, ginger+scallion oil. But I gotta say, throwing in soy sauce and vinegar and using it on noodles is pure GENIUS! I must try this asap.

yah, usually the ginger and scallion oil is raw for that hong kong chicken although some places do heat up the oil and sort of scald the ginger+scallion with it.

I had this chicken in SF a few years ago…definitely one of my favorite dishes. I think it’s steamed. But let me check….

I love condiments like this–hey make almost everything taste better.

I also love Marcella Hazan’s book and I’ve been obsessed with Lidia Bastianich. Her recent shows on TV had me ordering three of her books. Can you say obsessed?

Nice post. 🙂

Thanks, Jean. And welcome back!

We are huge fans of Lidia and Joe. Becco was one of our favorite places to eat, and her TV show always makes me hungry. Not a bad obsession to have!

Hi Ben,
I just made it and we liked it but it was very strong. Could you make a note as to how many servings this makes? I think it would serve 6-8 people.
Thanks.
Michele

Hi Michele,

I think you’re right. For a big bowl of noodles, I use about 3 T. So for the amount it makes (about 1.5 C) that would be good for 6 – 8 servings. Is that how much you used?

It didn’t seem overly strong to me, but I have heard people say that. Probably hits people’s palates differently. The lingering taste I have in my mouth after eating is definitely strong. Maybe I’m just a “sub”taster, my tastebuds having been burned out by kimchi all these years!

-Ben

HI Ben,
I really love your blog. I really do hope you can edit this recipe and write the servings at the top, and/or write something like this at the end of the recipe:
“Mix and let marinate for 20 minutes. Cook about 4 oz of noodles per person in boiling water that has been adequately salted. I cannot stress this enough. It’s striking how much flavor these noodles have if properly seasoned. If not, they taste like nothing. I like my noodles hot, so rather than shocking them, I cook until almost done. With fresh noodles, you need to start checking at about 2 minutes. When they are softened, but still quite toothy, remove from heat and drain. Add about 3 T of the sauce, and mix. If desired, garnish with sliced scallions, togarashi, and any number of other condiments: meat, pickles, a fried egg, pan-roasted cauliflower, etc. Serve immediately.”

Thanks so much, and you got it! Is this mostly for printing purposes? I’ve thought about making more printer-friendly formats for the recipes, but haven’t yet come up with the best solution for me, given the format of the blog.

You know, I recently had this revelation about why some people think this sauce is too strong, and I think it ultimately must boil down to the ginger. If your teeth hit relatively large chunks of ginger, you will get strong bursts of flavor and heat that could understandably throw the sauce out of balance.

Next time you make this, make sure that the ginger is very finely and very evenly chopped. Check out my picture from the post for an idea of how finely I chopped. Once again, I do think that doing this with a sharpened/straightened chef knife (as opposed to grating) is the way to go. I hope this helps …

I don’t mind the helvetica in this case. I like the tight leading and everything is aligned. At least you didn’t use comic sans or parchment…

You have finally posted a recipe I think I can handle. (The word “foodie” will never be used to describe me.) Can’t wait to try them!

Signed, Daisy’s friend

Hi Daisy’s friend,

I’m glad you’re going to try it! I know the word “foodie” is fraught with lots of different connotations. I tend to think of it as meaning “someone who’s very interested in food.” So I’d be happy to describe you as a fellow foodie, if you’d like. 🙂

This post made me crack up–“You are my culinary soulmate. Let’s hang out together; maybe check out some antiques! Text me?” Hahaha, awesome.

This DOES look fucking delicious. Can’t wait to try it.

Yes, I remember when you posted about this. The quick pickles are always great. My mom used to make them all time. I also really love the daikon radish pickles from that cookbook. I briefly mention those in my “ma peche” post.

This ginger scallion salt and oil combo has been around for ages. Friends of mine say they had it very often growing up in HK. You could find it in NYC’s Chinatown ex. Kam Man market among others for accompanying the cold chopped chicken. Chang gets the credit for making it better known I guess.

Of course! Chang describes it in the header notes as an “out-and-out rip-off,” specifically of a version he had at Great New York Noodletown on the Bowery.

[…] Mac ‘n Cheese. Instead, I go to my laptop and search for David Chang’s recipe for Ginger Scallion Noodles on a friend’s blog. I make the sauce in a mere 5 minutes and looked at the bowlful of […]

Yeah I know this is an old post but I since I made this the other night, I want to add that ginger scallion sauce + a bit of good oyster sauce on noodles with a runny egg = HEAVEN! It adds an umami hit to an already amazing sauce.

In case anyone cared, my preferred brand of “good” oyster sauce is from Lee Kum Kee. Look for the bottle with cartoony drawings of people on some sort of rowboat scenescape.
http://www.amazon.com/Lee-Kum-Kee-Premium-18-Ounce/dp/B00016UX1E

PS: Lee Kum Kee also makes a “Panda” brand of oyster sauce, which I don’t think is as good. Good news is this does not involve rowboat scenescapes, so it’s easy to distinguish.
http://www.amazon.com/Lee-Panda-Brand-Oyster-Sauce/dp/B0001DMTJG/ref=sr_1_3?s=grocery&ie=UTF8&qid=1311797501&sr=1-3

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