Wednesday, April 7, 2010


My obsession with noodles is almost as unyielding as my obsession with pork, though unfortunately the elation is somehow not doubled when the two are combined. Nevertheless, some people search a city for the best burger, or the best pizza, sandwich or taco, but my quest has always been Asian noodles.

Let's just say that my childhood in southern Indiana lacked the right influences (the closest Chinese restaurant to my home was called "You-a-Carry-Out-a"...) , but once I landed in New York City I began devouring lo mein like a culinary locust. Similar to the west coast's chow mein but with thicker, chewier noodles, lo mein became a staple in my diet that even surpassed the super-fast food of the infamous NY pizza slice.

My noodle exploration here in Seattle began even before my wife and I had moved here during our initial "scouting" visit, and believe it or not, a good noodle was a requirement. Fortunately we found Seven Stars Pepper in the International District that had hand-shaved noodles and a great sauce, which was different to what we were used to but are still a favorite of ours, but we still missed that familar style of the lo mein, so being a chef, I have been trying to make them myself, but these are the skills of masters.

It has taken me a lot of time and a lot of practice (as it should) but I have finally come up with a style that is close to my ideal shape and texture. The key is to roll the dough as much as possible in order to work the gluten in the flour, with the added secret ingredient of what is know as lye water - a mild solution of Potassium Carbonate and Sodium Bicarbonate (baking soda) that also helps give the noodle its bite.

Due to my adamant desire to create interpretations I decided to use these noodles as a base for a traditional Chinese dish: Peking Duck.

You don't have to be from Beijing to be familiar with it; due to the rich, crispiness of the duck and the sweet hoisen sauce this dish has easily found its way into the American palate, but for noodles I had to take a different approach. I started with whole ducks that I broke down into quarters and cooking them separately. First, I slowly cooked the legs in their own fat until they were tender in a technique known as confit, but the breasts need far less time, so I scored the skin to allow the excess fat to render out but kept the meat raw enough to be sliced and cooked to order. Once the meat had been removed I used the bones to create a flavorful stock that I used as a base for my sauce along with ginger, garlic, spring onions, hoisen sauce, mushroom sauce (a vegetarian alternative to oyster sauce), soy sauce and some rice vinegar and fresh lime juice to balance out the sweetness.

For texture I added fresh, chopped red and green cabbage along with julienned carrots just at the end so they retain their crunch, and for that extra umami touch I even used the obligatory Asian ingredient of shitaki mushrooms before I topped the whole thing off with some refreshing slivers of spring onion greens.

Since last Sunday was Easter I thought that there is no better time than now to break out my Swedish Fish-infused vodka; after all, there evidently isn't a better way to celebrate a man rising from the dead like some candy!!!!

All jokes aside, this cocktail idea was born as a joke about our server and bartender extraordinaire Tommy Hedrick, aka Tommy Love's obsession with Swedish Fish, a type of winegum candy similar to gumdrops.

So last month I began the infusion of Swedish Fish candies and vodka without any clue as to how I was going to incorporate it into a drink, but then I realized that if I was going to do it, I had to do it all the way, so I simmered even more Swedish Fish in water to create something similar to the standard bar condiment simple syrup that usually just consists of sugar and water, and once both were strained, poured over ice and topped with a bit of club soda the drink was surprisingly drinkable with the taste of.... Swedish Fish!!

If you are a fan of this candy then I can guarantee that you'll love the drink, but if you are unsure just remember this: if we are as obsessed with it this much, then what will happen to you?

With Love,