Garlic bok choy and udon with fried bean paste

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Bok choy with garlic

Normally when I cook bok choy I stir fry it a little with garlic, ginger, maybe some chilies, some soy sauce… or I might throw it into a bowl of ramen. I never put any thought into it. A couple days ago I asked my husband to pick me up some bok choy and so of course he brought back a mammoth-sized bunch of it. He rarely under-does things. So this stuff needed to be eaten pronto. Out of respect for the mass of fresh greenery, I decided to concentrate a little and do it right. A simple recipe, but done with care. All some fresh green produce needs. I made some udon noodles with fried bean paste sauce to go with it and this shall be our lunch and this shall be our dinner too.

Bak choy stir fried with garlic

2 large bunches of bok choy or 6 bunches baby bok choy
3-6 cloves garlic, minced
a light oil such as rapeseed
sea salt

1) Wash the bok choy thoroughly and cut into large pieces. Separate the white stalk pieces from the leafy greener pieces as they have different cooking times.
2) Heat up oil in a wok and then gently fry the garlic for a minute (do not brown) to flavor the oil.
3) Add in the white stalks first and fry on medium heat, stirring, until they are beginning to turn translucent.
4) Add in the leafy greens, sea salt and stir fry another couple minutes, till just cooked. Do not add soy sauce as it will make the vegetables a little mushy. Salt and garlic alone are delicious.

Udon noodles with fried bean paste sauce
serves 2
2 rolls of dried udon noodles (or fresh noodles would be best)
2 tsp soy bean paste
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp fresh chopped ginger
1/2 cup chopped shitake mushrooms
3-4 tbs of Chinese cooking wine or 1/4 cup of light beer
1 tsp sugar
2 tbs chopped peanuts
light oil, such as rapeseed oil
julienned carrot, cucumber and spring onion for garnish

This is a quick noodle dish similar to Korean jajangmyun or Chinese zha jiang mian. I pretty much tried to make zha jiang mian but didn’t have exactly everything to hand so came up with this tasty version. Seriously, my husband and I were fighting over the chopsticks to eat it straight out of the wok.

1) Cook the noodles according to package instructions. Rinse with cold water, drain and set aside.
2) Heat up oil in a wok and gently fry the garlic and ginger for a minute. Add the mushrooms and cook for another minute.
3) Add in the Chinese cooking wine, sugar and the soy bean paste and fry for a few more minutes on medium heat.
4) Add in the chopped nuts. If the sauce is too thick, it can be thinned with a little water.
5) Turn off the heat. Add in the cold noodles and mix or serve on top of noodles with the vegetable garnishes such as cucumber, carrot and spring onion.

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udon noodles with soy bean paste
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Vegetarian pad thai

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vegetarian pad thai

I’ve been researching authentic pad thai recipes and thinking how I could do a tasty vegetarian version. This was delicious, fun to cook and I learned a lot. I’m adding it to the success folder and next time I’ll make sure it’s even better, if not perfect. This morning I picked up a few missing items—tamarind, bean sprouts and tofu, but it was only when I started prepping that I realized I’d forgotten the preserved daikon radish and I only had green onions, not garlic chives. Dang it! I made it anyway. I mean, what? Give up? There’s always tomorrow for perfection.

For the real thing, I highly recommend this youtube series Hot Thai Kitchen pad thai episode. Also the High Heel Gourmet has a fantastic blog on real Thai cooking and helpful information for the noobs out there (me included).

Vegetarian Pad Thai sauce
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup dried mixed mushrooms (optional)
1/4 cup tamarind sauce or pulp
1/4 cup palm sugar

1) Gently heat up the soy sauce till warm and add the dried mushrooms. Turn off heat and let mushrooms soak in the soy sauce. My thinking was to add a bit extra umami flavor to the sauce as real pad thai has the vital salty flavor of fish sauce and dried shrimp. After 20 minutes, strain the mushrooms out and set aside to use later. Skip the mushrooms if you like and move on to step 2.
2) Gently melt the palm sugar with the soy sauce and tamarind sauce. Do not boil. As soon as sugar has been incorporated turn off the heat and set the sauce aside. This recipe makes a fair portion of sauce so store the rest in a jar in the fridge for future use.

Vegetarian pad thai
Serves 2 as main or 4 as side dish
half bag of pad thai noodles, soaked in water for about an hour
1 shallot, sliced
2 garlic cloves, sliced thinly
1 large bunch garlic chives (or 2 green onions, sliced thinly)
1 block of extra firm tofu (or pressed tofu if you can find it)
1 tbs preserved daikon radish*
Mushrooms from the sauce (see above), strained and chopped.
2 eggs
2 cups fresh bean sprouts
1 tsp (more or less) of red chili flakes
olive oil
water as needed

for garnish
1 lime
garlic chives
fresh bean sprouts
cilantro
red chili flakes
crushed peanuts**

*I had to leave out the radish, so this is definitely not authentic
**A rare day when my pantry of nuts did not include peanuts, so I used cashews

1) Soak the noodles in water for about an hour and prep everything else. Strain the noodles when soft. Cut them with scissors if they are too long.
2) If you do not have the pressed tofu, cut the extra firm tofu into small blocks and fry a couple minutes in oil to crisp up.
3) When the noodles and sauce are ready, heat up 2-3 tbs of oil in a large wok and add the chopped shallot, garlic, and chili flakes and cook for a minute or two on med to med-low heat, stirring.
4) Next add the tofu, mushrooms and radish. Stir and cook another few minutes.
5) Add the noodles, about 4-5 tbs of pad thai sauce and a little water. This is a dry noodle dish but a little water is needed to finish cooking the noodles in the wok.
6) When the noodles are cooked and chewy (NOT mushy), push everything to the side, add a tsp of oil to the wok and drop in the two eggs. Break the yolks and give a slight stir. Let the eggs cook for about 30 seconds and then scoop the noodle mixture on top of them. Let cook a little bit and then use a spatula or tongs to mix everything together.
7) Add the bean sprouts and garlic chives and stir fry another minute.
Serve with extra garlic chives, bean sprouts, crushed peanuts (or cashews in my case), red chili flakes, cilantro and a piece of lime. Do not cut a wedge of lime as you would for a cocktail, but cut off a piece of it from the side. It is easier to squeeze and you get more lime that way. Also it’s traditional!

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