Posts in: noodle bar recipes

Traditional Dashi

Traditional dashi used to make miso soup

Dashi is to Japanese cooking what butter is to French. A cornerstone of Japanese cooking, dashi is found in almost all soups, simmered dishes, salad dressings and marinades. Most people don’t make homemade dashi anymore due to the myriad of instant dashi powders at the store, but making it yourself is fresh, fast and simple.

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How your slow-poached egg shouldn’t look

slow-poached egg and hard-poached egg

Slow-poaching is truly a terrific way to poach eggs; they need a little bit of baby-sitting, but it’s well worth it. I remember the first time I was at Noodle Bar I was in awe when the chef behind the counter cracked open a seemingly raw egg and a cook one slid out.

I’ve made the slow poached eggs several times now, and usually they turn out great: soft, creamy whites with barely-cooked yolks. Yesterday though, I wasn’t paying as much attention as usual and the temperature of the water went up to 155˚.

The optimal temperature for slow-poached eggs is between 140˚ and 145˚F, but just in case you ever wanted to know what an overcooked slow-poached egg looks like, here it is. The yolk was solid-ish and not at all like the “right” way to make slow-poached eggs.

the yolk just won't yield to my toast soldier!

I poached another egg for visual comparison. As you can see, you can easily dunk your toast into one egg, but not the other. Even so, the “overcooked” poached egg tasted awesome with sweet soy sauce and some green onions.

notice the difference in yolks

Mike: You’re not eating this? I think you should have it. (It being the tiniest bit of egg ever left in the dish)
Me: What? No, I was going to put that in the sink.
Mike: Ok. More for me.

mmm...still good with soy sauce and green onions

Then Mike spooned up the minuscule amount of egg left in the bowl and popped it in his mouth.

Eggs are always a hit, overcooked or not and slow-poached are a truly delicious way to cook eggs, if you do them right or not!

slow-poached egg yolk creaminess

Potatoes & Clams in Bacon Dashi

bacon dashi with potatoes & clams

The photo of the bacon dashi with potatoes and clams is probably my least favourite photo in the whole book. It’s not photographer Gabriele Stabile’s fault. It’s those damn fingerling potatoes, they’re just so obscene. For those of you with the book, I draw your attention to the potato in the clam…shell on the left side of the bowl. Doesn’t that look off? I don’t have a problem with how fingerlings taste (they taste quite good), but I just can’t stand their strangely elongated gnarly shapes.

Needless to say, I didn’t use fingerling potatoes in my bacon dashi with potatoes and clams and (for once) it wasn’t because I couldn’t find the ingredient. I used new potatoes instead, which are much prettier. This dish rocked: the sweetness of the clams, the smokiness of the bacon and the creaminess of the potatoes were simple and satisfying. I could eat bowls and bowls of it, but really, I think I could eat bowls and bowls of just potatoes boiled in bacon dashi (as long as they’re not fingerlings).

clams

Potatoes used to be my favourite food. (They’re still one of my favourites, just not the favourite). Back in university I used to eat baked mashed potatoes for dinner. Nothing else, just mashed potatoes baked to get that lovely crunchy top. Potatoes truly are a wonder vegetable: so versatile, so delicious. I love them mashed, baked, fried, french-fried, scalloped, boiled, roasted, and hash-browned. I like them just about any way, except steamed. Boiling them in bacon dashi is one of the ultimate preparations, I think. When you boil potatoes in bacon dashi, their soft, creamy insides are infused with bacon dashi goodness.

bacon, dashi, potatolicious!

The clams were tasty too, even though we ended up with Manila clams, not littleneck or butter. I bought them at Whole Foods, where a friendly fish monger (not Fish Boy) picked out some fresh, happy, living clams.

Bacon dashi with potatoes and clams is simple cooking at it’s best. Potatoes are boiled in the dashi then strained out, then the clams are thrown in and steamed. When all the clams have opened up, the potatoes are dropped back in and a simple garnish of crisped bacon and green onion oil are put on top.

We had bread on the side to soak up the bacon dashi and Mike thought the bread in the dashi tasted like barbeque chips. I can’t say that I agreed at the time, but I have a theory on why that is: green onion oil.

Me: I don’t get the green onion oil, I didn’t taste it at all.
Mike: Really? I thought it was good.
Me: Wait a minute. Did I even put green onion oil on mine? I don’t think I did.
Mike: Well, maybe that’s why mine tastes like barbecue chips and yours doesn’t.

I think I’ll have to try this again just so I can taste the dish with the green onion oil.

bacon dashi with potatoes & clams

I’ll definitely be making this dish again: the clams start off mildly delicious, light and flavourful then the subtle addiction of the dish hits you and makes you just want to keep eating and eating and eating.

empty shells

Bacon Dashi

noodles in bacon dashi topped with sliced shiitakes

Sweet and smoky with a hint of the ocean, bacon dashi is something you can drink straight up, out of a mug on a rainy day, but that’s probably because I love bacon.

Let me repeat myself: I love bacon. I love the saltiness, smokiness, and crunch. If it wasn’t so bad for me I think I’d eat it everyday. When I was a little girl my mom would stop me after two slices but I’d always sneak more when she wasn’t looking. I grew up coveting those crispy strips of smoky meat.

I used to devour bacon flavoured chips, crackers and even those dried salty crunchy things they call bacon bits. I don’t eat those things anymore though. Now I just go for the good stuff, real bacon. (I don’t mean those bacon bits called “Real Bacon,” I mean bacon, the real stuff.)

konbu and bacon

There isn’t anything bacon doesn’t make better: fried rice, eggs, potatoes, and yes, dashi. Dashi is one of the cornerstones of Japanese cooking, used as the base of soup stocks and a bunch of other dishes. Traditionally made from seaweed and dried fish, Chang gives dashi a Momofukuian twist with bacon.

using up leftover bacon

Making bacon dashi is simple: 2 pieces of konbu are rinsed under running water and put in a pot to boil. Once at a boil, the konbu is steeped for ten minutes like a sea-salty tea. The konbu is removed and bacon is added, the broth simmering for half an hour. When finished, the dashi is cooled until the fat separates out and is easily skimmed off.

bacon bowl

Chang doesn’t tell you what to do with the bacon after straining it out, but it seems such a waste to not eat it, so inspired by eatnlisten.com (Update: I saw the bacon bowl at eatnlisten, but the lovely and gorgeous Jo at My Last Bite tells me she and Not Martha made them as well! And they’re super cute! Check out Not Martha’s Bacon Cups and My Last Bite’s Bacon Cups) , I decided to make a bacon bowl. The bowl came out a little wonky, maybe because the bacon was boiled, but it was crisp and rather delicious even if it was a little lacking in the bacon flavour which was now in the bacon dashi.

The result: a very  slightly milky coloured broth with the subtle flavours of the sea, smoke and pork. I poured some over a tangle of ramen noodles topped with sliced shiitake mushrooms and green onions. Bacon dashi is a keeper: simple, savoury, slurp-worthy soup.

noodles in smokey, sweet bacon dashi

bacon dashi

Pan-Roasted Mussels with OS

pan roasted salt spring island mussels with OS

The first day I read through Momofuku, the Pan-Roasted Mussels with OS stood out. The mussels in the photo looked like a delicious mess of good flavours and the real thing didn’t disappoint. The first mussel I put in my mouth was ‘WOW’.

mussels, sake, grapeseed oil, soy sauce, ginger, green onions, garlic, shiro miso

I don’t really cook a lot of seafood at home, not even fish. I love the stuff, but somehow I just feel intimidated by ocean creatures even though I grew up watching my mom butcher fish, crab and lobster like there was no tomorrow. I’m a seafood rookie: I’ve never scaled, filleted, or even bought fish that wasn’t on a styrofoam tray. Being a new at buying seafood, the first place I thought of to get some were the fish tanks at T&T.

Mike was outright against that idea from the start.

Mike: I’m not going to eat mussels from T&T.
Me: Ok, I’ll eat them all myself!
Mike: Yeah…that way I can drive you to the hospital.
Me: Why would I need to go to the hospital?

Eating dead mussels possibly could result in a hospital trip, but I personally think Mike was just being melodramatic. Even so, the mussels at T&T were really sad and mostly dead I think. I just didn’t feel good about buying them, so I had to accept the fact that I was wrong about T&T seafood.

OS sauce: shiro miso, green onions, garlic, ginger, light soy sauce

With T&T out of the picture, the next logical place to buy mussels was Whole Foods. There’s a world of difference between T&T seafood and Whole Foods seafood. At T&T there are these little red baskets where you can self-scoop mussels out of a tank of mussels with their shells open. You’re not really sure what kind of mussels they are or where they’re from, you just know they’re mussels. At Whole Foods the mussels are on ice, clearly labelled Salt Spring Island Mussels, and there’s a helpful Fish Boy who’ll hand pick your mussels for you.

Me: So…how do you know they’re alive?
Fish Boy: Oh, if they’re closed they’re alive.
Me: What if they’re open a little bit?
Fish Boy: They could still be OK, you just give them a little tap and if they close up, they’re still good.
Me: So, can you eat them if they’re dead?
Fish Boy: HA HA HA HA HA. No, they’re DEAD!
Me: (in my head) Aren’t they dead when you eat them?
Me: (out loud) Oh. So you can’t eat them if they’re open?
Fish Boy: NO! They’re DEAD! Mussels are really finicky. Some of these guys are going to die by the time you eat dinner.
Me: (in my head) Won’t all of them be dead when I’m eating dinner?
Me: (out loud) Oh. Ok.

After that little exchange Fish Boy put some ice in the bag and didn’t even seal it up. Apparently if you close up the bags the mussels will suffocate and DIE. I really liked Fish Boy. He was super-helpful, even running and jumping over a flat bed dolly to get us a basket even though we were heading over there.

OS sauce smashed

Fish Boy totally made me paranoid about the mussels being DEAD so I hurried home fast to makes sure that they were all alive by the time I got them in the pot.

The mussels are cooked in a pretty typical fashion: pan fried in a little bit of oil then steamed with some sake. What makes them Momofuku is the sauce, the OS, which stands for Oriental Sauce.

There’s a funny little anecdote about OS in the book. Chang likes “appropriating the out-of-date and borderline-racist term Oriental whenever he gets the chance.” So there would be Chang, the only Asian in a kitchen full of non-Asians telling them to toss mussels in the Oriental Sauce. No one else was happy with it (the term being borderline racist and all) so they shortened it to OS.

mussels and a loaf of bread

The OS is made up of shiro, sherry vinegar, ginger, green onions, and garlic. It was pretty salty. I’m starting to think that my white miso has a higher salt quantity than Chang’s. I find everything I use the shrio miso in ends up being a touch saltier than expected.

The mussels were good: plump, juicy and so full of ocean goodness, they almost didn’t even need the OS. I’d cook this again, reducing the amount of miso in the sauce. I was wrong to be intimidated by cooking mussels. Cooking them wasn’t as crazy as I thought and the mussels came out awesome: sweet, umami packed bites of flavour.

all gone!

As a new seafood cook, I learned one important thing today: don’t buy seafood from T&T unless it’s swimming in one of the tanks and you’re absolutely sure that it’s alive.

empty shells