Chinese/Lunar New Year Dinner: Just Make These Hot or Cold Sesame Noodles


If you’re wondering how the French cooking class turned out, see the post before this one; I added a few pics from the class so you could be part of it all.  Cook that meal!! It was such a fun day. Many thanks to a great group of students.   Come back soon.

A tip-top Asian cook, I’m not. Dave has always been the wokker in our kitchen. (Is “wokker” a word? I fear not. Maybe it’s “wok man?”)  But in recent years, as his work load keeps increasing, he often defers to me for a little blast from China, Viet Nam, Thailand, etc., or a reasonable melange from a couple different lovely Eastern cuisines.  He and daughter Emily always insist they must go out for a Chinese lunch alone because “Mom doesn’t like Chinese food.”  (Whatever the reason, daughters and dads should have lunch alone.)  There’s nothing farther from the truth.  I just don’t like greasy Chinese food or huge bowlfuls of deep-fried whatever the nugget it is covered in slimy-sweet orange sauce.  Now I’ve really got your tastebuds going, right? I’d just rather make it in my own kitchen unless I’m near a fabulous restaurant I’m sure of.  (In Colorado Springs, I’ve been to really few, but am partial to Saigon Cafe downtown or Bhan Thai on Centennial.)


If I have to say what my favorite Asian dishes are, I’d have to go with noodles or soup… or soup with noodles even.  The comforting heat and fresh herby fragrance wafting up from the plate make me swoon.  This combo noodle-chicken-vegetable dish arrived on our table after I’d seen a very popular, though couple-year old BON APPÉTIT recipe for Sesame Noodles with Chili Oil and Scallions and was dreaming about something scrumptious for Chinese New Year Dinner.  At first I didn’t pay close attention to the amounts of Szechuan pepper plus crushed red pepper, nor did I (silly girl) read the COMMENTS, which indicated a “too much vinegar” feeling. (Not at all for us.)  No tears here, I loved the idea, knew we couldn’t stomach all that heat once I read the recipe thoroughly, and wanted a much more rounded dish at any rate.  Here’s what I came up with…  We ate it warm for dinner, and then ate off it for a couple of days cold. You could have very happy lunches. Heaven.  (above: Rosie and Tucker hoping  for a piece of chicken) Continue reading

Sesame-Shrimp Noodles with Fresh Vegetable Toppings or Lilacs in the Rain

A cool and rainy spring in Saint Paul keeps me cooking indoors.  Typically I’d be raking together a salad while Dave grilled chicken or salmon.  Instead, just back from our happy daughter Emily’s graduation from seminary at Princeton, I’m slaving over a hot stove.  Well,  not really.

Here is Emily with her proud parents.  We sang in the choir! Go, Emily!

I will say that once I decided to make and blog some Asian noodles, they were everywhere I looked online.  Like this version from FOOD AND WINE.   I ignored all that and forged ahead.  Hmph; great minds think alike, etc.

If you’re looking for something luscious, filling, and healthy for dinner with plenty leftover for a cold lunch or tomorrow’s dinner, this is your meal.   The short story is that you cook up some noodles with snow peas, asparagus, and shrimp.  You stir in all kinds of things to make it taste good, and let your family or guests choose their toppings — a variety of chopped vegetables, sesame seeds, lime and nuts– at the table.

OR:  Add just the vegetables and “sauce” ingredients (skip the shrimp), along with the peanut topping, and you have a great side for meats you might be grilling for Memorial Day.  I picture this with  salmon, pork chops, or chicken, perhaps those that have been lolling around in an Asian marinade before grilling.

Try this photo recipe:  (Ingredients are in bold type.)

sesame-shrimp noodles with fresh vegetable toppings

4 servings
8 Weight Watcher’s Plus Points per serving

Place 2 tablespoons sesame seeds in a small skillet over low heat and toast, stirring occasionally, for several minutes until light brown.  Remove from heat; pour into a small bowl and place on table.  Chop 1/4 cup plain peanuts, scoop into another small bowl, and place on table.

Pour 2 tablespoons canola oil into the skillet over low heat and add 1 tablespoon each minced ginger and garlic.  Cook a minute or two or just until garlic begins to color.  Remove from heat and set aside.

Bring 5-6 quarts of salted and peppered water to boil for the pasta.  While it heats, chop 1/2 cup each bok choy, fresh cilantro, scallions (green onions), and cucumber.  Chop all of one red bell pepper.  Cut a lime into wedges.   Place the vegetables and the lime wedges side by side in a large bowl or in separate small bowls and put them on the table by the sesame seeds and peanuts.

To the by now boiling water, add one pound whole wheat linguine (I like Whole Foods 365 brand best) and cook for about 7 minutes.   Stir in 3/4 pound (12 ounces) fresh peeled and deveined shrimp, a cup each of stringed+ fresh snow peas and chopped fresh asparagus and cook for 2-3 minutes until shrimp is firm and pink and noodles are nearly tender.

  Drain pasta, shrimp, asparagus and peas.  Pour back into the pot and, while hot, stir in garlic-ginger oil,  a generous pinch of crushed red pepper, 1/4 teaspoon each kosher salt and fresh ground pepper, 1/4 cup  soy sauce and 1  tablespoon + 1 teaspoon sesame oil, 1 teaspoon of Sriracha,  and the juice of one lime.   Taste and adjust seasonings, adding more Sriracha, soy sauce, sesame oil, or lime, if needed. Serve warm, at room temperature, or cold in shallow pasta bowls; pass fresh vegetables, extra lime slices, soy sauce, and chopped peanuts so that guests can add what they’d like at the table.

Cook’s Notes: 

+Destringing snow peas  If you don’t destring your snow peas, you’ll be flossing (without meaning to) during dinner. 

If you have a vegan or vegetarian in your group, cook the shrimp separately and place it in a separate bowl on the table.  You could add sauteed tofu, if desired, or 2 -3 tablespoons peanut butter to the soy sauce mixture.

If you have leftover cooked chicken, you can add sliced chicken with the garlic-ginger oil instead of cooking shrimp with the noodles.

Vegetables are very interchangeable; please add what you have or you like.  For instance, julienned carrots could be used instead of asparagus or sliced celery in place of the snow peas.  

My lilac are in bloom–finally.  But it’s too cold and rainy to go enjoy them.  Hopefully tomorrow!

Sing a new song,

50 Women Game-Changers in Food – #41 – Elizabeth Andoh – Udon Soup with Vegetables and Tofu

I’m always on the lookout for beautiful, delicious food that is also healthy.  To say nothing of the delight in making a meal that didn’t empty the wallet at the check-out.  Enter this sweet and toothsome goodie, “Udon Soup with Vegetables and Tofu,” that’s just as far away from your capital T-typical noodle soup as it can get without falling off the edge of the comparison.   Add vegetables, lovingly cut PREE-cisely teensy of course,  a nice slew of tofu, and you’re eating a recipe from Elizabeth Andoh, who is number forty-one on Gourmet Live’s list of 50 Women Game-Changers.

Living in Japan for for decades,  Elizabeth Andoh attended Yanagihara Kinsaryu School of Traditional Japanese Cuisine (Tokyo), wrote several Japanese cookbooks (scroll down for list), and for years served as Gourmet magazine’s Japanese food writer.  She also teaches cooking classes in Tokyo if you’re ever out that way.   Most recently, Andoh published Kibo: (“Brimming with Hope)  Recipes and Stories
from Japan’s Tohoku…


This cookbook is a heartfelt and fascinating tribute to the food, traditions, and courage of the people of Japan’s Tohoku region before and after the devastation of the earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011. It features traditional recipes such as Miso-Seared Scallops, Pinched-Noodle Soup with Pork, Salmon-Stuffed Kelp Rolls, and basics like rice, stocks, and sauces, along with sake pairings and essays on Japan in recovery from journalists and food writers.

courtesy amazon

If you’d like to give the Udon Soup a whirl, it’s yum, but I’ll give a few heads’ ups:

1.  Read the recipe all the way through so you have a sense of the order in which the steps take place.   For instance, you’ll need 30-60 minutes to soak shiitakés for the broth before you really begin.
2.  Plan on going to the Asian market or substituting some ingredients.  
3.  While it looks quick, and doesn’t really take long, the chopping of the ingredients
is all to matchstick-size or shredded in the case of the mushrooms.  Plan your time accordingly.
4.  If you taste the soup before adding the greens and grated ginger, you’ll think it needs seasoning.  The fresh ginger, however, is the kicker here.  Warm and giving, it folds the whole bowl together with its pungent heat.  
5.  My soup had little broth and I added a bit of vegetable broth toward the end of the cooking.

 Here’s how:

udon soup with vegetables and tofu

   courtesy New Asian Cuisine and Andoh’s book  KANSHA: Celebrating Japan’s Vegan and Vegetarian Tradition

serves 4
3 or 4 large dried shiitaké mushrooms
3 cups water I thought there was too little broth; you could increase the water here.
11/2 ounces daikon tops, kale, or other leafy greens, loosely tied in a bundle with kitchen twine
3 sheets thin fried tōfu (page 282)
4 ounces fresh mushrooms, preferably maitaké (page 272), trimmed and hand shredded into 1/2-inch lengths
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon saké  Had no sakéUsed white wine.
1 slender carrot, about 2 ounces, scraped and cut into matchsticks
2 ounces daikon, scraped and cut into matchsticks
1 tablespoon mirin
1 tablespoon light-colored soy sauce
2 sheets hoshi yuba, softened (page 261) and coarsely shredded, or 1/4 cup finely broken hoshi yuba (1/4-inch bits)  I could not find this and didn’t add it.
11/2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons cold water
Cooked udon noodles, for serving hot (page 55) Easy to find, but you could sub whole wheat linguine.
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

Extract a stock from the dried shiitaké mushrooms: Break off the stems and set them aside for making stock on another occasion. Here you are using only the dried shii¬také caps to make a stock (and to cook later with the other vegetables). Soak the caps in the water in a bowl for at least 30 minutes and preferably for 1 hour or more. Remove the caps from the water and rinse them to remove any gritty material, then squeeze gently. Pour the soaking water through a fine-mesh strainer (or disposable coffee filter) into a clean bowl to remove unwanted bits that may have settled at the bottom of the bowl. Set the stock aside. Slice the dried shiitake caps into very narrow strips.

Bring a small saucepan filled with water to a boil. Blanch the bundle of leafy greens for 30 seconds, or until they wilt and turn a vivid green. With long chopsticks or tongs pull them from the pot and set aside. Blanch the tōfu slices in the same pot for 1 minute, or until oil swirls on the water’s surface. Drain, cut each slice lengthwise in half, and then cut each half crosswise into short, narrow strips. Blot away excess oil from the strips. When the greens are cool enough to handle, squeeze out excess moisture, chop coarsely, and set aside.

Heat a wok or a large, heavy skillet over high heat. Toss in the tōfu and allow the pieces to sear for a moment until lightly browned at the edges. Add the fresh mushrooms, then the slivers of softened dried shiitaké and stir-fry for about 1 minute, or until any excess liquid has evaporated and the mushrooms are aromatic. Sprinkle with the sugar and continue to stir-fry for 30 seconds longer. Add the saké and stir-fry until the pan is dry.

Add the stock (it will sizzle and sputter a bit, so be careful) and lower the heat to maintain a steady but not-too-vigorous simmer. Skim away the first large cloud of froth that appears with a fine-mesh skimmer. More froth will appear (this is normal when using shiitaké mushroom stock) as you continue to simmer. Cook for 5 or 6 minutes, then skim away the froth again.

Add the carrot and daikon, season the soup with the mirin and light-colored soy sauce, and continue to sim¬mer for 2 or 3 minutes, or until the vegetables are firm but tender and the flavors are melded.
Add the yuba and stir to distribute, and then add the soy sauce. In a small bowl, stir together the cornstarch and cold water. Add the mixture to the pan, raise the heat to high, and stir until thickened and glossy. The final soup will have the consistency of a thin sauce.

Divide the noodles among 4 warmed bowls, then divide the soup evenly among the bowls. Top each serving with some of the chopped greens and a small mound of ginger. Serve immediately.

Read Amy Sherman’s 2010 interview on Epicurious with Elizabeth Andoh

Check out the list of lovely cookbooks available from Elizabeth Andoh


Want to read more Elizabeth Andoh recipes?  Check out the great blogs below:

Val – More Than Burnt Toast, Taryn – Have Kitchen Will Feed, Susan – The Spice Garden
Heather – girlichef, Miranda – Mangoes and Chutney, Amrita – Beetles Kitchen Escapades
Mary – One Perfect Bite, Sue – The View from Great Island, Barbara – Movable Feasts
Linda A – There and Back Again, Nancy – Picadillo, Mireya – My Healthy Eating Habits
Veronica – My Catholic Kitchen, Annie – Most Lovely Things, Jeanette – Healthy Living
Claudia – Journey of an Italian Cook, Alyce – More Time at the Table
Kathy – Bakeaway with Me, Martha – Simple Nourished Living, Jill – Saucy Cooks

If you liked Udon Soup with Vegetables and Tofu, you might like:

Green Onion Pancakes

Sing a new song, make a new soup!

Chinese "BBQ" Pork, Five Heap Noodles, and Wine-Explosion Soup for Chinese New Year

Set your table before you begin cooking.

While I missed blogging Barbara Tropp a couple of weeks ago for “50 Women Game-Changers in Food” from Gourmet Live, it didn’t stop me from making some of her incredible food in honor of a good friend’s birthday and Chinese New Year.

I started out by spending a bit of cozy time with one of Barbara’s books, The Modern Art of Chinese Cooking, just to see what I thought I’d like to make.  The choices were myriad and luscious… but I couldn’t make all of them.  I did, however, want to keep reading forever; she wrote beautifully.  I decided on three separate dishes:  one a soup for a starter and the other two as a main course that could be eaten together, but that would also provide some great leftovers.  HA!  There were hardly any leftovers.  Do make extra pork; it’s a perfect cold snack.

Here’s the menu:

Soup:  Wine-Explosion Vegetable Chowder (page 452)–a filling soup silky strands of egg whites
Meat:  Northern-Style Chinese Roast Pork (page 205)–requires a day’s marinating, but worth it.
Noodles:  Five Heap Noodles (p 361)–I changed this up, but used the basic idea.

If you’re not familiar with Barbara Tropp, take a little detour and read this.  Sadly, the world lost a top-flight Chinese scholar and chef way too early in life. Those who cook her recipes continue to share and pass on a bit of the knowledge of a cuisine to which she was forever lovingly enthusiastic and dedicated.  The patience of tone and inventive spirit in Barbara Tropp’s writing are unmatched and well worth the purchase of her books, the other of which is China Moon Cookbook.

Not having the time to blog the entire meal, I chose to write about the velvety and intriguing soup.  It’s the easiest to make and perhaps the most versatile.  I do encourage you to look up the pork and noodle recipes; the pork was so very fun and was unlike any I’d ever cooked. Cook’s Note:  In the pork recipe link, the oven temperatures are Celsius.   Here are some photos of the cooking pork and my noodle toppings:

Recipe called for hanging the pork from “S” hooks; I chose to use a rack over a rimmed baking sheet with water.  Sliced thinly, it can be served hot, at room temperature, or cold.

The noodles (first photo) had a light sauce stirred in a couple of hours before the meal, and then were served with variety of toppings at the table (see below), as well as extra sauce–a kind of DIY-Asian-Noodle Salad.  Barbara’s Five Heap Noodles are served at the center of a large platter/bowl, with the heaps dotting the edges of the serving  platter.

Cilantro, cucumber, radishes, grated and sliced carrots, steamed chopped green beans and asparagus–I chose my own vegetables.

Wine-Explosion Vegetable Chowder–rewritten a bit for my use

3/4 -1# fresh tomatoes, peeled and chopped, retaining liquid
7 large white mushrooms, cleaned well and sliced very thinly (keep stems)
2 ounces (1/2 cup) fresh green beans (or sugar snaps) sliced thinly on the diagonal into 1 1/4″ 
2 T peanut oil
2T sherry
5 1/2 cups chicken stock*
15 oz can creamed corn
4T cornstarch dissolved in 6T cold chicken stock
1 large egg white (I misread this and used a whole egg; it was delicious)
sugar and salt (yes, you might need them both)
2 oz good, sweet and smokey ham, coarsely minced

I had all of the soup ingredients prepped and in the frig that morning. 
*Including Chinese chicken stock I made in an hour from rotisserie chicken, ginger, onions, and pepper.

Making the soup:  Read everything well before starting!!

About 15 minutes before serving, assemble all of the ingredients within easy reach of the stovetop, and put individual soup bowls in a low oven to warm.

This is good practice for all Asian cooking.  Have everything cut, ready to go, and plates/bowls warmed or set on table. 

Heat a heavy non-aluminum stockpot over medium-high heat until hot enough to evaporate a bead of water on contact.  Add the oil, swirl to glaze the bottom of the pot, then heat until a bead of wine added to the the pot “explodes” in a sizzle.  Add the wine, allow only 1 second for it to explode in a fragrant hiss, then immediately add stock to capture the wine essence.  Bring to a boil, add tomatoes, mushrooms, and corn. Cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly, until mixture returns to a boil.  Do not increase the heat or stop stirring; it can burn. Reduce heat to maintain a steady simmer and add vegetables (beans.)  Simmer about 2-3 minutes for snow peasor 4 minutes for beans, stirring constantly until the vegetable is cooked but quite crisp.  It will cook more while you serve.

Taste the soup and add salt or sugar. (Store-bought tomatoes may need a bit of sugar or soup will be flat…”do not hesitate” to add it.)  Reduce the heat to low.  Stir the cornstarch mixture to recombine, then add it to the pot in a steady stream, stirring slowly for about 2 minutes until soup turns glossy and thick.  (This will be very obvious.)  Turn off heat.

Using a fork or chop sticks, beat the egg white with quick, light strokes just to break the gel.  It will froth a bit, but do not beat to a foam.  Holding it about 6 inches above the surface of the soup, add the egg white in a very thin, steady stream.  Stir gently once midway, and again when finished to bring the lacy threads to the surface.

Serve immediately, garnishing each bowl with a sprinkling of ham.  Or cover and serve the soup 1-4 hours later, when vegetables are no longer crisp, but the soup is deeper in flavor.

Leftovers keep well for a 4-5 days, refrigerated, or may be frozen.  Reheat in a heavy pot over medium heat, stirring frequently.

Cook’s Note:  With just a few variations (vegetable stock, no ham or egg), this makes a lovely and satisfying vegan soup.  As the noodles are totally vegan, if you put the two together, you’ll have a great vegetable meal. I am unable to find a link for Barbara’s noodles, but will continue to try to find one. I made Whole Foods 365 whole wheat linguine (instead of using Asian noodles) and made Barbara’s Five Heap sauce-with a bit of a twist- out of:  1T crushed sesame seeds,1T sesame oil,  2T peanut oil heated with  chopped green onions, crushed red peppers and ginger, 2T water, 2T soy sauce, 2T rice vinegar, 1/4 t chili oil.  After adding the vegetables, I added toasted sesame seeds as garnish.  We liked the extra sauce at the table.

Loving kitchen helpers..

Two Dog Kitchen and Around the ‘Hood

Been a wee bit chilly around here….I’ve been making lots of soup and long-simmering dishes.  You’ll hear about some of them soon.

Snuggle time in St. Paul


Upcoming… Alyce’s Lamb Shanks on Mashed Rutabaga 

Also upcoming this Friday:  Sullivan’s Island Shrimp Bog 


 If you liked this, you might like:

  Basil Chicken Fried Rice

 Ham Fried Rice

Tofu Stir Fry

 Sing a new song,

Chicken and Noodles FAST! or I Finally Got my Snow Day

How quickly can you say Chicken and Noodles?
A not-so-freaky Spring storm hit St. Paul Wednesday, snarling traffic and causing 250 accidents in the metro area.  Which makes me wonder why we all think we  MUST get to work no matter the weather.  Even when the chances of our becoming harmed in the process rise dramatically.   I wonder how much difference it made once folks braved the weather, the roads, and the other drivers.  Especially as the other drivers included guys like one whose semi jack-knived on the interstate and stopped traffic for a good long while in the ice and snow.   At the end of the day, a friend stopped by to drop off a bedside table, mirror and lamp.  Luckily I had shoveled (and shoveled.)  She said it took her and hour and a half to get to work and then none of her appointments showed anyway.
Male downy woodpecker eats fast.  The female eats here, too.  Not at the same time.
When we weren’t “protected” by steel, glass and plastic (fueled by flammable liquids), did we decide we simply had to venture out in the elements when God had definitely decreed a day indoors by the fire making a pot of soup and reading?  Did our great-grandparents decide to walk to town in the midst of blizzards?  (“I’m sure I can get there; I need to mail that letter today so it gets there by next month.”)
Birds were smart.  They went from the tree to the feeder and back.  Period.
I can’t see it.  Life’s just too precious and yet I’d be called a wimp if I called in snow.  I watched Dave call a cab, drag his suitcase through the mire and head off to the airport.  My darling got on a plane in that mess, albeit hours later.  I guess he enjoyed the time in the Minneapolis airport; at least it’s the nicest (in my opinion) one in the country.   The dogs and I stayed snug.
Temp furniture bought for a song.  Ours will arrive in two months after the snow melts.  Argh.
 The south side of my house faces a fairly busy street (the price of being close to shops and restaurants), so I was able to watch the slip and slide show all day long.  These people couldn’t see and they were driving.  It got no better as time wore on.  No plow came and the realization that the plow was waiting for the snow to stop (he knew more than I did as I shoved a couple of times) let me know I was staying home.  Good thing, too, because when the plow did arrive, it laid in a pile of icebergs several feet high at the bottom of my driveway.  Someone then parked in front of it, thinking there was a space on the street.  You know how parking in the snow is.  I could walk out if I felt like it, which I didn’t, but my car was going nowhere.  Lenten study at church would have to wait ’til next week.
To shorten the story, it took  more than 24 hours and a young man with two shovels and an ice pick an hour and a half of work (after I shoveled three hours/can you say sore?) to free up access to the street.  Lesson learned:  don’t park your car in your drive or garage before a snow storm.  You won’t be able to GET OUT afterward. 
Luckily, I had something hot to keep me company.  I had to cook it, though.
Cook’s Note:  This is not a long afternoon’s chicken noodle soup; it cooks in about 30 minutes.  Still, it’s lovely, warming and you didn’t have to spend the afternoon in from the snow to get it done.
Easy and Fast Chicken and Noodles serves 2-3; easily doubles
1T each olive oil and butter
3 pieces of chicken (1 breast, 1 leg and 1 thigh)
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 stalks celery,  chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced (optional)
2 large carrots, peeled and cut up
1/3 c fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 tsp each thyme and rosemary (you could sub sage or poultry seasoning)
3 cups chicken stock or water
6 oz frozen egg noodles
1/2 c frozen peas 
  1. In a 3-4 qt heavy saucepan or small stockpot, heat oil and butter over medium-high heat and add chicken that you’ve salted and peppered well.  Add vegetables, herbs, and spices.  Let brown well 5-7 minutes; turn, stir, and let brown another 5 minutes.
  2. Add stock.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer, covered, over low heat about 30 minutes.
  3. Meantime, follow package directions and cook 6 oz frozen egg noodles in a separate pot for 20 minutes, adding frozen peas last 3 minutes.
  4. Strain noodles and peas; add to chicken mixture.  Taste and adjust seasonings.  Serve hot.  For a more chicken and dumplings feel, add 1/2 cup milk to the pot when you add the noodles and peas. 

I’m reading…  Books on Minnesota (duh), The Last Week: What the Gospels Really Teach About Jesus’s Final Days in Jerusalem by Marcus J. Borg and John Dominic Crossan, Take This Bread: A Radical Conversion by Sara Miles, Goat Song: A Seasonal Life, A Short History of Herding, and the Art of Making Cheese by Brad Kessler.  I just bought Home Cheese Making: Recipes for 75 Delicious Cheeses by Rikki Carroll and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon but I haven’t started them.  I’ve promised my Colorado Springs book club I’d read THE CURIOUS INCIDENT…by next Wed.   Time to get going.  By the way, Sara Miles book is life-changing and GOAT SONG is one of the most lovingly-written books of the decade.  Where did he learn to write like that?

On Minnesota Public Radio this morning:  We would need $21 million to feed the hungry in Minnesota; that would be for 8 billion meals. 

Sing a new song,