I love noodles. Seriously. I may actually prefer eating noodles to rice (and coming from a Chinese person, that’s saying something). That’s not to say I don’t like rice (I do), but give me a choice of noodles or rice and I will go for noodles. This will undoubtedly be the first of many, many blog posts that feature noodles – for which I make no apologies. Just seeing the Chinese character for noodles makes me happy – I have very fond memories of walking through the streets of Kowloon with a constant grin on my face because everywhere I went, I saw the character for noodles. In my student days, one of my friends came round to my house and was being nosey looking at what was in my food cupboards (like you do). Upon seeing the different types of (dried) noodles she commented: “You really ARE Chinese, aren’t you?.” I never realised that I gave any other impression..
Anyway, back to my love of noodles – I love how versatile they can be: From adding a textural crunch as a base to a stir-fry, to the soothing and healing properties when served with a broth. I like all forms of noodles – instant ramen, fresh (and dried) ho-fun, str-fry noodles, rice vermicelli, knife-shaved noodles, glass noodles.. So many forms and all very delicious! (I should point out that I currently have a BIG smile of my face from thinking of different types of noodles whilst typing out that last sentence). I remember how the Generation Game always used to have them attempting hand-pulled noodles (usually failing miserably). I love how Japan voted the Cup Noodle as the best invention of the Twentieth Century because of their love of the humble ramen noodle. Actually, I’d love to one day be able to visit the Instant Ramen Museum and customise my own in the Cup Noodle Factory.
Instant ramen noodles are something I grew up eating – My parents used to buy them by the box from the Chinese supermarkets because we’d all eat them so much. Many times, we would rustle up a bowl of instant noodles (with the broth) and it was a meal within itself. There were of course times we added ingredients to it – Vegetables, meat or sometimes an egg, but I generally found that adding ingredients detracted (thus ruined) the base simplicity and deliciousness of instant noodles, so why do it? It’s with this same bewilderment that I would often look at the picture of a bowl of noodles on the packaging where you’d see some noodles in broth, but there would be LOADS of “toppings” – sliced meats of various forms, veg like mange tout fanned out on top, perhaps a shiitake mushroom with a star shape carved out of the centre. It just made me think “WHY?!” Since then, I’ve realised that having such toppings could be beneficial (plus the fact that most of the noodles we got were Japanese so the dishes were especially decorative), but I still stand by my original view that instant noodles (and broth) don’t need adulterating. There are so many different variations that I love the fact that there are whole aisles dedicated to instant noodles of all kinds in Chinese supermarkets. I used to joke about being happy to eat Instant ramen every day and whilst I many not necessarily think that’s true now that I’m older, I still think I’d be happy eating it at least 6 times a week..
The first time I ever had Pho was one of those EUREKA! moments like a lightbulb went on in my head; I was in California with my sister and her 18 month-old son so whilst she was busy tending to him in between chowing down a Banh Mi, I had a beef pho. I can remember the moment clearly: Raw slithers of sliced beef were perched on top of the noodles, sliced so thin that the heat of the broth cooked the beef as it was ladled over, so the beef was VERY fresh. The broth itself was intensely rich with a hint of spice and salty tang to it plus the added beefiness from the cooked meat. The dish was served with a side of raw beansprouts, coriander, mint, sweet basil, sliced chilli and lime segments which my sister instructed me to add to the bowl of noodles and broth and season to my taste, so the (previously described) broth now had an added zing from the lime juice and a kick from the chilli. It was such a revelation to me; the flavours were so fresh and so different to what I was accustomed to when it came to noodles in broth, yet somehow still very familiar. I loved how something so very simple could be personalised and finished off at the table, and how the flavours could reinvigorate you so much. These days, I like going to Pho Mile in London for my pho fix (although my absolute favourite is Café East in Surrey Quays) as there still isn’t anywhere worth trying here in Birmingham yet.
There are so many noodle dishes that I enjoy – Whether they be stir-fried or in a broth of some sort. The dishes are generally simple and very easy to make, even easier to eat! If I want to make a quick dinner, there’s nothing simpler than cooking some noodles for me. I don’t think my love of noodles will ever diminish and I love the fact that I’m constantly discovering new noodle dishes to this day, from a Japanese soba noodle salad with sesame seeds or a Korean Japchae, or even the much bastardised Pad Thai. I can’t think of any other food that is so versatile and still so enjoyable. You can safely bet that I’ll be eating noodles again soon – In fact, I’ll be cooking noodles for dinner tonight 🙂