Braised Egg Noodles with Mushrooms

This is a wonderful vegetarian dish and I say that as an incorrigible meat eater. To me a great vegetarian dish is one that you eat and never notice that it’s vegetarian. And that’s not because I think that vegetarian dishes are in any way lacking. I think we should not approach any dish asking whether it has meat in it or not, but asking whether it is tasty or not. Unless of course we are vegetarian… Think of some of the most famous and most wonderful dishes in the world: Pizza Margherita, to my mind the most perfect of all possible of pizzas or ratatouille, which can be the mist delicious thing, whether hot or cold; the list of earth shatteringly great dishes that just happen to be vegetarian is endless. So, unfortunately is the list of dishes that seek to “replace” meat, but really make a mockery of it.

That’s my sermon for the day. I added a little pork belly to my noodles not because it was necessary, but because I had some left over and I am dreadfully loath to throw anything edible away. Before you read this, please remember that the first thing you have to do is soak the dried mushrooms. They take a while.

I have used Sau Tao egg noodles, which I believe are from Hong Kong. I like them because they don’t go soggy too fats and have a great springiness to them. I’m not quite sure why it says egg noodles in French on the packet. Maybe they have a direct supply to Tang Frères in Paris?

For the Meat (optional):
  • 150g pork belly or boneless chicken thigh
  • 1 Tbsp Chinese rice wine
  • 1 Tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1 heaped tbsp corn starch
  • white pepper

Cut the tough skin off the pork belly and slice the meat into thin slices. Marinate with the rice wine, soy sauce, corn starch and pepper and leave for 10 minues.

For the Mushrooms:
  • 5 dried shiitake mushrooms
  • 50g baby eryngii or shimeji mushrooms
  • 1 Tbsp sesame oil
  • 1½ tsp sugar
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce

Try and prise the stems off the dried mushroom and discard them. Pour 300ml boiling water over the caps and leave to rehydrate for at least one hour. Now before I say anything else; KEEP the mushroom soaking water!! Once the mushrooms have softened completely, pick them out of the water, squeeze any excess water out, but don’t kill the mushrooms and slice them into thin slices. Cut the eryngii in half lengthwise and add to the shiitake. Pour the sesame oil, soy and sugar over, stir and leave to marinade for about ten minutes.

For the Sauce:
  • 250ml mushroom soaking water
  • 2 Tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp oyster sauce

Mix all the ingredients together. You should have about 300ml in total. A little more is fine.

To finish the Noodles:
  • About 200g egg noodles (4 nests)
  • 1 Tbsp lard, duck fat or oil
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • 1 small thumb old ginger
  • ½ carrot
  • 80g spring onion, dark green part only
  • 1 heaped tsp corn starch plus water to dissolve
  • 1 Tbsp Chinese rice wine

Boil some water in a saucepan big enough to hold the noodles. Do not salt the water. Drop the noodles into the boiling water and use chopsticks to gently separate the strands. Once they have come loose and the water is boiling, drain the noodles in a colander, then run cold water through them to cool completely. Shake dry and reserve.

Peel and chop the garlic, peel the carrot and slice into thin rounds. Peel the ginger and cut it into slices, then cut the slices into matchsticks. Cut the dark green part of the spring onion into 5cm lengths. In a little bowl, mix the corn starch with about one tablespoon of water and stir to dissolve.

Heat the lard or oil in a wok. When it is smoking hot, fry the meat until nicely browned. You don’t need to clean the marinade off, just throw the meat plus marinade into the hot wok. To get a nicely browned meat, don’t move it about too much. Once all the meat is no longer looking raw, spread it in the wok and leave it to sear for three minutes. Now stir the meat one more time, spread and leave to fry for another two minutes. Remove from the wok and reserve.

Add a little more fat if needed and add the garlic to the hot oil. Stir and as soon as the garlic starts to take a little colour add in the ginger. Now pour the mushrooms and their marinade in and fry until the marinade has caramelised and the mushrooms are nicely browned. Add he noodles and stir to fry for about 1  minute. Add the meat and carrots and pour in the sauce. Bring to a boil and stir for 2 minutes. Push the noodles to one side and pour the starch slurry into the bubbling sauce. Quickly add the spring onion, pour in the one tablespoon of rice wine and stir to mix. Turn off the heat and slide onto a serving platter. Sprinkle with spring onion rounds and serve.

Shopping List

  • 200g egg noodles, softened in simmering water
  • 150g pork belly or boneless chicken thigh
  • 5 dried shiitake mushrooms
  • 50g baby eryngii or shimeji mushrooms
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • 1 small thumb old ginger, finely sliced
  • 80g spring onion, dark green part only
  • Chinese rice wine
  • light soya sauce
  • dark soy sauce
  • oyster sauce or mushroom sauce (vegetarian oyster sauce)
  • sesame oil
  • corn starch
  • sugar
  • white pepper
  • lard, duck fat or oil for frying

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