The Mother of One Pot Noodles.
“Look, if you ask to borrow my car for the weekend, I’ll give you my keys immediately, no questions asked,” said Andy.
“But if you’re asking if you can pass the driving test, then no, I say we have a lot of work to do.”
When I was retrenched from my first job in 2009, I was left with an abundance of time. So I thought, why not sit for my driver’s license? I’m not sure how I found Andy, this 30-something Asian guy in a red Mazda 3. I remember thinking he had the best job in the world - sitting in a car (probably written off as expense), bossing young kids around at $40 per hour, plus the examination fee.
2009 is a long time ago, but what I remember about him isn’t about driving (ok I lied, he crammed ‘signal, mirror, head check’ into my head), but little pearls of wisdom in life.
I know we don’t stop at the stop sign for 2 seconds, we don’t leave 30m clearance space between cars, and we don’t slow down at yellow lights, but we also do not deliver 90% of the stuff we promised during our job interview. So think of the driving test as a job interview. We know you’re not going to do it all the time, but we need to see that you can at least pretend to make an effort. Like a first date, yea?
We also used to talk about food during our driving lessons, no surprise there. Once I was raving about the spicy eggplant with minced pork at Pacific House, he straight up called his wife and asked her to make it for dinner.
I failed the test the first time, passed the second time.
Recently I’ve been trying to avoid instant noodles, and I’ve been making this nostalgic Taiwanese noodle dish - 麻油雞蛋麵線 (translates to sesame oil fried egg noodles) every time I need a snack.
It is heavily referencing 紅酒麵線 (red wine noodles), a dish that originated in Fujian (which is the closest Chinese province to Taiwan) and can also be found in Malaysia. The original dish uses chicken, mushroom and fermented red wine, but this is the simplified version.
A knob of ginger, thinly sliced into 4-5 pieces
a cup of water (stock is better, use bullion/cube if you have to, just a tiny bit)
a tsp of goji berries
a tbsp of cooking wine / sake / rice wine
1.5 tbsp of sesame oil
one serve of somen (the organic Hakubaku brand from supermarkets is pretty decent)
Soak goji berries with the cooking wine.
Add a tbsp of sesame oil into the pan on medium heat, fry the egg(s). You can flip them, I keep it sunny side up. Remove egg and set aside.
Fry the ginger until fragrant, slightly charred around the corner.
Add the water / stock, bring to boil.
Add the noodles, set timer to a minute.
After a minute, return the eggs and add the wine, saving the goji berries;
After another minute, drizzle another half tbsp of sesame oil and finish with the goji berries. If you have some leftover proteins, some shredded chicken or tofu, even better.
I don’t know how many of you are currently trying to impress a girl (or guy) from Taiwan or of Fuzhou descent, but this dish flexes so hard.
I wrote about how cooking pasta as a midnight dish separates the men from the boys, well, this dish separates the gentlemen from the men.
Remember those one-pot pasta dishes that went viral ages ago? Yea this is the mother of one-pot noodles, done in 2 minutes. Faster than Shin Ramyun.
Also, somen, so dapper.
Flex, flex the maturity of your pantry - cooking wine, high-quality sesame oil, and goji berry, which can only mean you’re a man of health and culture.
Everything is so simple, and so unapologetically Chinese. (Or Fujian, or Taiwanese … )
You know the old saying - the fastest way through a woman’s heart is through her mother’s stomach.
If you’re smart, you’d cook this dish the night her mother arrives from the airport.
A quick, simple supper to warm the heart, to welcome the wind but wash the dust away at the doorsteps.
She sees the sesame oil, ginger, and goji berry with the hint of cooking wine, the Chinese Pavlov’s dog of nostalgic winter comfort food.
She’s not thinking about the now, she’s thinking about the future, when her daughter is sick, when she’s cold, when she’s hungry. She’s thinking about the past, when she was sick, when she was cold, when she was hungry.
I mean, she’ll probably see through your show.
She probably knows you’re not going to do it all the time.
But she also sees that you can at least pretend to make an effort.