Thursday, July 3, 2014

Chilled Buckwheat Noodles


Today's recipe was inspired by a memory not from my childhood, but from my young adulthood.  Many of you know that I once worked at a place called Eastern Accents in Ann Arbor, Michigan, a Chinese bakery and restaurant that also specialized in Korean food.  It was in the years between completing my undergraduate and leaving for Texas to pursue my graduate degree, and allow me to say with no hesitation that they were truly glorious.  The business has since closed, but the owners and I still stay in contact, and they often refer to the time that I was there as their "golden years."  Employees were happy and productive, the business thrived, and we loved and respected each other as a family, creating friendships and memories that will last a lifetime.

As a result of my time with them, brief in the grand scheme of everything but extremely concentrated in the ways it helped me to grow and evolve, Korean food is one of the first things that comes to mind when I am craving comfort.  It's still second to Filipino food, of course, but with its rich, bold flavors, alternating between salty, fresh, spicy, and spicier, it hits the spot for a very different part of my palate.

Back home in the Eastern Accents kitchen with Ben and Carol.

While we were best known for our bibim bop, pork buns, chiffon cakes, and bulgogi, I distinctly remember the reaction of guests when we would serve naengmyeon [neng-meeyun], chilled noodles in an icy beef broth.  Many guests would ask about it, wondering if it was any good with raised eyebrows, and to be honest, I was doubtful myself when it was first explained to me.  But for the regulars that were in the know, I saw the inner child within them light up as they ordered it.  So I tried it.

And from the first taste of the silky, salty, sweet, and slightly spicy broth and the noodles infused with all that flavor, rejuvenating in its coldness, contrasting wonderfully with the heat and humidity of the Summer (especially after spending the day in the kitchen next to ovens and over a wok), I understood.

So fast forward to today, I wanted to offer a recipe that might also offer that same sense of relief from the Summer heat, especially as we approach the 4th of July.  If I got your hopes up that this would be a recreation of that dish, I am sorry.  Still a cold noodles dish, it incorporates mostly fresh, raw vegetables and a thicker sauce, much more along the lines of a bibim naengmyeon.  It is simply my homage to those flavors and the delightful interplay of sweet, tart, salty, and spicy with a canary twist.

[cue genuinely nostalgic sigh]


Spicy Cold Buckwheat Noodles with Vegetables
Gluten-Free, Grain-Free, & Vegan

Active Prep Time:  15 minutes
Inactive Prep Time:  at least 30 minutes
Cooking Time:  5-10 minutes
Yield:  2 servings

1 tablespoon gluten-free tamari
2 tablespoons sambal (or to taste)
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
2 tablespoons coconut sugar
3 tablespoons fresh orange juice
2 teaspoons tamarind paste
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons finely minced onion
1 teaspoon finely minced ginger
1 teaspoon finely minced garlic
salt, to taste

buckwheat noodles (enough for 2)

thinly sliced cucumber
blanched julienned carrot
chopped cherry tomato
sliced chile pepper
sliced sweet onion
micro greens

nori gomasio, to garnish
extra sesame oil and sambal, to taste

What you'll need:  small mixing bowl, medium saucepan, sieve/colander, ice water bath (for noodles)

1.  Combine all dressing ingredients in small bowl and whisk together.  If sambal is not on hand, feel free to substitute sriracha or Goshujang (fermented Korean red chili paste).  Make it as spicy, or not spicy, as you like.  Refrigerate and allow flavors to come together for at least 30 minutes.
2.  Cook buckwheat noodles.  I used King Soba buckwheat ramen, but nearly any noodle will work here, whether it's soba, vermicelli, or angel hair.  Follow directions on packaging.
3.  Once finished  cooking, strain noodles and either plunge them into an ice bath or run cold water over the noodles.  This is to stop the cooking process and avoid turning this recipe from a chilled noodle dish to a chilled mush dish.  Strain again once cooled, toss lightly with toasted sesame oil, and transfer to refrigerator.
4.  Prepare vegetables.  The ones I have listed above are just suggestions - they are what I had on hand. Feel free to do the same.  Other great additions might include Asian pear, daikon radish (either raw or pickled), kim chee, and scallions (all of which I wish I had on hand at the time).
5.  Remove sauce and noodles from refrigerator and combine ingredients in bowl to suit your taste.  You can either toss the noodles in the sauce or you can pour it over the seasoned buckwheat noodles.  Garnish generously with nori gomasio and add more sesame oil and/or sambal to suit your taste.

Melting pot of bold, beautiful flavors.

Buckwheat ramen noodles cooked until just done.

Brrrrrrr! Its cold in here….

Seasonal, local mise en place.

The perfect sweet, fresh, spicy, salty, delicious bite.

I am so grateful for that time in my life - not only to the food and flavors it introduced into my consciousness, but to the people it brought into my life.  On this 4th of July, may you also find opportunities to celebrate the people and experiences that make you smile and bring you to a greater understanding of family and of love.

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Thank you so much for visiting The Canary Files. I hope you have enjoyed what you have read and seen. Your feedback is valuable to me and I read and reply to every single comment. So sincere thanks in advance for sharing not only your thoughts, but your time as well.

All the Best,
Jonathan

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