I have a big beef with fake-y Chinese food and weird ingredient substitutions. For instance, I have never had any success with Dan Dan Noodles using peanut butter. It always comes out gloopy. There is this one recipe in Joy that fails miserably. In my copy I have a note next to “Spicy Peanut Sesame Noodles” in thick blue indelible ink that states: “DO NOT TRY TO MAKE THIS AGAIN!”. Barefoot Contessa and Cook’s Illustrated recipes aren’t any better. Also, I never feel that spaghetti is an adequate substitute for Chinese egg noodles. I don’t know what it is exactly but Italian noodles just don’t have the same bounce as the Chinese kind.
Still, I am always looking for recipes that will give me that exotic hit, without a trip to Uwajimaya, the fantastic but somewhat out of the way Asian grocery here in Seattle. There’s nothing like inhaling steaming star anise scented broth, savoring the hot caramel notes of sauteed garlic and chillies or the salt and tang of fermented black beans in the middle of a busy week but often there isn’t time to swan around town, scavenging for ingredients. This recipe doesn’t call for anything esoteric. Ok, maybe you can’t easily find those bags of tangled fresh Chinese egg noodles in grocery stores outside of bigger towns and cities – I don’t really know – but all of the other ingredients are common in most big American grocery stores these days.
In this dish there is bacon to mimic the smoky barbecue pork flavor missing from plain old ground pork. Also Worcestershire, which I’ve seen in other American versions of Chinese dishes and I have to say, I find it a little disconcerting. I won’t let it get to me though. Actually, I’m happy that I haven’t tasted the original dish, because if I knew what this was really supposed be like, I might not prepare this pork and noodle dish again (I bet there’s a word for this arcane kind of snobbery). However, this recipe is so easy, fast and kid friendly, with that exotic whiff of China, it would be a shame not to make it from time to time.
Don’t let my photograph, which makes it look like brown glop on spaghetti, put you off. It tastes much better than the photograph would have you think, trust me. It would have been much more handsome served in individual bowls…maybe with thicker noodles. I’ll just have to play with it.
Five Spice Pork with Chinese Egg Noodles
- 3/4 cup peanuts
- 4-5 thick slices of bacon
- 3 medium cloves of garlic
- One 3″ piece of ginger
- 3/4 tsp red pepper flakes
- 1/3 cup canola oil
- 1 1/4 lbs ground pork
- 3/4 tsp five-spice powder
- 5 scallions, thinly sliced, white ends separated from green tops
- 3 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 1/2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 1/2 tbsp dark Asian sesame oil
- 3 tsp white vinegar
- 1 1/2 tsp sugar
- 1 1/4 lbs fresh Chinese egg noodles
- Bring a large pot of water to the boil and salt.
- Into a small bowl, combine the soy sauce, Worcestershire, sesame oil, vinegar, and sugar. Set aside.
- As the water is heating, start chopping. If you want this to be really fast, use your food processor.
- First roughly chop the nuts; if using the processor, pulse. Set aside.
- Then, cut the bacon into 1″ pieces and roughly chop the garlic and ginger. Put the bacon, garlic, ginger and red pepper flakes into the food processor and pulse until finely chopped.
- Over medium heat, place a 12″ heavy duty sauté pan add the contents of the food processor. Cook, mashing it apart (a metal potato masher like this one works really well for this), until the bacon renders its fat and browns. This should take 4 minutes.
- Add the ground pork, five spice powder and 1/4 tsp salt and raise the heat to medium high. Break up the pork with a wooden spoon (unless of course you have that potato masher – it works particularly well for ground pork) and cook until it loses its pink, raw color – this should take 3 minutes.
- At this point the water should be boiling, so add the noodles and cook following the package instructions.
- Add the white part of the scallions and the contents of the bowl from step 2 (soy sauce, Worcestershire, sesame oil, vinegar, and sugar.) Stir the contents of the pan and heat thoroughly.
- Drain the noodles and toss them into the pork mixture. Divide between individual bowls and sprinkle with scallion greens and peanuts.