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Asian Noodles (by Simonds)

by: Nina Simonds

New York NY: Hearst Books/Morrow 1997, $21.00, Hardbound
ISBN: 0-688-13134-4

Reviewed by: Susan Asonovic
Summer Volume: 1997 Issue: 4(2) page(s): 10 and 16

Pasta? Been there, done that. Look to Asia now for the trendiest, creative and exciting pasta dishes, made from what we now call noodles (again) be they Danmain, Ganmain, Mi fen; or perhaps Soba, Sen mee, or Ban pho. The reknown and talented authority on Chinese food and foodways has again hit a home run with this lovely treatise titled Asian Noodles. America's interest in flur pastes has happily advanced far beyond spaghetti, mac and cheese, fifties era chow mein, or kugel. Ms. Simonds presents, in this beautifully photographed and styled collection, seventy-five of her favorite noodle dishes, doable and lovable at first slurp.

We know that the Asian Food Pyramid is a supremely healthy way to eat, and that Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Thai, and Korean dishes are inreently low-fat without cheese; the flavorful oils healthier than butter and cream. Ms. Simonds points out that while pasta is basically flour, eggs, and water, Asian pasta's are more varied using buckwheat, mung bean, sweet potato, or rice staches.

Esopecially helpful are the photos of noodles as you might purchase them be they cellophane, Chinese egg, Chinese flat, round, spring roll wrappers, etc.; and a chart detailing uses, and substitutes is useful, as well. Somehow, each cuisine retains its identity, instead of melding into a watered down pan-Asian blur.

The recipes are largely quick, and non-demanding stir-fries and simmers. Grilling and quickly made sauces fir easily into our erratic life-styles. Noodle soups go far beyond Campbell's or your Mom's chicken noodle; most are quick. The Shrimp and Pea Shoot Soup is a delicious and beautiful example. Ms. Simonds' clear instructions detail techniques which too often we don't have a clue about in other texts (how to cut and trim lemongrass, for example). The recipes are very accessible and often use Western ingredients in Asian modes; additionally, we are encouraged to improvise and experiment.

The book's only flaw is a strangely unappealing picture of someone's hands holding very oily noodles; but you might begin with a virtually greaseless Shrimp Lo-mein then advance to home-made 'bird's nest' noodles. Lemon Broccoli Noodles with Chinese broccoli and wide flat wheat noodles was delicious without the added tuirkey, and the easy Chinese Peanut Dressing, the latter included in an excellent, succinct basic sauces and dips chapter.

Undoubtedly, Asian Noodles will renew the Roman versus Marco Polo debate on noodle origins, but who cares? We love ths collection that expands our culinary horizons and show us how to fit the world of sian noodles into daily life, as is done by millions. Shouldn't you? Ms. Simonds advises that the dish she craves when feeling a cold or flu coming on is a big bowl of noodles topped with spinach and tender pieces of beef infused with garlic, ginger, anise, and cinnamon. She goes on to say that the flavor gets better and better every time it is reheated. That very recipe, rewritten in Flaovr and Fortune style follows.

Note: This review appeared in the hardcopy column titled: A Bookshelf of Reviews.
Cinnamon Beef Noodles
1 teaspoon corn oil
6 scallions, cut into one and a half inch sections, then smashed with the flat side of a cleaver or knife
6 cloves garlic, peeled, smashed as were the scalions, then thinly sliced
6 slices ginger, likewise smashed
1 and 1/2 teaspoons hot chili paste
2 sticks cinnamon
1 teaspoon anise seed
1/2 cup soy sauce
2 pounds beef chuck, trimmed of all fat and gristle, then cut into one and a half inch cubes
10 ounces spinach, trimmed, rinsed, and drained
1/2 pound flat Chinese wheat flour noodles, cooked until tender, and rinsed with warm water
3 Tablespoons minced scallions
1. Heat a large pot over medium-high heat, then add oil and heat 30 seconds more.
2. Add scallion sections, garlic, ginger, and stir-fry until fragrant, about fifteen seconds.
3. Add eight and a half cups of water, soy sauce, and beef cubes and bring to the boil, reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for one and a half hours.
4. Uncover, remove ginger and cinnamon sticks and discard them.
5. Add spinach and return to the boil. Immediately thereafter, divide the noodles into six individual bowls and ladle the meat, spinach and broth over them. Sprinkle with the minced scallions, and serve.

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