Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Sea-Flavor Noodles with Porcini

Regular readers know I have a thing for Fuchsia Dunlop (even if I have to look up Fuchsia each time I need to spell it). More to the point: I like Sichuan, and Dunlop's cookbook Land of Plenty is a prized resource on this front.

Not too long ago I would have scoffed at the idea of cooking Sichuan at home, but over time I've collected a small arsenal of Chinese pastes, oils, and other condiments, which is half the battle. Last month I made Fish-Fragrant Geoduck with Morels and in April Dry-fried Chicken with Fiddleheads.

This will probably be my last fling with spring porcini this year. Nearly constant mushroom hunting and cookery has put a strain on the household here at FOTL headquarters and it's time to start thinking about summer berries. Plus, I've been told to paint the house before our little piece of Appalachia sinks any deeper into the mire.

Sea-Flavor Noodles with Porcini is an adaptation of Dunlop's own adaptation of Mr. Xie's Sea-Flavor Noodles, taken from a noodle house near Sichuan University in Chengdu. I substituted shrimp paste (which I had on hand) for dried shrimp (which I didn't) and added fresh shrimp as well. For the mushrooms I used dried porcini in place of dried Chinese fungi as well as fresh porcini in place of button mushrooms. Dried matsutake would be another good choice, or dried shiitake.

I find it interesting that spring porcini has not found it's way into the cuisine of West Coast Asian restaurants. Maybe it's too expensive. Or maybe it just isn't considered authentic enough (there's that ridiculous word again). But the fact is, spring porcini lends itself quite well to Asian-style foods. It has a firm texture that one could almost call crunchy, and its mild flavor goes with almost anything—in fact, spring porcini has a tendency to take on the flavors of whatever it's cooked with, making it a great mushroom for tossing in the wok with a bunch of aromatic ingredients.

The other night I had dinner at Mashiko, the only sustainable sushi parlor in Seattle, with my friend Casson Trenor, author of Sustainable Sushi: A Guide to Saving the Oceans One Bite at a Time. Mashiko is amazing on so many levels I just don't know where to start, but suffice to say one can eat VERY well without raping the sea. Chef Hajime (@sushiwhore on Twitter) is an artist who cares about the resource. We brought him some porcini from a foraging trip the previous day and Hajime used the mushrooms along with scallops, clams, and oysters to make an intensely rich hot dish served in an enormous oyster shell. He pronounced the porcini "Good." Yes indeedy!

Here's the Sea-Flavor Noodles with Porcini recipe:

1 oz dried porcini
3 tbsp peanut oil
1/2 lb pork loin, thinly sliced
1/2 lb porcini, chopped
2 tbsp Chinese cooking wine (Shaoxing)
6 oz bamboo shoots
1 tsp shrimp paste
1 tbsp chili paste
1 quart chicken stock
1/2 lb shrimp
12 oz fresh Chinese noodles
3 scallions, minus white bulbs, chopped

1. Reconstitute dried mushrooms in a bowl with a cup of warm water. Set aside for 30 minutes. When mushrooms have reconstituted, wring out excess water back into bowl, reserving mushroom water for later.

2. Heat oil in wok or deep saute pan over high flame. Add sliced pork loin and cook for a few minutes until meat loses its color. Add fresh and reconstituted porcini and stir-fry another couple minutes. Splash with Shaoxing wine, stirring, and add bamboo shoots. Stir-fry another minute.

3. Add shrimp paste and chili paste, stirring well, then stock and reserved mushroom water. Bring to boil, then reduce heat and simmer for an hour until pork is tender.

4. When meat is ready, season soup with salt and pepper to taste. Add shrimp and allow to cook for a couple minutes before serving. Boil noodles in separate pot or simply add to bowls and ladle over hot soup. Garnish with scallions.


Lazaro Cooks said...

Wonderful amalgamation of flavors in the dish. Amazing photo as well.


Anonymous said...

I am not worthy... Your knowledge of local foraging is something I covet...though I don't think I'm willing to spend the time on accruing my own knowledge base, so I thank you for sharing your knowledge with the world, and myself of course! Good luck with the paint job.

-A Faithful Follower:)

Tom F said...

Mashiko's is one of the best things about living in West Seattle.

Jessica said...

Beautiful photography! I love Sichuan...very much, however I don't think I'm quite brave enough to venture a try at least not yet!

Langdon Cook said...

Lazaro - Lots of flavors here for sure. Be warned: A little shrimp paste goes a long way.

Donata - I'm only too happy to share. Meanwhile, the sanding phase is almost done. I'm ready to lose the respirator!

Tom - I bet Mashiko's a backyard regular for your team. They're fighting the good fight for sustainable seafood.

Jessica - I was of the same opinion until I made my first Kung Pao and realized Sichuan cookery is not sorcery. I say give it a try!

jeanniephoenix said...

Two days into your blog, and I have yet to get bored! I've learned so much already, as someone who's entering her third year of living in the northwest.

I had a question about this recipe: you mention "chilli paste". Are you talking about something like sambal, or something more Chinese and condiment-y like Lao Gan Ma's chilli and black bean sauce? Thanks!

Langdon Cook said...

JeanniePhoenix - Welcome aboard! Looking back at the recipe in question, I see that Dunlop didn't use any chili paste. For my adaptation, try using "douban" if you can find it--Sichuanese chili bean paste made with broad beans, sometimes referred to as Pixian paste for the city where it's most famously made. You could also try Sambal olek for a slightly sweeter version.