I am sitting in the kitchen of a good friend of mine. She is originally from the Caribbean (so you know, her seasoning is always right) and has lived in Sweden for decades.
We write together. When we don’t write together, we cook together, or we eat together.
The table was laid with tapas style food. There were little meatballs (of course my friend modified all known recipes for meatballs), salad, olives and noodles.
Now, my friend is really high maintenance in all aspects of her life. Just to give you a flavour, she ordered a hand-painted silk dress from an artist in Ireland; she saw the dress in the ‘spend it’ section of the Financial Times.
She still had the humble noodle on her table.
You know why?
Because noodles are quick and easy to cook; they are also versatile and tasty.
Noodles can be as expensive or as cheap as you make them; they can be as healthy or un-healthy as you make them.
I ignored noodles for a very long time. Whenever someone mentioned ‘noodles’ I thought of the plastic pots where people only poor boiling water. And I never understood those; even when I was a student and I had no choice but eat for less.
Then, couple of years ago an Indonesian post doc of mine taught me the principles and specifics of cooking delicious and nutritious noodles.
Here are the three key principles of noodles cooking:
1) Never over-boil the noodles;
2) You need a wok to cook noodles; and
3) There are two core ingredients for the perfect noodles: spring onion and soy sauce.
The rest is a matter of improvisation, choice and preference.
You could use rice noodles or the more wheat and egg noodles; you could get gourmet noodles with mushrooms, pumpkin and truffles.
As to the rest anything goes: chicken, fish, red meat or vegetables.
Here is my favourite noodles recipe.
- Noodles – 250g (49 p)
- Spring onion – three stokes (25 p)
- Red pepper – 1 (35 p)
- Chicken mini fillets – 375g (£2.89)
- Soy sauce
- Cut the chicken in thin stripes.
- Chop the red pepper in small pieces (5 by 5 millimetres).
- Chop the spring onion.
- Put enough vegetable oil in a wok to cove the bottom.
- Place the wok on high flame.
- When the oil is very hot put in the chopped chicken.
- Put the noodles in a large pot full of boiling water and boil for about 4 minutes (check the instructions because some noodles take less time than that).
- Stir the chicken; when the chicken is starting to get a honey colour, take out of the wok and place in a dish lines with kitchen towels (this absorbs the extra fat)
- Put the won on the fire and add the spring onion; stir around for a minute or so.
- By this time the noodles will be ready; drain them and leave to the side.
- Add the red pepper to the wok. Stir.
- When the pepper has started to cook put the chicken back in the wok and stir.
- Add the boiled and drained noodles to the wok and stir.
- Add soy sauce (how much depends on taste; I add quite a bit because I like the taste it gives the noodles).
- Stir for couple of minutes.
- Take off the fire and serve while war.
Perfect noodles for four people that take 20 minutes to cook (with preparation time) and cost £3.98. This sounds to me like a great way to eat for less.
If you wish to reduce the cost you can cook noodles with vegetables only or simply put less chicken in.
You can use the same recipe (and preparation steps) using shellfish, fish, beef or pork instead of chicken.
Do you know what I like about cooking noodles most?
It is so easy and versatile that we even did it while on our holiday. And let’s face it, the cooking conditions there were rather rudimentary.