Crisp-Fried Noodle Cake

MAKES: 4 servings

TIME: 20 minutes

Think of this as a crunchy, somewhat impressive alternative to steamed rice. To include it as part of a larger meal, you can cut the cake into wedges or pull it apart with chopsticks as people pass it around the table. Or you can top it with stir-fries or any other saucy braised or roasted vegetable dish. Either way, see the list that follows for some possible accompaniments.

To make these for a crowd, multiply the recipe as needed, fry the cakes in batches, and put them in a warm oven, uncovered, until you’re ready to serve (but no longer than you must); or serve at room temperature.

12 ounces fresh Chinese egg noodles or about 8 ounces any dried long noodles or pasta

1 tablespoon soy sauce, plus more for drizzling

1 teaspoon dark sesame oil, plus more for drizzling

1/2 cup chopped scallion or chives

1/4 cup peanut or neutral oil, like grapeseed or corn

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it. Add the noodles and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender this will take only a few minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water. (The noodles can be prepared to this point and left in a bowl of tap water to rest until you’re ready to fry; drain well.) Toss the noodles with the soy sauce, sesame oil, and most of the scallion or chives, reserving some for garnish.

Put 3 tablespoons of the oil in a large nonstick or cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add the noodles. Cook, undisturbed, until brown and crisp on the bottom (adjust the heat so the noodles brown but do not burn). Use a large spatula (or a plate; see Trimming Artichokes, Version I) to flip the noodles. Add the remaining oil and brown on the other side, then slide onto a platter. Sprinkle with sesame oil and soy sauce, garnish with the remaining scallion or chives, cut into pieces, and serve.

Variation

Crisp-Fried Noodle Soup. The combination of textures is a winner: Boil, drain, and rinse the noodles as described in Step 1. In the same pot, heat 2 quarts vegetable stock. Taste, adjust the seasoning, and keep hot. Fry the noodles as in Step 3. When done, divide among serving bowls and ladle the hot broth over all. Garnish with chopped scallion, or sesame seeds if you like, or add other ingredients to make a full meal; see Improvising Asian-Style Noodle Bowls.

12 Stir-Fries or Other Dishes to Serve on Crisp-Fried Noodle Cake

Prepare the dish first, then the noodles. Use your judgment on stirring the soy sauce and sesame oil into the noodle mixture before cooking, because some of these dishes are quite heavily seasoned already, and the noodle cake will be serving as a more-or-less neutral base.

  1. Stir-Fried Asparagus
  2. Spiced Stir-Fried Bean Sprouts
  3. Bok Choy with Black Beans
  4. Stir-Fried Broccoli
  5. Steamed Eggplant, pouring the dipping sauce over all
  6. Stir-Fried Green Beans and Tofu Skins
  7. Sauted Mushrooms with Asian Flavors
  8. Sea Green and Celery Stir-Fry
  9. Edamame with Tomatoes and Cilantro
  10. Soybeans with Shiitakes and Sea Greens
  11. Hot and Sour Edamame with Tofu
  12. Spicy Soybeans with Kimchi