I keep trying to recreate the deliciousness of greasy pan-fried chowmein from back home, and fail miserably every time (fried pasta tastes awful). Still, if for a moment I can make myself forget the flavour of thin Chinatown noodles stir-fried with chopped onions and green chillies and shallots and carrots and pieces of chicken and prawn and thick chillie sauce and mmmm... if manage to forget all of that, I mean, then I find that the stuff I make is actually not half bad. By foreign standards, of course (insert obligatory snooty remark about foreign food). Half the trick of enjoying cooking in foreign shores is to make yourself forget what food tasted like back home. And I try. God knows I try. And here's the product of said trying.
1. Noodles: long egg noodles--needs to be boiled and then washed under cold tap water.
Bean-starch noodles--soaked in hot water for a few minutes and then drained.
Plain old chowmein in Rs. 8 packets--boiled and washed under tap water.
2. Thick soy sauce.
3. Shallots or pNyeajkoli, washed and chopped (I also use finely diced green/yellow onions).
4. A little sugar, salt (flavoured salt is a good idea).
5. Garlic, minced (I toast my garlic on a tawa/flat bottomed pan because I don't like the taste of raw garlic, but you might. Give it a go).
6. Seasame oil, or, if unavailable, plain sunflower/canola oil.
7. Rice wine vinegar--optional. If you like a slightly sour tang.
8. Oyester sauce OR chillie sauce--the first is completely optional. I've used it just once and never again. I like the latter though.
8. Green chillies--also optional, but I use green chillies in everything. I'm Bengali that way.
9. Chillie flakes--yes, I use chillie flakes and green chillies and chillie sauce together, because what the hell.
Making the sauce:
1. Pour some soya sauce in a bowl. If using oyester or chillie sauce, first mix a little soya and the other to see how it tastes. If it tastes fine, add the oyester sauce and blend well.
2. Taste to see if the soya sauce (or the mixture of sauces) is sweet (some are). Add sugar accordingly. Add salt. Mix well. The mixing may take some patience, but it won't do to leave a layer of salt and sugar lying at the bottom. Taste again and adjust salt/sugar/sauce as required. 3. If it has mixed well, add the minced garlic. Cover and let it stand for about an hour.
4. During the same hour, let finely chopped green chillies stand in a small amount of rice wine/plain old vinegar. With a spatula or spoon, squash the garlic and chillies into their respective sauces before covering the bowls.
5. At the end of the hour, add the hot vinegar to the soya sauce. Blend well. Taste to see if there's something you could add. Voila! Sauce all done.
Boil/soak the noodles. If boiling, add noodles only AFTER the water has started boiling. Keep poking with a fork to make sure they don't overcook and become a soft gooey mess. When done, wash both kinds under running cold water and then let them drain in a colander, drainer, whatever you've got. When completely drained, toss it with seasame or canola/sunflower oil and chopped shallots (and onions, if you're using them). You can add chillie flakes and a tiny little bit of salt to add flavour.
Take the amount of noodles you want. Pour as much sauce as you like. Mix well with your fork or chopstick. Add a little crushed pepper if it isn't spicy enough. Eat.