Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Oven-Baked Vegetable Noodles with Ginger and Sesame Oil

I hate stir-frying. I hate woks. I hate stir-fried food made at home. I hate all 'home-cooked Chinese food'. I love Chinese takeaways.

Chinese takeaways are not going to win Michelin stars, but the Chinese know how to cook food that caucasians like to eat. I'm talking about bright red crispy stuff in gloopy sauces. I'm talking about fried stuff with noodles. I'm talking about rice with bright stuff in it. I don't know how it's done and I don't care. I just love it (especially when it comes with a bag of free prawn crackers sitting on the top of the brown paper sack already leaking grease down the delivery driver's arm).

I'm a really good cook, and I love buying exotic produce from my Asian grocer, but I CANNOT MAKE CHINESE FOOD. I have a Chinese friend who has taught me how to make Chinese food , but I CANNOT MAKE CHINESE FOOD. So now I (almost) stop trying.

The problem is not the ingredients, but the technique. How many times have I wielded my wok and followed my good friend Yang's instructions to 'hey, only cook the vegetables for a few minutes!'? Yes Yang, after I remove the beautiful vibrant veg/meat/rice/noodles from the wok and put it onto the plate it starts leaching water until I have a 3cm pool at the bottom of the plate. The meat is hard and tasteless. The noodles have formed a crust on the bottom of the wok and are now scraped-off to form a stupid non-traditional gnarly crispy noodley garnish for the top of my crappy dish (I won't waste a scrap of food for any reason ever). What the eff?

The answer: Ditch the wok. Now by roasting everything in the oven, I just sit back and drink wine while waiting for my delicious dinner. No waiting for the wok to 'heat until blistering'. No getting covered in splats of oil. And definitely no watery slop.

The key is to oven cook the veg until all the water has been driven off and then keep adding things until everything is amalgamated. It is total stupidity that you must cook the veg for two minutes 'to keep all the vitamins in'. You want vitamins? Take a pill. For me, I want it to taste good.

Oh and while on the subject of taste? Fresh ginger and garlic with soy and sesame oil is a far better alternative to the stir-fry sauce nonsense served up in sachets in supermarket aisles (what is that brown goo? Wood stain?). Simple is always best - unless you're ordering food from your local takeaway, or you happen to have an Asian friend prepared to make you dinner.

This is no joke - the whole dinner comes in at £1.50 per very generous serving and is fairly close to rivaling my local Chinese takeaway for flavour. The recipe here is basic, but you can add some oven roasted meat or fish to the top. I made some salmon with mine and plonked it on top before serving. Delish.

Now, if only I could find a way to oven roast myself a few free prawn crackers...

Serves 2


Thumb of ginger, finely chopped
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
500g mixed stir-fry vegetables
1 tablespoon olive oil
400g ready-cooked egg noodles
1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil

Preheat oven to 220c. Mix together the ginger, garlic and vegetables and arrange in an even layer on a non-stick baking tray, then sprinkle with the olive oil. Bake for 20 minutes until well cooked (turning a few times), and then add the noodles, soy sauce and sesame oil, and mix everything together until well amalgamated. Bake for a further 5 minutes. Serve immediately.

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