Monthly Archives: March 2012

Abura soba recipe (Japanese oily noodles)

Watching the development of the ramen craze in the US from Kansas makes me quite bitter. Seeing one of my most beloved food become more and more accessible to people in metropolitan areas does not help suppress my ever growing resentment to areas in the US outside the midwest.

One good thing is, the lack of ramen does not make me like Kansas any less. How can anybody dislike a place renowned for bbq? Large pieces of cooked meat has been, and always will be the receptacle of my perverted culinary desires.

Anyway, ramen is not impossible, but impractical to make at home. Its rather hard to get good quality ingredients that are already processed, such as menma and noodles. On top of that, the broth is a product of painstakingly long and involved process that results in ridiculous quantities for a man living alone. Of course, I can always make my faux-chinese noodles (boiling pasta with one to two tablespoons of baking soda) and throw it into a mixture of  granulated fish broth, granulated chicken broth, grated garlic and sesame oil, but its not the same experience.

So there’s always the need for devising ways to fulfill my desire for Japanese noodles that have that junk food-ish delicious qualities. Hence my resorting to abura-soba.

So this thing is called abura-soba, which is the word oil (abura) and noodles (soba) combined. Sounds awfully unhealthy at first. I never knew that abura-soba was a dish that was served in numerous ramen places, because of the absurdity of the name. For many years I only knew the rendition from my college cafeteria.

The version from that cafeteria always came with blanched spinach, kimchi, and char-siu (braised pork) on top. I still follow this structure, making sure that there’s 1. vegetables 2. something hot, and 3. proteins on top of it.

In the photo above, these three categories were provided through the use of 1. lettuce, 2. onions, and 3. poached chicken thighs.

So the only thing you really have to make here is the sauce.

The sauce consists of oyster sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar, and grated garlic.

The ratio of these varies every time I make it, but I make sure that I put in a generous amount of sesame oil.

As always, the noodles are Barilla pasta boiled in water with 1-2 tablespoon of baking soda.

You just pull the noodles out, rinse, mix with the sauce, and put the toppings on.

Lovely stuff.

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Potato salad with sardines and dill

Due to my current residency in landlocked Kansas, and my pathetic financial situation as a graduate student, I have been looking for a good method to cook and also stretch out one of the few sources of seafood I have been able to afford, which are sardines. As a Japanese person, I constantly crave briny flavors.

When I was visiting my folks who were temporarily residing in Uzbekistan, they took me to a Georgian restaurant. The height of the evening for me was the Georgian style chicken, which I was familiar with because a female protagonist in the Japanese novel Adventures of Everyday Life proclaimed it as the “best type of chicken in the world” while taking part in various forms of debauchery.
While I thoroughly enjoyed the chicken, I have no recollection of what it tasted like. What I do remember, though, is the very simple dish of potatoes and sardines that I reproduced many times after that night.

To this day, I have no idea of the name of this dish that I frequently make.
First, I boil 5 middle sized potatoes, peeled and diced, in salt water until soft.
Then I dump the water, and stir the potatoes while still having the heat on.
This takes the edges off the diced potatoes, creating a layer of mashed-ish
potatoes around the diced ones.
Then dump the potatoes in a bowl, add about 5 tablespoons of yogurt
(you can use mayo for this, but since the sardines are already pretty oily,
I find yogurt helps keep it relatively light.)
about 3-4 tablespoons of chopped fresh dill,
and 1 can of oil-packed sardines. Salt to taste, and eat.

Damn good by itself or between pieces of bread.

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Neapolitan spaghetti

Who the fuck needs a new food blog.

Why the fuck am I starting this thing.

As I cook for myself and only myself with my 1100 a month income, I see an ever growing gap between the websites I go for recipes and the food that I make for myself.

As a grad student in the Midwest, I don’t have: the money to buy grade-A kitchenware, buy good parts of meat, spend on trendy organic food stores with glimmering veggies of exotic names, the luxury of eating out in places that serve food on non-plastic or non-disposable dishes. In addition, being in a college town in Kansas, I don’t have access to many of the ingredients that seem to be readily available anywhere else. I also don’t believe in shopping for food online, which is a testimony to my archaic sensibilities and adherence to idiotic principles. So when I saw a cocktail recipe on Saveur, I walked around town, looking for orgeat, mind filled with despair and with growing resentment towards the town I am living in with every store that did not carry orgeat.

It does not help that I am the kind of person who want to forget my large consumption of Hamm’s (12 for 7 bucks) by occasionally making a cocktail from flashy food magazines with slightly-above-the-lower-shelf Flor de Cana rum.

My everyday life is characterized by the dilemma of the resentment towards food culture that seems bent on distinction of the upper class (that is characterized by its disdain and contempt for the lower-class food culture that contaminates their diet by non-free range chicken eggs, non-organic produce and mass produced food) and the desire to try the products of that particular pretentious culture.

So, here’s something that regularly mediates these two feelings:

Neapolitan Spaghetti

As you can imagine, the origin of this dish does not even come close to Naples.

Its a Japanese invention, so there’s the exotic factor there for you.

Its basically pasta tossed with onions, bacon (or sausage), and ketchup.

Yes, ketchup.

I remember the expression on my vegetarian roommate when I presented this dish to him. The horror of finding out that I am flavoring starch with condiments.

But I do make a mean Neapolitan spaghetti.

Its all in the details. I saute the bacon and onion in olive oil over medium high heat, add some garlic and keep going until its fragrant, and then throw in some white wine. Once the alcohol’s gone, I put in the ketchup (about 2-3 tablespoons per serving) and keep on going until that shit is reduced, becomes really concentrated in its flavors.

Then I mix in some pasta water (small ladleful per serving), about a minute before the pasta comes out. By the way, I salt the pot heavily when boiling pasta, so I would not have to salt the sauce later.

Here’s the important thing: throw in the pasta into the sauce as quickly as possible. Don’t wait till its drained or anything. I just throw the pasta directly from the pot to the pan with a tong. The sauce clings to pasta the best around 96 celsius, right below boiling, so you really want to be fast here.

Toss, dump it in a dish, and serve. Grate a lot of pecorino for good measure.

There you go. A lower class dish that originated in the exotic land of Japan, and tweaked enough for me to feel good about myself.

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Filed under Food, pasta