Winter is a curious season. So much excitement and anticipation, presents to wrap, presents to give, dinner menus to prep, Christmas lights to string up. And then the big day, the big twenty-five comes swinging around the corner and breezes right past, leaving us all in the dust wondering how it had come and gone so quickly. My Holiday Hangover is quickly remedied by New Years festivities, something my family celebrates with an even larger party than our Christmas gatherings. As the saying goes… “hair of the dog that bit you”. There’s more excitement and anticipation for when the clock strikes midnight and that hangover is back–and with a vengeance.
I always feel like a little chunk of my heart leaves with the holidays, and January is the month I set aside to cope and re-center myself again. Basically, January is where I pick up the pieces of my life that I threw around my room in December. I go back to trying my hardest at being a responsible adult, and in most cases all I need is a week. But sometimes I’m in need of a little comfort food, a pick me up after a long day, a meal to look forward to when I get home. And this dish is just that and then some for me. I hope you’ll all enjoy it too!
This recipe comes from my friend Steph’s grandma. During the many nights in High School and College that I slept over Steph’s house, I could always count on a quiet knock on the door in the morning and Ama’s face peeking through to ask me one thing: “noodles”? I have only ever called this dish “noodles”, and for years I thought it was made with beef. To be fair I have a hard time distinguishing beef from pork sometimes (and especially at KBBQ) but that’s a story for another day! Basically, I understood two things: one) my obsession with this dish might actually make me a true Chinese girl and two) this dish is pure love in the form of meat-sauce and noodles.
When I moved to Los Angeles, I asked Steph once if she could send me Ama’s recipe. She told me that Ama didn’t exactly have a recipe. She cooked “by feel”, meaning she never measured ingredients and adjusted every batch by taste. But over the holidays this year, we finally got into the kitchen together and learned just how my favorite dish in the whole wide world is made. Spoilers: there’s a secret ingredient I bet you’d never guess! (Seriously though, Steph and I freaked out about this for 5 minutes. #mindblown)
This Taiwanese Pork Noodle is made up of two main ingredients. It’s a bowl of a little bit sweet and a lot bit salty ground pork and shiitake mushroom meat-sauce mixed atop a big heap of Ramen noodles. The meat-sauce is most commonly eaten on top a bed of rice, but with noodles is by far my favorite way to eat it!
Step 1: Add the second set of ingredients to a plate or bowl.
(FYI, I used french fried onions here because I ran out of the Chinese ones. Use the Chinese ones. You can see a picture of what they really look like below.)
Step 2: Add in the noodles.
Step 3: Mix it all together!
Step 4: Top with the meat-sauce.
Step 5: Add a soft boiled egg and/or green onions–though the original version is eaten without any green onion.
YES. There is Coca-Cola in this meat-sauce. Are you a little bit mind-blown like I was?
I’m so excited to be able to share this dish with you today. It’s something very special to me. I’ve been waiting years, yes, years to learn how to cook it myself and the fact that I can finally make a batch whenever my little home-sick heart desires just feels so wonderful!
Though not something I ate during my childhood, this dish is completely a comfort food for me. Not to mention, another thing that makes me so happy about knowing how to make this at home now is that Roy loves it. YES, there is no cake or pint of homemade ice cream sitting in the fridge/freezer, untouched by my sweet-tooth-less guy this time! In fact, there are no more noodles whatsoever because Roy has demolished it, meat-sauce, noodles, and all, in the last week. If that ain’t success, then I don’t know what is!
Taiwanese Pork Noodles 肉燥 | “Ama’s Noodles”
Adapted from Lynn Kuo. Recipe makes about 8 servings.
Note: *I could not find a Chinese brand 5 spice powder and used the Frontier brand. I assume a traditional Chinese brand is best but I found no difference in taste with using the Frontier brand. However, you must use Chinese fried onion. You should be able to find it at a Chinese market. Look for a clear plastic barrel-shaped container with a red lid. You can google “chinese fried onion” for a photo of what you’re looking for.
• soft boiled egg (optional)
• 8 dried shiitake mushroom
• 2 tbsp flavorless oil
• 2 lbs ground pork
• 1 tsp chinese 5 spice powder*
• 1 tbsp sugar
• 1/3 heaping cup chinese fried onion*
• 3/4 heaping cup soy sauce
• 1/2 can (6 oz.) coca-cola
• 1 1/2 cup water
• thin ramen noodles
• 1 tsp soy sauce
• 1/4 tsp sugar
• 1 tsp sesame paste
• 1/2 tbsp fried onion
• green onion (optional)
1. Soak the dried shiitake mushrooms in a bowl filled with water for 10-15 minutes. If adding an egg, cook it in boiling water for 7 minutes, then peel and set aside. Once the mushrooms are rehydrated, chop and set aside.
2. In a large saucepan, heat oil on medium-high heat. Add in the ground pork and cook until browned. Make sure to break up the pork into smaller pieces while cooking. Once fully browned, increase the heat to high and continue to cook until the water evaporates and only oil is left. You’ll know when the oil in the pan bubbles and sizzles.
3. Add the mushroom, 5 spice powder, sugar, fried onion, and soy sauce. Stir together to combine. Let cook for a few minutes, then add in the coca-cola and water. Cover and cook for 45 minutes on medium heat to allow the liquid to reduce. After 45 minutes, the liquid should be thickened to a sauce. Turn down the heat to low.
4. Cook the ramen noodles according to package instructions. In the mean time, add the soy sauce, sugar, sesame paste, and fried onion to a plate. Add the cooked noodles on top and mix it together with the other ingredients on the plate. Pour the meat sauce over the noodles. Cut the soft boiled egg in half and add it to the plate. Enjoy immediately!
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