Use Your Noodle 5 Transcript

The Kitchen / Pantry / Center of the Earth

    If you're a fan of this program, you know full well that we've committed several of our episodes to exploring and exploiting the culinary virtues of dry pastas mostly in the Italian style*. Now what's really interesting about Italian pastas is that the parts list, the ingredients, are almost always the same: there's hard durum wheat, there's water and the occasional egg. And that's, well, pretty much it. What really differentiates all of these pastas is not the ingredient as much as the shape, each one finally tuned to match, say, a broth, or chunky ragù, butter, cheese, oil, etc. And that is all fine. But truth is, noodles and noodle-like devices can hail from other sources. You just have to know where to look.
    [squeezes behind his pull out pantry to reveal a vast interior and very lengthy pantry, he eventually arrives at a decent hole, dons a hardhat and begins downward, mumbling to self] Alright. Just get down this. Don't, don't look down. Don't look down. That's okay. Just keep going. [he passes through many layers of earth] 1,750 ... keep going. Just keep going. I wish these things were padded. ... claustrophobia ... [mumbles] okay ... [he eventually emerges into a similar pantry on the other side of the earth]**

Asian Pantry

    The truth is, most of the world's noodles are conceived, cooked and consumed in Asia. Where we now know due to recent archeological finds, that noodles have been consumed for more than 4,000 years, longer than anywhere else on the planet. Mi dispiace modo Italia. [Sorry, all you Italians.] And the source material for these noodles is just astoundingly diverse.

87.2 hours later

    By the way, I'd be happy to sell you plans, you know, for your own passage way through the center of the earth. But truth is, most of us already have easy access to a plethora of Asian noodles via our local megamart or, of course, our local Asian grocery. Either of which are chock full of ...

[Good Eats theme]

Asian Market

GUEST: Samurai Counter Attendant

    The first time you poke your head into a well stocked Asian noodle aisle, you can expect to be a little intimidated. After all you could come face-to-face with hundreds of different noodle styles from maybe, I don't know, eight different countries maybe a dozen different culinary sub-cultures. You're not going to be able to read most of the packages. The words you can read you can't pronounce. And the words you can pronouncelike, say, "stick", "thread", "noodle", "vermicelli"probably aren't going to mean anything because manufactures change them up willy-nilly. There's no standardization.
    The exception would be Japanese noodles. They're usually in English and they're very standardized, alright? "Udons" are udons and "soba" are soba. But alas, Japanese noodles are another show.

    Today we are going to dive into the far murkier water that is the Chinese noodle, the Vietnamese noodle, the Thai noodle. And when it comes to these, I suggest you forget everything that you see on the package except for the major source of starch which is always going to be in English. It is the law. And they're going to be three big ones, okay? They're going to be wheat noodles. They're going to be rice noodles. And they're going to be bean noodles. Alright.


    Now the wheat noodles will include a majority of the Chinese style noodles such as lo mein and ramen—and yes, those are actually Chinese. More on that later.

    Now, rice noodles. Far more complex. Take a look at this package. Look at this. Look at this. [pointing to various words in another language] Now, forget this. Forget this. Forget that. And that Tiger? There's no tiger in this, okay? All you need to look for is the word "rice", okay? And know that this rice noodle [starts pointing at different brands] and this rice noodle and this rice noodle and even these wrappers are all made out of the exact same stuff. In fact, many of these noodles will appear together in the very same application. You will soon see that.


    Now, when we are talking about bean based noodles, we are of course speaking of mung beans. Now most of us are familiar with mung bean sprouts which are an excellent source of protein. But the noodles are actually made from the ground, dried beans.

AB: Yes, I'm gonna buy something. I always do, don't I? Just don't push me, okay?

    Thicker bean based noodles are often referred to as "cellophane" because they are indeed translucent in their dried state. My actual favorites, however, are the bean threads. Highly versatile which you'll soon see.
    Oh, while you're here you might want to stock up on some Asian noodle allies. For instance, rice wine vinegar always very, very useful stuff as is plain old rice wine. But never buy the sweet kind. Always just go for the standard issue. A couple of oils, sesame oil. Very, very valuable flavorful stuff. I use that in a lot of dishes, as well as chili oil. Yeah, it's hot. But it's not too hot. Trust me on that. You're also going to want something that is hot. This is called "sambal". It is a chili-garlic paste. A really quite of ubiquitous in Asian cuisine. And, of course, soy sauce. I prefer the low sodium version. But that is completely up to you.
    Oh, and keep in mind, some of the better brands actually won't have any English on the front label. But that's okay, if you look on the back, it will always be there. See that? That has to be, by law. Big flavors all. But don't worry, these noodles can take it.

AB: My good man, I don't think I'll have anything today. My Asian pantry is already perfectly stocked. Good day.
SCA: [as an American] What a weirdo.

The Kitchen

    Unlike wheat based noodles which are held together by a protein matrix called gluten, which you're certainly familiar with if you're a fan of this show, noodles from rice, beans and vegetables are held together by long starch molecules called amylose.
    Now when the noodle paste is first formed, these molecules are just kind of scattered around like these udon noodles. But as the paste dries, they align in a durable rigid pattern. The process is called retrogradation and it's also responsible for bread staling. But that's another show. What's really great about amylose based noodles is that they are highly absorbent and they don't necessarily need to be cooked prior to use.
    Two of today's three dishes will be heavily influenced by the flavors of Sichuan [Szechwan], a region in southwestern China well known for its flagrant use of chilies, ginger, garlic and sesame. Now this first dish is one of my favorite fast week-night dinners. And it's built upon a bed of bean threads that is called ma yi shang shu. And no, I'm not going to tell you what that means. Not yet.

Until recently Asian noodles could not be sold as "noodles" in the US because they didn't contain eggs.

The Kitchen


    Most mung bean noodles or threads come in bundles, usually tied with a piece of dried noodle. And that can actually stay in place during the soaking process. Now I have three bundles here which weight about 1.5 ounces a piece. And we're just going to soak them in hot tap water for 20 minutes. 4.5 Ounces Mung Bean
    While the bean threads soak, we turn to the 2nd component of ma yi shang shu, a curious meat concoction, which begins with a marinade composed of two ounces of soy sauce, one tablespoon of rice wine, and one tablespoon of sambal chili paste. And just whisk that together in a mixing bowl along with one teaspoon of cornstarch. The cornstarch will, of course, help to thicken the sauce. But it will also help it to integrate into the noodle mass to come. There. Now the meat. 2 Ounces Soy Sauce
1 Tbs. Rice Wine
1 Tbs. Sambal Chili Paste

1 tsp. Cornstarch

    [at the refrigerator] Ten ounces of ground pork. Now most megamarts keep this on hand these days. But if yours does not, just ask them to grind up some pork butt—that's the shoulder not the ... well, you know. Now while you're in here, grab four green onions and half a cup of chicken broth or stock: can, carton, homemade: all just fine.

    Thoroughly integrate the meat into the liquid to create a paste which will then marinade for 30 minutes. Now, this is a curious procedure as typically we do not soak ground meat in a liquid. But it's important here, because after the meat absorbs the liquid and the starch, it'll tend to break apart more readily over heat which is critical to the success of this particular dish. Once integrated, let that sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. 10 Ounces Ground Pork

    When you're about, maybe, 10 minutes away, go ahead and snip the soaked noodles into manageable pieces. Originally they are 15 to 16 inches long. We prefer them three to four. So just use your scissors, cut those up, and then drain them thoroughly, at least 10 minutes. Good.

    Last but not least, four green onions, chopped, for a total of one and a quarter cups by volume. 4 Green Onions, Chopped
    [at the stovetop] When there is one minute remaining in the meat marination period, place a 12-inch skillet over the very highest head you possess. Let that heat for one minute and then add one tablespoon of canola oil. And just kind of swirl to let that coat. 1 Tbs. Canola Oil

    Then in goes the meat. You want to keep this constantly moving. I find this wooden spatula is the best tool for the job. Two minutes will go by and then you can add 2/3s of the green onions. Then continue cooking, again on high heat, for another two minutes constantly moving, if you please.

    Once that two minutes is up, drop the heat slightly and introduce half a cup of chicken broth. And then allow that to cook for three minutes before dumping in the thoroughly drained noodles. And stir to combine. ½ Cup Chicken Broth

    Keep stirring and tossing until the noodles and meat are completely integrated and the noodles have soaked up every bit of liquid in the pan. Something they would not be able to do if they had been soaked in boiling rather than hot water.
    Mound on to a platter and serve family style topped with the rest of the green onions. This is easily enough for, say, an entree for four or maybe an opening course for six. Or, one midnight snack for me.
    By the way, ma yi shang shu means, roughly translated, "ants climbing a tree." I kid you not.
    While most Asian noodles like these rice sticks and vermicelli are extruded, that is pushed through some sort of small nozzle like the one in this classic toy of my youth, not all starch pastes are treated in this manner. Rice paste can be spread thinly on mats, steamed and dried to create parchment like sheets that can be rehydrated and wrapped around a wide array of ingredients to make things like, you know, spring rolls. Which utilize both wrappers and thin noodles.

    We will begin by soaking five ounces of these thin rice sticks in warm water for 15 minutes. Because like gelatin, the starches here need to hydrate before they can be cooked to tenderness. Of course gelatin is protein, but you get the point. 5 Ounces Thin Rice Stick

    [at the fridge] Fetch from the chill chest a pound of raw shrimp, any size, peel on. Two medium limes which will give us the three tablespoons of juice that we require. One large carrot, one cucumber in the 10 ounce range, and a large head of Bibb lettuce from which we'll harvest 14 leaves. We're also going to need some herbage: a small head of cilantro. And yes, I do keep that in a water glass covered with motel-issue disposable shower cap. I also need mint or Thai basil. In either case, we'll need 3/4s of a cup, chopped of each.

    Now the carrot we can quickly dispatch on the large holes of a box grater like that. 1 Large Carrot, Grated
    As for the herbs, they will need to be removed from their stems, at least somewhat, and then chopped. Now you don't have to make this very pretty. But make sure you use a sharp knife so that you don't not bruise the leaves. Now if for some reason you cannot find Thai basil, that's fine. [Thing brings the various herbs into view] Fight the urge to use regular Italian basil. It is just too strong. You're better off sticking with the mint.

AB: Thank you, Thing.

¾ Cub Each Cilantro & Mint,
    Alright, as for the cucumber, slice off the ends and save those for another purpose. Then split the body into about 2½ inch sections, and perform a roll cut, just peeling off the outer few millimeters of skin, which we will then cut with a julienne or matchstick cut. There. 1 Large Cucumber, Cut into

In China, noodles are a symbol of longevity and are served for birthday and New Years celebrations.

The Kitchen

    Continue the spring rolls by bring a half gallon of water to a boil over high heat in a large saucepan. Now ordinarily I would season this kind of cooking water with salt. But in this case, we will use a tablespoon of soy sauce. ½ Gallon Water
1 Tbs. Soy Sauce
    Now when the water reaches a full boil, add the shrimp and cook until just firm. It will be one to two minutes depending upon the shrimp. Then fish them out. Do not dump out this liquid. We're not finished with it. Just fish them out with your spider and let them cool. 1 Pound Large Unpeeled

    Then drain the noodles which have soaked and cut the bunch into manageable lengths. Just three sections should do. And move those into the rapidly boiling stock. There. And those are going to cook for approximately three minutes until just tender. Then drain and allow them to cool.

    Next, whisk another tablespoon of soy sauce with three tablespoons of the lime juice, one tablespoon of the chili paste and two teaspoons of sugar. Once that is mixed together, introduce the noodles which will soak up the majority of that liquid. Just mix them with your hands as long as they are clean. 1 Tbs. Soy Sauce
3 Tbs. Lime Juice, Freshly
1 Tbs. Sambal Chili Paste
2 tsp. Sugar

    Once the shrimp are cool, peel and chop them into small chunks.
    [at the table] And so, everything is gathered for the building of the spring rolls which should be assembled immediately prior to consumption. As you can see, I have my work station all organized.

    So, one rice wrapper goes into warm waterand by that I mean 100 to 110 degrees—for 10 seconds. Alright, that's enough of that. Drain thoroughly and then place on your work surface. Time to load. Grab your tongs and use up to a quarter of a cub of the noodles, followed by, say, two tablespoons of the shrimp and a quarter of cup of the vegetation. These amounts, of course, depend on whether you like your spring rolls to be on the chubby side or on the thin side. 8½" Round Rice Paper

    Now for rolling, just think burrito. Firmly fold over the end [with the noodles, 1/3 of the way], and then the sides thusly, and then apply a kind of little back pressure as you roll so that it is nice and taught. There. Now as you wrap, you want to line them up on parchment and cover with a moist towel to keep them from drying out.

    Now you can serve spring rolls just as is but they can get a little sticky. So I prefer to apply a final wrapping of Bibb lettuce like that. Bibb Lettuce

    Now, as for a dipping sauce, [would] be a nice idea. Perhaps 1/2 cup of soy sauce, a 1/4 cup of rice wine vinegar, two tablespoons of fresh ginger finely grated, two tablespoons of green onion chopped, two medium cloves of garlic minced, two teaspoons of sugar, and one teaspoon of sesame oil all shaken up in a glass jar. Completely up to you, though.

Dorm Rom

GUESTS: Students #1 & #2

    There is one, and only one, edible you're guaranteed to find in every room in every dorm on every college campus in America. It took me all of 30 seconds to find them, ramen noodles. Little did inventor Momofuku Ando know back in 1958 when he was attempting to come up with a quick conversion of a Japanese adaptation of a Chinese wheat noodle in order to supply the people of war-torn Japan a cheap square meal, that he was in fact creating gakusei ryori, "student cuisine."

Gakusei Ryori =
"Studen Cuisine"

    Now the process that Ando worked out involves first cooking the noodles with water laced with an alkali salt called kansui which gives the final product a firm texture and yellowish hue. The noodles are then dried and then flash fried. Now ramen have a shelf life of Godzilla thanks to the fact that palm oil, which is as saturated as a liquid fat can get, is used for the frying. Saturated fats keep really well. But they're not exactly heart-healthy. Which is why I don't eat ramen very often. But when I do, I toss this salt-lick flavor packet. [the students enter]

STUDENT #1: Dude.
AB: [goes into an Animal House rant] Well, good afternoon gentlemen.
S#2: What?
AB: I assume you two are aware the fact that you've been on double secret probation since the beginning of the semester.
S#2: What?
S#1: Dude.
AB: Um, hmm. I'm also certain that you're aware of our rules against cooking in dorm rooms.
S#1: Dude.
S#2: What?
AB: Look, guys. Um. I'm going to cut you some slack this time and make this stuff disappear.
S#1: Dude.
S#2: What?
AB: What's that on your chest?
S#1: A pledge pin.
S#1: Dude.
S#2: What?

According to a recent poll, the Japanese rate their technical innovations:
1. Instant Noodles
2. Karaoke
3. Walkman

The Kitchen

    Although the standard ramen scenario is to serve them as a soup in a broth that is then consumed with a lot of shlurping, these curly little guys are actually based on a Chinese noodle that's often served cold, alright? Now my favorite, the classic cold sesame noodle, is easily within the reach of even the most limited pantry.

    We will begin with four quarts of water in a six quart pot over high heat. 4 Quarts Water
    While that comes to a boil, place four cloves of garlic, minced, in the work bowl of your food processor along with two tablespoons of ginger, grated. Cutting these ahead of time will prevent the sauce from being to strong. Then two tablespoons of low sodium soy sauce followed by a tablespoon each of black vinegar—you could use Worchestershire Sauce—sesame oil, chili oil and also brown sugar. And I like to use the darkest brown sugar that I can get my hands on. There. Now just lid up and process until that just comes together as a loose sauce. 4 Cloves Garlic, Minced
2 Tbs. Fresh Ginger, Grated
2 Tbs. Low Sodium Soy
1 Tbs. Chinese Black Vinegar
1 Tbs. Toasted Sesame Oil
1 Tbs. Chili Oil
1 Tbs. Dark Brown Sugar
    There. Now add a third of a cup of peanut butter. And by the way, I know some of you are out there thinking, "Oh, I'll use all natural peanut butter and it'll be even better." No it won't. We need just plain ole smooth megamart PB&J fodder. That's all. Add the peanut butter to the sauce, lid up, and process. 1/3 Cup Peanut Butter
    Give it a few seconds and then slowly drizzle in a quarter of a cup of low sodium chicken broth. ¼ Cup Low Sodium Chicken
    Now when the sauce is smooth, move to the noodles. Place four, 2.1 ounce packages—that's standard issue—of ramen noodles into the boiling water. Do not add the flavor packets, please. They'll be done in about 1 to 1½ minutes. Remember, technically they are precooked. Then kill the heat and drain thoroughly. That water we no longer need. 4, 2.1 Ounce Packages
    Ramen Noodles

    Once they are as dry as you can get them, add to the sauce and toss. I suggest you do this while the noodles are warm, but not hot. To finish it, all you have to do is garnish with green onions and chopped, toasted peanuts.
    [at the fridge] I feel I must warn you that given a few hours in the fridge, this dish will improve considerably. But you know what? I'm not always interested in having my patience rewarded. [notices something] What's this? [walks over to the pantry and peers inside] Did I ...? Ugh. Oh bother. I left the light on. [travels to the end of the pantry where the hole to Asia is, puts on his hardhat and descends to his Asian pantry again]

Asian Pantry

    [enters and notes the light is still on] See you next time on Good Eats. [switches the light off]

Transcribed by Michael Menninger
Proofread by Michael Roberts

*Pasta Shows

**Ed. note: Too bad he didn't just slide down the ladder since the momentum of falling would carry him almost up to the other side. He would have had to turn around, somehow, but what a great physics principal he could have taught. One website suggests it would have only taken 42 minutes. Obviously this would ignore the intense heat and air resistance. But if AB can build a ladder 7,901 miles long, surely he could overcome this obstacle.
    Another anal note about this whole thing is the opposite side of the world is not Asia, but rather the Indian Ocean, unless AB's house resides some where in Hawaii (Botswana), parts of Alaska (Antarctica), or extreme parts of Montana (French and Southern & Antarctic Lands. To get to almost any part of Asia, straight down, you'd have to be either in Central or South America.
    Given this, either AB makes a bend somewhere in the middle of the earth or his tunnel isn't purely vertical. Either of which means a freefall trip may not work.

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Last Edited on 12/05/2011