Saturday, June 25, 2016

Zingy Sesame Noodle Salad

Here's my Americanized take on Taiwanese sesame cold noodles.  It was one of my mom's favorite things to eat, sometimes I see it at Taiwanese restaurants with ham and egg, or at the Chinese supermarket with shredded chicken.  There's always cucumber and carrot, never purple cabbage.  Egg noodles are customarily used.  I've bastardized it with my soba (green tea soba, in this case) and, well, purple cabbage and other untraditional toppings.  You won't see avocado, raw daikon radish root, or seared ahi tuna on sesame noodles anywhere else but in our kitchen.  The thing that I wanted to share though, is my sauce.  My version is zingy-er than your average sesame noodle sauce, which often cakes onto the noodles in a very thick coat.  This one is more of a vinegar-based recipe, which my grandmother would probably frown upon.  I also use honey, which I am sure would also make Taiwanese people roll their eyes.  Hey, maybe the loads of minced ginger and green onion that go into it will redeem me.

I don't make cold noodles too often, since it takes a lot of time to julienne everything (anyone else afraid to use a mandoline?), but it's a no-brainer recipe, especially if there is leftover rotisserie chicken in the fridge and a pack of dry green tea soba noodles on hand.  It's also super refreshing to eat on extreme heatwave days.  Every time I make this dish, it tastes a little different because I don't have a specific sauce recipe, but I figure I should try to write one down.  I am purposefully using a high ratio of vinegar, so that it tastes more like a noodle salad than purely a noodle dish.  If you like it less "zingy" and more rich, then you'll have to cut the vinegar in half and put more sesame paste.  I've come to realize that I favor using Middle Eastern tahini for this recipe, because it pours smoother and combines more easily than traditional Taiwanese sesame paste.

Which noodles, vegetables, and protein to use are totally up to you.  I like soba, or recently I just tried with some yam noodles that were made in Taiwan.  Egg noodles are always good too, but too boring in my opinion.  Just be prepared to slice, slice, and slice.  And mince.  It's worth it in the end, believe me!  Plus, part of me enjoys mindlessly julienning vegetables in my air-conditioned kitchen on a hot day.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Chilling in Iceland (Part 4): Just the Two of Us and the Snaefellsnes Peninsula

We had never felt more alone.  Not in the sense where we felt stranded, but in a way where we felt like we had this corner of the world to ourselves.  Winter may not be the most ideal time to visit Iceland, but we were able to experience a sort of solitude and wonderment that we've never quite felt before.  Being the only car on the road for miles was pretty sweet, actually.  The weather was much kinder to us, compared to the other days, with sun rays and patches of blue sky just barely peeking through the clouds (although there was a rough few miles of driving through a blizzard in the mountain range).  We pulled over numerous times, and saw no more than three or four people at a time, even at the more popular stopping points.  There were also some fishing villages that looked like they were deserted for the winter.  We tried not to stick around those places too long, for fear of White Walkers or maybe some mythical Icelandic elves.  After more than a hundred miles on the empty road, we were quite happy to run into human beings again when we did, even though it meant that we narrowly avoided being caught peeing in public.

That morning, I threw on my spiffy Icelandic wool sweater as Wes grabbed his tripod for the first day that we could safely assume that it wouldn't blow away.  With a bakery on our minds, we skipped the usual breakfast at our hotel and headed straight for the road, due North, for Snæfellsnes.  I had dropped various pins on the night before to help direct us on our drive.  Now, looking back and mapping it all out, it says that we covered 270 miles in one day!