24-Hours in Asia

You know that feeling you get when you discover a truly magical place? A whole new universe of awesomeness opens up to you and you wonder, “how, HOW, did I get by without knowing this place existed? What else am I completely unaware of?  What am I doing with my life? I should really go back to school and become a marine biologist.” It happened to me.

I was leaving the Korean spa (which, if you’re into being publicly relieved of your outermost layer of skin by a tiny woman with spiky gloves, is your magical place), when I saw it. I turned to my friend D. “What,” I said, “is this H Mart”?

She told me.

We had to stop, I decided. We had to stop and we had to shop.

And shop we did. H Mart, as it turns out, is an Asian grocery store, and is massive. A full half of the store is brimming with fresh produce, ranging from exotic to completely standard, at prices that may prompt you to reevaluate your life decisions up to this point, including, but not limited to, your overall level of common sense, financial responsibility, and every purchase you’ve ever made. Yes, I’ll begrudgingly admit that you get what you pay for, and that yes, some of the fruits and vegetables are, according to our western sensibilities, either slightly past their prime, smaller than in other stores, or both. So, note to self, be prepared to spend more time de-seeding, peeling, and skinning, and only buy what you’ll use within a few days. Easy enough.

Before we move on to the point of this story, let me just say a quick word about the fish. Beautiful. The variety blew me away.  There are rows and rows of ice buckets filled with fresh and salt water varieties, their glassy eyes beckoning “coooook meeee, eat meeeee”.  Oh right, did I mention most of these little guys come whole?  Not to worry though, there is a disassembly crew behind the counter that will happily deconstruct any fish according to your specific wishes.

Thus begins the tale of my haul: I got Lychees (think tasty grapes in a rough, furry skin) Thai shiitakes, which are slightly meatier and less pungent than the regular variety, sweet chili sauce, piles of noodles, green beans, blueberries, black sesame oil, dumplings, and so much more.

Unpacking my bags and feeling thoroughly relaxed from soaking, steaming, and a good public skinning, I decided to go for some vegetarian noodles. Asian noodles are a great option when you want something quick, clean, delicious, and easy. And they make killer leftovers.

Inspiration: H Mart

Vibe: Calm, clean, and well exfoliated

Time commitment: You’ll still be able to catch Mad Men

What you’ll need:

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  1. 8 oz of rice noodles, flat or thin
  2.  2 tablespoons sesame oil
  3.  2 tablespoons cooking oil (olive, peanut, or canola according to preference)
  4.  1/2 cup soy sauce
  5. 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
  6. 1 teaspoon shredded ginger (I like the jar kind because it’s always there and stays good for a long time)
  7. Fresh vegetables –  enough to fill the bottom of a large sauté pan when sliced. I recommend peppers, mushrooms, green beans, broccoli, onions, and carrots
  8. Half a lime
  9. 2 large cloves of garlic
  10. Salt and chili pepper to taste

Optional toppings: toasted almonds, toasted sesame seeds, chives.

Optional meatification: Two thin pork chops sliced into 1/2″ X 2″ strips.

Equipment: Chopping knife, cutting board, large sauté pan with sides, medium sauce pan, colander, mixing bowl

Getting started:

  • Chop your vegetables into bite sized pieces and lay in the bottom of cool sauté pan

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  • Begin boiling water for noodles in medium sized sauce pan
  • Slice both cloves of garlic thinly and add to the vegetables

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  • Toss vegetables with 1 tbs of cooking oil and 1 tbs sesame oil
  • Add remaining oil to mixing bowl, squeeze in lime, add soy sauce, and rice wine vinegar and set aside

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Turning up the heat:

  • Place your noodles in the boiling water and cook for 5 minutes
  • Strain noodles, rinse with cool water, and set aside
  • Place vegetable pan over medium heat and stir each minute for 5 minutes
  • When vegetables begin to sweat, add ginger (now is also the time for optional meatification)

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  • Cook 3 more minutes and add noodles to pan
  • Stir in noodles and pour lime/soy/vinegar mixture over the top
  • Allow liquid to absorb (appx. 5 minutes) and add chili pepper if desired
  • Turn off heat, dress with optional toppings, and serve!
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