Monday, January 17, 2011


I have a small confession to make. One of the main reasons I've been DYING to cook dinner for my cousin Jarrod and his wife Nadia, is that I've been looking for a good excuse to cook up and share some of the Taiwanese / Chinese dishes I learned to make in my year there teaching English. See, Jarrod's ouma was Chinese, so I've been threatening to cook something authentic in honour of his heritage for AGES.
This Saturday, we finally got our shit together and had our little dinner party. Just the three of us.
Sadly, I wasn't quick enough to get a good picture of the potstickers and dipping sauce I made for our main course, but earlier in the day, while going about my business, I'd made this for myself:

A bowl of spicy beef noodle soup.
It's not the one that you simmer on the stove for hours and hours. Nope... This is just a simple instant noodle version with a few fresh ingredients thrown in. I had made a special trip to the Chinese grocer down the road to pick up a few things for our dinner, and when I saw these on the shelf, the nostalgia hit me like a ton of bricks and I had to have them!
It's 40degree heart in Durban right now, but nothing was going to stop me from slurping on these spicy noodles... Nothing. No way.

I almost feel like I need to make a very important point here about instant noodles. These are something that we've really misinterpreted and gotten horribly wrong here in "The West". To us, instant noodles are a shameful, gross, cheap thing that starving students pour down their throats to keep themselves alive while they're literally on the bones of their asses.
But in the East, instant noodles are something completely different.
Yes, they're still cheap, easy and the first choice of starving students... But in the East they have loads more flavour and there's a bunch of fresh stuff that's added to them to make them utterly mouthwatering. There, instant noodles are fun, flavoursome and always fashionable because the manufacturers are always looking for ways to innovate.
When it comes to the fresh "additions" there are fresh vegetables... I used a crisp bunch of bok choy but corn on the cob cut into big chunks is divine.
There's the meat. I used the most incredibly marbled piece of ribeye steak. The little globs of melting fat were like finding the most delicious jewels of bone marrow from time to time.
Then there are other things that I didn't bother with, because I didn't feel I needed them, like chewy little dumplings that you could bounce like a rubber ball, or those tiny dried fish with the eyeballs still on. They look like white noodles, until you bring them closer to your face on your chopsticks and discover that there are two beady black eyes on one end. They're salty and fishy... and at first I didn't "get it" but now I do. Yum.
I also know now, that you should never buy the cheapest instant noodles around. They're really not "all the same"! Invest in a pack of noodles that's a little more expensive than the rest, and you'll find that the seasonings inside are way better and more authentic and they taste less "synthetic".
I added even more flavour to the broth by searing my steak, removing from the pan, resting and slicing. Then using the juices in the resting plate and the water that I used to deglaze the pan to rehydrate the noodles in the bowl. So here it is...

Carmen's Spicy Beef Noodle Soup Made with Instant Noodles... Believe it!
Serves 2; Preparation time ±15 minutes.

2 Ribeye steaks (±2cm thick; brushed with a mixture of melted butter and sunflower oil on both sides)
1 pack of your favourite instant Chili Beef Noodles
2 Baby bok choys
Water to rehydrate

Heat a dry frying pan until smoking and sear the 2 steaks on either side for ±2minutes per side.
Season and remove the steaks from the frying pan and place on a plate to rest for ±6mins.
While the steaks are resting, break the block of noodles into 2 bowls, and carefully divide all the seasonings equally between the 2.
Wash and steam the bok choy and place on top of the dry noodles.
Once the steaks are rested, slice and place on top of the bok choy, deglaze the pan with some water, add the resting juices and pour into the bowls until everything is covered, - just peaking out of the broth.
In 3-4 minutes (after the noodles have fully rehydrated) you'll have the best soup... EVER!