Food and life

Pasta Chinese style 一碗面条的中西之缘

Whenever I’m in Europe, particularly if I’m in the UK, I watch a lot of food programmes. I was once told, Britain has the worse food, but has the best food shows, and it’s so true.

Not that much of the dishes they create or the recipes they broadcast but more about, generally in life, we shall celebrate things are beautiful, lovely and bring us smiles and happiness.

Whenever I watch the shows, I often ask myself: can I make it back at home? Where can I get the ingredients? Are there any alternatives? What can I add or twist to make it my own version?

What I do the most is paste. The reason is simple. I love noodles, and for me, paste is Italian noodles, well, the noodle shape ones anyway.

My favourite one is tagliatelle. For me, it’s egg flavoured flat noodles, what’s not to like?! But I do have problems of the ‘sauces’ to go with it.

Normally, people have tomato based sauce, or white sauce, or whatever sauce, they are all thick and dry, and I was told that’s how paste sauces are supposed to be. Yes, I had paste in Italy too, and recently. I’m not convinced.

Therefore, I often find myself cooking paste with a Chinese style sauce, more soupy and with lots of vegetables.

Today, I cooked spaghetti (tagliatelle ran out and no shop is open on Sunday – medieval Europe) with a semi-Chinese sauce. It’s a great way to clear your fridge too, just look inside your fridge and see what’s there, with this recipe, it’s so adaptable, just throw in whatever veggies lying around that you want to use up.

Start with cooking the paste. Nigella often quote Anna Del Conte, a renowned Italian food writer and cooker, that ‘the water to cook paste needs to be as salts as the Mediterranean’. I do try to find a balance between seasoning my paste and not develop any cardio dysfunction. But I agree, seasoning the paste cooking water is very important, as any cooking water for noodles, same applies.

Once the spaghetti is in, I start to throw things into a pan. I cut some bacons, fry them in a little bit of olive oil on a medium heat, then cut some chorizo sausages — one of the greatest invention from Spain. Let the meat cook for a bit until the fat of the bacons and chorizos ooze out and turn the pan into a beautiful saffron redness, then add in some cut tomatoes. Any tomatoes would do, I happen to have some lovely sweet cherry tomatoes, I just cut them in half.

I’m quite a mushroom fanatic, there are always room for mushrooms in the fridge and my stomach. Today I use oyster mushrooms, but again, any mushroom can do (or without, if you don’t share my mushroom fever).

Once the mushrooms are coated by the wonderful paprika smoky flavoured oil and start to get softened, I throw in some beans. I put in the beans the last because I’d like them to be quite crunchy.

So far, it’s all perfectly normal, isn’t? Well, I’m just about to do something a little radical. Rather than adding salt to season, I’m actually using soy sauce.

Because the chorizo and the bacon are already salty, you don’t need that much of seasoning anyway. This is another big problem I have with pastes here in Europe, they all seem to be very very salty! I often end up drinking a gallon of water after a paste meal. Soy sauce, light soy sauce to be precise, or Sheng Chou in Chinese, not only subtly seasoning the food but can also add in such flavour that brightens the entire dish. Don’t go mad with it though, 1-2 teaspoons is more than enough.

And last, I’m adding about a cup to 1 and a half cups of the paste water – – another tip from Nigella that I thought actually really works. Because the water is seasoned, it doesn’t dilute the flavour, but adding a natural level of richness to the sauce.

That’s how it looks like:

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By this time, the paste should be cooked. I normally just follow the instructions on the pack but check after 10 minutes of cooking.

And I always cook the paste in its sauce.

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Just a couple of minutes more cooking and we are done!

It takes me about 15 minutes in totally to get my supper done, isn’t that just fabulous?! And seriously, you can pretty much throw in anything you fancy. You are more than welcome to check with me if you are not totally sure about what you are doing, leave me a comment or send me a question.

I know it doesn’t look like the typical kind of paste you would have in any Italian restaurant, but it really works for me. And to honour the great Italian food culture, I add some cheese on top — not good for my diet I know, but hey, it’s Sunday night after all!

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我其实吧,特别同情西方人,哈哈,因为总觉得他们真是不会做饭,都没吃过什么真正的美味。但我特别喜欢看英国的美食节目,而且每次看,还总能找到些灵感。

有很多人都很喜欢说,西餐,中餐,云云。其实,我一直觉得,这样的说法完全是一概而论。拿“中餐”来说,都还有各大菜系,每个村子做饭的风格都不同呢,你能说的出来什么才是最地道的中餐吗?

我的理念是,用身边能采购到的食材,结合学到的不同的烹饪的手艺,做出让味蕾享受的佳肴,这就是煮食的真谛了,又何必去计较是“中”还是“西”?

全球化都已经走到了今天,我们对于事物,也大可放开胸怀。例如,我对于面食的崇敬和痴爱,同样在欧洲转化成对意大利面条的爱。只不过,无论是在意大利本土,还是在欧洲其他地方,吃到的意大利面普遍都有两点是我不钟意的。第一,干!第二,咸!

于是呢,要是我有个厨房可以自己做点,我就会做上面那个样子的意大利面。基本上就是炒一个浇头出来,然后把盐水煮好的意大利面条扔进来,完美!

是不是,其实,无论身在何处,只要是自己喜欢吃的东西,又何必如此纠结中西之分?我打算回国后,那芝麻酱拌个思巴盖提,说不定也是美味呢!!意大利人不是都这样说么,less is more!

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