PopArtichoke: Seafood Chow Mein - Take That, Takeout!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Seafood Chow Mein - Take That, Takeout!

Sometimes, takeout food seems even tastier because you didn't have to cook it.  But especially in these times, that feeling can be overpowered by the fact you paid that much more for it.  A few months ago, I talked about a spectacular Chinese place near me called Friendship.  Before I ate at Friendship, I thought I hated Chinese food.  Of course, I just didn't like the weird, gloopy stuff so many Americans know as "Chinese" "food."  If you check out the "confession" on Friendship's site, you'll see that the popularization of this misrepresentation is exactly what they're out to transcend.  And take it from me personally, they do an excellent job.

Real Chinese food has a depth of flavor, a finesse, and a freshness I never encountered in the Americanized version.  Now, it's a cuisine I absolutely love.  I've had many dishes from Friendship, but recently I tried their "Seafood Chow Mein Cantonese Style."  As a kid, I thought chow mein was that dry, powdery hard stuff that came in a big bag from the supermarket.  I know better than that now, but I hadn't had the real thing until I tried Friendship's.  It was so tasty: lightly crisped noodles, perfectly cooked seafood, crunchy veggies and a sauce just brimming with umami.  I got it again soon after, and had the leftovers in a awesome bento lunch!  Fast forward a month or so, and I was ready to make it myself!  

I found a recipe for a pork version on Rasa Maylasia, an amazing resource for Asian recipes; check it out if you haven't already!  The chow mein recipe is a guest post from another great site, Taste Hong Kong.  Since I wanted to recreate the Friendship version, which features shrimp, scallops, calamari and crabmeat, I just subbed seafood for the pork.  I did my shopping at a Korean place which is the closest Asian market to me, and couldn't for the life of me find egg noodles, but found wheat ones that worked perfectly.  Also, the recipe uses measurements in grams, which I know, I know.. are much better.  But seeing as I don't have a gram scale yet, I kinda winged it and sometimes downright changed it, so here I put what I used.

Cantonese Style Seafood Chow Mein
Makes 2-3 servings

  • 3 heaping cups fresh soft egg or wheat noodles
  • 5 large bay scallops
  • 10 medium raw shrimp
  • 5 small cleaned squid, with tentacles
  • 4 crab sticks
  • 4 dried shiitake mushrooms, rinsed
  • 1/4 cup Chinese chives
  • 1/4 cup soybean sprouts
  • 1/2 tablespoon ginger, julienned
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon corn starch
  • Peanut oil
1. Quickly blanch the noodles in boiling water.  When just al dente, transfer them right away to a colander and rinse with cold running water for about a minute.  Toss lightly with your hand to loosen the noodles and then let drain and dry for at least an hour.  This helps them get that nice crispiness when they're cooked.

2.  Soak the dried shiitake mushrooms in 3/4 cups water with 1/4 teaspoon salt.  Let them soak until they're soft, then squeeze them out (over the soaking water) and cut into thin slices.  Save the soaking water for the sauce.

3. Rinse the chives and bean sprouts.  Coarsely chop the chives, then drain with the sprouts in a fine mesh sieve to get any extra water out.  Let sit for at least 10 minutes.  Right before you start cooking, squeeze out the chives and bean sprouts and mix with 1/4 teaspoon of salt.

4. Prepare the seafood: Cut the scallops into 2 or 3 pieces each, depending on their size.  Peel and de-vein the shrimp.  Slice squid bodies into postage stamp-sized squares, and if necessary, chop tentacles.  Slice the crab sticks on a diagonal into pieces about 1 1/2" long.

5. For the sauce, mix the reserved 3/4 water that the mushrooms were soaked in with the oyster sauce, sugar, soy sauce, and corn starch in a small bowl.  Set aside.

6. Make sure all of your ingredients are ready to go and close at hand before you start cooking.  Heat a wok over high heat, then add enough peanut oil to lightly coat the center and a few inches up the sides of the wok. When the wok begins to smoke a little bit, place the noodles flat in the center of the wok.  Resist the urge to toss them!  Turn the heat to medium and don't move those noodles for a good couple of minutes.  You want the bottom of the noodles to be crisp and golden brown before you flip them, otherwise you might have a sticky mess on your hands.  After a few minutes, lightly push the noodles with a wooden spoon to see if they move freely.  If they're crisp, flip the whole bunch and fry the other side in the same manner, adding a bit of oil if needed.  When both sides are nicely crisped, transfer to a bowl and keep them warm while you finish everything else.

7. Heat another tablespoon or so of peanut oil in the wok, still over medium heat.  Sauté the ginger and sliced mushroom for a minute or so, until fragrant.  Add bean sprouts and chives and stir fry over high heat until just wilted, about half a minute.  Add seafood and stir-fry with the veggies, tossing frequently, until just cooked through.  This was just a couple minutes for me, but just keep an eye on the seafood so you don't overcook it.  Just when the seafood starts to turn opaque, add in the sauce and continue stirring.  When the liquid starts to boil (which should happen quickly), the dish is ready to serve!

8.  Divide the noodles into serving bowls and ladle the sauce, seafood, and veggies over the top.  Serve hot.

The result was a beautiful dish, looking and tasting a lot like my takeout favorite!  In fact, I think it was even better, but probably just because I was so happy I made it myself. ^_^  Steve and I both loved it.

Is there a cuisine that you thought you didn't like just to find you had merely misunderstood it?  Have a takeout favorite that you tried making on your own?  Let me know in the comments! 

Thanks for stopping by, everyone!


bentobird said...

Mmmmmm, stunning recipe and photos! Really inspiring, thanks for sharing this...and it was finding authentic Indian and Szechuan places here in Northern VA really transformed my view of those cuisines :D

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