Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Mi fen, good food without forsaking the effort


Mi Fen

My life has gotten much more hectic this week, now that classes have started. I'm beginning to wonder how I survived the last two years with the following FULL TIME JOBS: cook (chef want-to-be), laundromat, accountant, children's character molder, janitor, I know I'm forgetting some stuff. Oh, and I'm in school. Again.

Of pertinence to this particular blog is cooking. I do minimal ready-prepared frozen foods, whether chicken breasts or what not. It's not that I disrespect those who do. It's just that in my own life and in the lives of those in this house, I don't want to spend the extra money (that I don't have) on that and I'm convinced I can do better (in terms of nutrition and taste).

But, the day before yesterday, the same day as my first day of class, I nearly had a breakdown. Perhaps that's a bit of a hyperbole, but you get the idea. I panicked. I can scarcely keep cooked food, even when made in bulk quantities, in this house; because it gets consumed too quickly. I don't know how my parents cooked EVERY DAY, but I cannot do that and maintain my sanity. Cooking takes time, no matter what my dad says; and I haven't mastered being super quick in the kitchen. Especially when I have two little children constantly asking for this, that, and the other.

All this is to say that I understand people live busy lives. I've been in that zone for quite awhile now. Just ask any of my close friends, near or far. But, any meals par excellence, is complicated. I've discovered, via trial and error, before noticing this on Gordon Ramsay's Hell's Kitchen, that parts of an exquisite dish are cooked separately; in other words, a dish is rarely cooked altogether, at once, in one pan or pot. Trust me, any five star restaurants cook component parts of dishes separately. Not that I can afford to eat in such places, and not that I claim to make such comparable food. I only dream of making such.


Well, for this rice noodle stir fry that I made the day before yesterday, here are the component parts:

1. A red onion with some olive oil, cooked on lower medium heat, until nearly transparent. Tried adding a bit of sea salt; perfect.

2. Using the same pan, without first washing it, but adding a touch more olive oil and diced garlic, on the same level of heat, once the garlic has been sizzling for a bit, adding in eggs beaten with a bit of chicken broth. Added a touch of sea salt.

3. Cabbage. I had this left over from a couple of days previous. I had cooked half a red onion per the instructions above, then added the thinly sliced cabbage. I added water, chicken broth, some sea salt and oyster sauce. Cook until tender.

4. Soak the rice noodles (the packages I use really are made of rice, not wheat) in hot water. To be cooked for a brief amount of time with the rice noodles and some water include: fresh shitake mushrooms, green onions.

On medium heat, with the lid on, cook for 5-10 minutes.

While that's simmering, make a sauce concoction that will give the mi fen a lovely, tasty complex flavor. I offer my humble apologies for having no clue how much of what I put here. I can, however, disclose what I put into the mixture:
  • brown sugar.
  • rice vinegar.
  • sesame oil.
  • sea salt.
  • oyster sauce.
  • barbecue sauce (not to be confused with what we normally think of as barbecue sauce. This is not what is normally found in grocery stores; this is an Asian sauce that's spicy).
Mix the stuff together well and then dump the contents into the mi fen (rice noodles) that's cooking and stir well. I always operate with the "waste not" mentality. Once, I've emptied the contents of the bowl into the pan, I place some water into the bowl, scrape the sauce contents off of the bowl, and pour all of what is in the bowl into the frying pan. Stir well, add the onion, eggs, and cabbage into the mixture, stir well, and serve.

If you've been following this blog for awhile now, you heard me say this previously. My husband was a meat and potatoes man when I met him, and deep down, he still is. When I make this, I make roughly 12 servings worth. And it is sometimes gone within 24 hours. So, folks, it is worth putting in the effort, though the work may appear intense or daunting at first.


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