Sunday, September 16, 2012

Question: What's common between Sichuan and Satara?

Answer: Oil, garlic, chilli, peanuts, sesame seeds, scallions and cilantro.

Both the regions have figured out the magic of this combination...almost identically...and it's some combination. Caution - this can be extremely addictive.A restaurant near my home, called Sichuan Gourmet makes these absolutely addictive cold noodles. Here's my attempt to re-create them:

Boil thin noodles (the ones they use are closer to angel hair pasta), I ended up using rice noodles, since that's what I had around. Cool the noodles in cold water and set aside. Roast peanuts lightly and crush coarsely. Also roast sesame seeds and crush very coarsely. Coarsely crush garlic. Heat some vegetable oil and add the garlic on medium heat and let it cook. When it's cooked for a bit, add a pinch of red chilli flakes and cook some more (do not brown). Now, add a paste made with spicy chilli powder (like cayenne) + paprika + water into the garlic oil, and then turn off the heat. Let the oil cool down slightly. Add some salt to this mixture. Slice a couple of scallions and chop cilantro. To assemble: lay down the cold noodles, sprinkle crushed peanuts, sesame seeds and scallion whites; drizzle garlic oil; and garnish with scallion greens and cilantro. May also add sprouts. If you prefer, mix before eating, and enjoy the addictive stuff. I can also most imagine two women, sitting in dark kitchens in two remote villages; one in Sichuan and another around Satara; almost simultaneously coming up with this magical combination. The woman in Sichuan topping some leftover noodles, and the one in Satara topping some leftover rice. Talk about parallel innovation!

Update: A colleague from work, who is also fond of this dish observed there's also some soy sauce and ginger. I think the ginger is fairly understated, but there is definitely a little bit of soy, not the amount you find in regular Chinese recipes...but more like a dash. Obviously, that's the Sichuan touch!

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