There is a time and place to spend hours cooking perfect pad Thai. That time is probably a rainy weekend when you’ve dedicated yourself to an involved, multi-step culinary quest. There is also a time and place for those back-pocket noodle recipes you can throw together in less than 15 minutes when the weeknight Asian noodle craving strikes. I am here to share a fantastic example of the latter.
Perusing China: The Cookbook, a tome whose recipes span China’s varied regions and cuisines, my eyes landed on a crispy pork and shallot-oil noodle recipe that claimed to be ready in just 20 minutes: five minutes of prep time and 15 minutes of cooking time. I even had all the ingredients, save the noodles, already on hand. It was destined to be.
Unlike those nefarious estimated cooking times that turn out to be a complete lie, I prepared this dish even faster than the recipe estimated. Maybe I’m just a quick shallot chopper? You’d hardly even need the recipe’s measurements after cooking it once, the ultimate mark of a back-pocket recipe. Next time I make this, I’m going to double the volume of shallot- and garlic-infused oil to drizzle on pizza, shrimp, and other dinners later in the week.
The whole was greater than the sum of its seemingly simple parts; the aroma of shallots and garlic frying in pork fat alone is reason to cook this. The final dish contrasts springy noodles with crispy pork, and sharp alliums with rich, luscious oils. Are you cooking these noodles right this very instant? You should be.
Adapted from China: The Cookbook by Kei Lum and Diora Fong Chan
Preparation time: 5 minutes
Cooking Time: 15 Minutes
• 1 Tbsp + 1 tsp. vegetable oil
• 1 1/4 oz. / 30 g pork fatback, cut into pea-size pieces (I used the fatty portion of bacon)
• 4 shallots, quartered and lightly crushed
• 4 cloves garlic, chopped
• 11 oz. / 300 g fresh egg noodles (I used chow mein)
• 1 Tbsp. light soy sauce
• 1 Tbsp. fish sauce
Heat one teaspoon oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat, add the pork and pan-fry for 4–5 minutes until crisp. Remove the crispy pork and drain on paper towels.
Add the shallots and garlic to the pan and pan-fry over medium heat for two minutes until slightly brown. Transfer the shallot/garlic oil to a bowl. Discard the garlic and shallots.
Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil, add the noodles, and cook according to package instructions. Drain and mix with the remaining one tablespoon of oil. Drain, then divide among serving bowls.
Sprinkle over the soy sauce, fish sauce, and garlic-shallot oil. Mix well and top with the crispy pork. Serve immediately.