Spicy, crunchy and colourful: Korean-style cold noodle salad hits all the flavour notes
Fresh and beautiful at-home dinner favourite of Biera's Christine Sandford
Chef Christine Sandford spends her days at Biera crafting delicious and creative foods that give the illusion of simplicity, but in reality take an enormous amount of work to create.
While her talent and dedication to perfection is a big reason many regard Biera, at 9570 76th Ave. in Ritchie Market, as one of Canada's best restaurants, sometimes important individual details get forgotten in the fray.
Like remembering to eat.
"I think most restaurant folks would agree that we spend a lot of time feeding other people and often forget about ourselves," Sandford said. "In the restaurant, you're constantly snacking on anything in sight. It's funny how excited chefs get about a bowl of bread ends."
On days off, however, the chef's focus shifts from precision to simplicity, with a healthy dose of … healthy.
"I usually end up craving vegetables by the end of the week and it's all I want to eat," said Sandford.
Whether simple or complex, Sandford insisted that a focus on quality ingredients and a beautiful presentation should always apply, lessons that were learned at home.
"My mom has always been very particular about how she wanted a dish to turn out and even to look on the plate," she said. "If the dish didn't turn out right, she was very upset even though we probably still loved it."
"I remember trying to re-create some of her dishes in junior high for a class — I think it was meatballs with this sweet-and-sour sauce — but I couldn't get it to taste right and I was so angry and almost in tears.
"Her dishes were always so delicious and well planned out. I spent a lot of time looking through her cookbooks and helping her out in the kitchen."
Though Sandford credits her mom and both grandmothers as fantastic cooks and inspirations, the dish she shared with us actually came from a camping trip with her partner, Roger.
After whipping up this simple Spicy Korean-style Cold Noodles dish to go with the ribs they were smoking over the campsite fire, it has become an after-work favourite for them both.
Sandford said any kind of noodle will work but don't overcook them for this cold noodle salad. Take them off the heat a couple of minutes ahead of the recommended cooking time and let them sit in the hot water for a minute to help improve the texture. Then you can either gently rinse them or place in ice water to cool.
She likes the sauce acidic and a little bit spicy, but you can adjust the ingredient ratios to suit your own tastes.
The mixture of fresh vegetables, grains and nuts on top make every bite a little bit different.
Spicy Korean-style Cold Noodles
- 350 g (about ½ package) Japanese style noodles, such as Shirakiku brand Hana Zaruudon noodles
- 2 tablespoons seasoned soybean paste
- 1 teaspoon organic, good-quality soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- ½ cup rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons Chiu Chow chili oil
- 2 tablespoons good-quality sesame oil
- ½ cup sunflower or grapeseed oil
- 1 bunch fresh basil, preferably Thai basil, or fresh mint
- 1 bunch green onions
- 1 bunch fresh sprouts
- 1 carrot, shredded
- 1 small cucumber, sliced thinly on a mandolin
- ½ white onion, sliced very thinly on a mandolin
- ½ cup fresh greens
Note: You can use up whatever you have in your fridge, including leftover cooked vegetables
- ½ cup roasted raw peanuts
- ¼ cup roasted sesame seeds
- ¼ cup roasted sunflower seeds
You can also add furikake, a crunchy Japanese rice seasoning
Bring salted water to a boil, add the noodles, stir and cook for about seven minutes. Check them after six. Let them rest in the water for one minute, then drain and add them into a bowl of cold water to rinse or gently rinse under the tap. Rinsing keeps noodles from getting gummy.
Prepare the sauce by whisking soybean paste, soy sauce and mustard together in a bowl. Then whisk in the rice vinegar. Stir up the chili oil then mix that into the sauce. Slowly drizzle in the sesame oil, followed by the grapeseed or sunflower oil. Add 1 tablespoon of cold water and whisk until everything is nicely emulsified together.
Toss the cold noodles into the sauce (it should be quite saucy).
Top the noodles with the sliced vegetables, lettuce, sprouts and the crunchy topping.
Makes four servings