Curfews and restrictions notwithstanding, many of us have entered this year in a state of pseudo-lockdown. Our dining table may double up as a work-from-home station, but it’s the kitchen which still reigns supreme as the fulcrum of our homes, once again offering an escape from the grim news cycle and uncertainties of the world outside. Yet this time things are different with sourdough starters and overnight focaccia dough abandoned for quicker non-recipe recipes that sate our jaded need for instant gratification.
Cue hot oil noodles, the latest trend to take over Tik Tok and subsequently our Instagram feeds. The ASMR hiss of the sizzling oil is just as compelling as the steaming hot spicy noodles which provide chop-stick after chop-stick of unabashed pleasure.
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Of course, there is nothing new about the simple act of emptying out your favourite aromatics and spices in a bowl and pouring searing hot oil on top. The method is intended to release and intensify the flavours, amalgamating them into a fiery chilli oil. An alternative approach that is less quick (and perhaps not as Instagrammable) involves actively frying the ingredients in a skillet for a more robust and full-bodied flavour.
Whichever approach you take, you’re never far away from a quick and remarkably delicious meal once you have your base chilli oil at hand. Noodles are the most obvious and popular candidate, with a splash of soy sauce and rice vinegar balancing the dish with a welcome boost of umami. However, a versatile chilli oil can just as easily elevate a humble cucumber salad or even transform a block of silken tofu with nuanced shades of heat.
Once you start tinkering with add-ins, the possibilities are truly endless as I recently discovered using cookbook editor, Francis Lam’s ginger scallion oil as a starting point to calibrate a cosy pile of carbs, transforming them into robust spicy miso ginger scallion noodles.
You might recognize Lam’s legendary ginger scallion sauce as a staple Cantonese condiment traditionally served as an accompaniment to roast meats. Its salty depth of flavours is as primed for local Chinese barbecue shops, as it is for enlivening your weeknight supper—you can toss it on to anything from eggs, tofu to poached chicken and fish.
With flu season wearing us down at home, I recently took to the kitchen to build on this simple yet restorative combination of ginger and scallions with a host of other savoury condiments mainlining with an unexpected add-in, miso. The result is nothing short of spectacular, serving up just the soul-stirring comfort needed to fix your sinus, reverse that fatigue and get your partner to tell you that they love you.
Much like all my recipes, the one below is endlessly adaptable with the ingredients easily adjustable to your preference, taste and spice tolerance. The miso is optional, but if you experiment with Asian-inspired dishes often enough, I’d definitely recommend keeping a jar on hand for the inimitable kick of sweet-and-savoury umami.
GINGER SCALLION OIL NOODLES
Noodles of choice, cooked according to the package instructions.
2 - 3 tbsp of ginger, finely minced
Three-fourth to 1 cup of scallions/ fresh spring onions, thinly chopped (green part only)
2-3 tbsp garlic, finely minced
1 - 2 tbsp crushed red chilli flakes or gochugaru (Korean red pepper flakes)
1 – 1 and half tbsp toasted sesame seeds
Salt to taste
4 tbsp neutral-flavoured oil
1 and half tbsp light soy sauce
1 and half tbsp dark soy sauce
Half tbsp rice vinegar
Half to 1 tbsp miso (optional)
Half to 1 tbsp chilli oil/ hot sauce such as Sriracha (optional)
1 tsp brown sugar (optional)
- Start by adding your minced ginger and chopped scallions/ spring onions to a large heat-proof bowl. Generously salt this mixture.
- Next, add your minced garlic, chilli flakes and sesame seeds.
- Heat the oil until smoking point, then pour it over the ginger-scallion mixture. Once the bubbling and sizzling has subsided, give it a gentle stir to ensure that the oil is evenly mixed in.
- Now add the remaining ingredients – light and dark soy sauces, rice vinegar, miso, hot sauce and sugar. Mix well to combine.
- Add your noodles, tossing to ensure that they are evenly coated with the ginger-scallion oil. Serve hot, garnished with more scallions/ spring onions.