Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Bamboo Bento

bamboo bento
Today is 1st October, China's National Day. It is a public holiday here in Hong Kong, so I thought I would mark the day with a themed bento. After wild thoughts of re-creating the Great Wall out of cubes of egg, I settled for a more simple bamboo design.

The "bamboo" is made out of cut pieces of blanched haricot beans, and snow peas cut in the shape of leaves. Instead of rice, I decided to give the bento a slight Shanghainese twist, with dumplings and la mian noodles. The dumplings are just frozen ones (meat and vegetable wonton and shrimp dumplings) and the la mian is a cold noodle concoction I made up. 

La mian (拉麵) noodles are made from wheat flour. The best kind are the ones that are freshly made (pulled) and then served in soup with toppings such as pork and preserved vegetables. I used a packet of dried la mian, which is the only type I can easily buy. It's of course not as good as fresh la mian, but it's pretty decent, too.

Accompanying the lunch is rather Japanese dessert of konnyaku jelly and slices of Japanese Hosui pear (no political reference intended, really).

Since it's China's National Day, it was fitting for the panda picks and sauce bottles to make an appearance - the bottle contains some soya sauce to loosen the noodles a little, although the garlic oil coating the noodles did stop most of the clumping.

Continue reading...

Cold La Mian Noodles
(2 fairly large portions)

200g dried la mian noodles
4 - 5 chinese mushrooms/shitake mushrooms
half a bulb of garlic (if you are not a garlic fan, reduce this down to 3-4 cloves)
light olive oil
soya sauce
oyster sauce
xo sauce (optional, if not available)
chilli oil (optional)
thinly sliced straws of fresh ginger (optional)

frozen dumplings (optional)

If you are using frozen dumplings, boil them in water (for timing, follow the packet instructions) and set them aside whilst you make the noodles.
  1. Bring a pot of water to the boil and add the la mian noodles. Stir them around until cooked (should only take 1.5 - 2 minutes). Be careful not to overcook them. Drain them in a colander and rinse them well under running cold water. Set aside.
  2. Peel and chop the garlic finely, and slice the mushrooms.
  3. Heat up a pot with some olive oil (approx 3 Tbsp) and fry the garlic on low heat until fragrant (not brown). If you have some xo sauce, add 1/2 tsp.
  4. Add the mushrooms and fry them. (If using dumplings, add the pre-cooked dumplings here and fry lightly, then remove them from the pot - this stops them breaking up when you stir the noodles about)
  5. If the noodles have clumped together, separate them under cold water, drain, then pour them into the pot.
  6. Mix the garlic oil and the noodles together on low heat.
  7. Add a dash of soya sauce and oyster sauce. Mix into the noodles. Taste test and add a little more if necessary.
  8. If you like your noodles spicy, mix in a few drops of chilli oil. Serve topped with a few thin slices of ginger and dumplings (optional).
If you do not have dumplings, you can also add some mince meat (beef/pork/chicken). Just fry the meat in the garlic oil before you add the mushrooms (there is no need to remove the meat before adding the noodles in this case).


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