Sunday 13 July 2014


It does occasionally feel like I am the last food blogger in Britain not to have a book deal. I am OK with that: I don't think I bring anything new to the table with the recipes I write. But I am very interested to see what other bloggers are bringing out, and was absolutely delighted to attend the book launch for Mimi Aye's first book, Noodle!. It was a fun party - the wine flowed, the snacks were noodly, the publisher was really late and arrived soaked to the skin. I got to put faces to twitter handles, catch up with a few people I hadn't seen in a while and gossip in more than 140 character bursts.

Mimi had a pile of books for sale, so I bought one and took it over to her for signing. It took a remarkably long time and I assumed she was checking facebook to see how to spell my name, BUT NO, she was drawing me this adorable little picture of Urchin eating noodles.

The following day I sat with said cat, a cup of coffee and some book marks, and had a flick through the book:
Sticky page tabs are the best things in the world
Having identified one or two dishes I liked the look of, I had to narrow it down a bit. Quite a few of the recipes call for speciality ingredients; those were going to have to wait until I went into Chinatown. Fortunately the thing I wanted most to eat was doable.
Mimi's Bún chả - the photography in the book is lovely
Bún chả was one of the dishes she'd served in little teaser-size portions at the launch, and the combination of pork, noodles, pickles and firey sauce is absolutely perfect. I was pretty impressed to discover that Ocado stock daikon, so there were no barriers to making this dish. Other than, of course, the fact that I totally forgot to get fresh herbs. I decided to persevere, using frozen chopped herbs, which gave some of the flavour, if not the spirit of Vietnamese cooking.
My Bún chả
It was seriously good. The pickles are sweet, crunchy, gently pungent, and addictive. I ate... quite a lot of them before the meal. The pork mixture is very wet, and I couldn't really see how it would hold together, but after resting the excess liquid gets absorbed. The patties end up with a deep flavour even if, like mine, they were just cooked in a frying pan and don't have nifty grilling stripes on them.
Next I turned to one of the quick fusion dishes - ham and pea shoot noodles, a cute summer take on pea and ham soup. I always love a pink and green pasta dish, so I was very well disposed towards it just because it was pretty. I felt there was something lacking in the flavour, so I added some chopped spring onions, which added the oniony brightness I was looking for. Very quick, very simple, and I suspect this is something children would eat without too much of a fight.
The teriyaki salmon was also really quick to throw together and the sauce was much nicer than any of the commercial ones I have tried. I would usually have teriyaki dishes with rice, but the noodles and bok choy were very good with it. I still have some leftover in the fridge, which I think will cuddle up to some chicken fairly soon.
Having then made a trip to Chinatown, I was able to make a couple of the more complex dishes. The curry laksa had a really authentic flavour (and by "authentic" I mean it tastes like the ones we used to get in Sydney). I forgot about the eggs on the stove, so they were boiled to buggery, but the combination of tastes, temperatures and textures made it such a pleasure to eat. Even if you think you don't like tofu, I urge you to try this with the fried tofu puffs - the way they hold the thick gravy is heaven.

The last dish I tried before voluntary admission to noodle detox was Hong Kong-style wonton noodle soup. I was starting from behind with this because instead of picking up wonton wrappers (thin, square, white) I picked up dumpling wrappers (thicker, round, yellow), so the description of how to fold the dumplings made not a lick of sense to me.
Mimi pointed me towards this video of how to fold round dumplings. I watched it about ten times before taking a deep breath and heading into the kitchen. I was very happy with how they turned out! I think they look quite professional, although I confess it did take me quite a lot longer than the girl in the video. I used just egg yolk to seal them, because I used the white for the week's batch of spiced nuts, but that was plenty to hold the dumplings together.
Now, Mimi claims that she isn't an expert, just an enthusiast, but from the point of view of another enthusiast, this book contains considerable expertise. She has an engaging writing style and explains the origins of her dishes really well. There are a lot of authentic recipes (in this case, "authentic" meaning containing ingredients that might scare your honey-chicken orderer in the local Chinese restaurant) without being overly didactic. I think it's a really valuable resource.

It's available from Amazon of course, but if you buy it directly from her, she'll sign it and you might get a little picture with the dedication. If you are really lucky, she might draw you an Urchin of your own.
We had a slightly higher wonton-to-bowl ratio than is traditional.


Arlene Delloro said...

You certainly are cooking your way through this book. Your wonton to bowl ratio looks just about right to me (and very enticing).

wildtomato said...

Noodle detox? No such thing! I can eat noodles and dumplings every day and not get tired of it. Your noodles look good!

Alicia Foodycat said...

Arlene - it was so good!

Wildtomato - I could too, but I try not to eat too many carb-based meals. I don't get enough exercise for that!

leaf (the indolent cook) said...

Gosh. I love noodles. Looks like a great book, and I'm impressed you've tried so many of the recipes already!

grace said...

i definitely don't eat enough noodles!

Joanne said...

Haha I feel that way in the US also! Seems like every other day, a blogger is announcing a new book deal!

A whole cookbook devoted to noodles sounds like a GREAT cookbook to me!

Bettina Douglas said...

The picture of Urchin is really personal and special. Not many authors would do that.

Couscous & Consciousness said...

All of the dishes you've made, Alicia, look seriously good - especially that Bun Cha, which is not a dish I've heard of before, but which I now really want to try.

Sounds like a really good book - I'll definitely be on the look out for it here.


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