After my recent success making ramen noodles at home, I decided to see what else I could do with this toothsome pasta. Since ramen noodles have descended from a long line of Chinese pasta, I turned to Japan's bigger neighbor to the west for inspiration. I've always been a big fan of garlic noodles, and wondered if I could improve upon this simple dish by using garlic in a couple different forms.
I had some mayu leftover from my ramen experiments and decided that burnt garlic flavored noodles would make a great base on which to build my version of garlic noodles. I know "burnt" isn't a very attractive description, but it's exactly what it is. As heat is applied to garlic, a Maillard reaction occurs which rearranges sugars and amino acids, creating new flavors that weren't there in the raw garlic. This is why many recipes will tell you to brown garlic first before adding other ingredients. For mayu, this concept is taken to an extreme and the garlic is actually burnt.
Unsurprisingly the resulting oil is almost black and has slightly bitter notes reminiscent of coffee. Traditionally it's drizzled onto Kagoshima style ramen, adding depth to the buttery porcine soup, but I'm not aware of any other applications, which is a shame because it's such a great ingredient.
Given the pedigree of my other half, I didn't want to leave Korea out of this East Asian noodle party, so I decided to add some chopped up fermented black garlic to the dish. Unlike with mayu, black garlic gets its eponymous color from a fermentation process that involves heat. This encourages a Maillard reaction to occur, but it also converts the starches in the garlic into sugar, making the garlic very sweet. The flavor reminds me of something between fermented black beans and a really good aged balsamic vinegar.
To complete the garlic trifecta, I caramelized lots of fresh garlic before tossing the noodles into the sauce. What I love about this dish is that it highlights the broad range of flavors garlic can deliver, from the earthy coffee flavor of the burnt garlic, and the sweet fruity flavor of the fermented garlic, to the lip-smacking umami of caramelized garlic.
Being a food blogger, I get food samples from companies all the time, but you won't find many references to these products on this blog. One reason is that this is not a review blog, so I'll only talk about something if it's relevant. The other reason is that I will only mention a company or product when I find their offering truly exceptional. It's rare that both these conditions are met, which is why I don't plug things very often.
Lava Lake Lamb is one of those rare exceptions because they produce grass-fed lamb that is tender and incredibly well marbled with only a mild hint of that strong smell that turns some people off of lamb. They currently have a special on sampler packages that will get you a few different cuts of lamb at a discount. Living in NYC I tend to get a lot of my meat from local butchers, but when it comes to lamb, I prefer getting it from these guys.
I served this with some lamb char siu I made with ribs that Lava Lake Lamb was nice enough to send me. This cut works particularly well for char siu because it's marbled with a lot of fat. I used my pork char siu recipe, but added some annatto (achiotte) powder to give it a naturally red color.
- Put the flour in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a dough hook. Mix the water and kansui together, then add the mixture to the flour. Give the mixture a quick stir with a fork or chopsticks, then add the mayu and stir again. Attach the bowl to your mixer and run on medium high speed for 10 minutes. Press it all together into a ball.
- Flatten the ball and run it through the largest setting of your pasta roller a few times, folding it in half each time. When it starts rolling out smoother, fold it up into a square and wrap with plastic wrap and store it in the fridge overnight.
- When you’re ready to cook it, prepare a large pot of boiling salted water. Flour the dough generously and roll it out to the 3 setting on your pasta roller. Cut the dough in half so you have two sheets of dough a little over 1 foot long and flour generously again. Use the spagetti attachment to cut the pasta into long thin noodles, dusting them with flour as they are cut to keep them from sticking together.
- Boil the noodles until they are slightly firmer than the final consistency you want, since we will be stir frying them (a little less than one minute). Drain and rinse with cold water.
- In a small bowl, mix the oyster sauce, honey, fish sauce, and white pepper. Heat a wok or cast iron skillet until very hot. Add the oil or butter and both garlics and stir-fry until the fresh garlic starts turning browning. Add the bokchoy and give it a quick toss. Add the cooked noodles and sauce, and toss until the noodles are coated with sauce and the noodles are heated through.
- Serve immediately.