I really enjoy a good food writer. Someone who can bring actual taste and fragrance to the printed page is a hero in my book. Think of how hard it is to describe the flavor of something we totally take for granted like an apple or a pork chop. Ruth Reichl is brilliant at it. She started out cooking in a restaurant and ended up editor in chief of Gourmet Magazine. Along the way, she wrote 4 memoirs that I loved.
The ability to describe a taste or to explain why an ingredient is necessary to achieve a taste is a gift and Ruth, like her mentor M.F.K. Fisher, honed that gift to a sharpness few achieve. I too often simply say, “Tastes like ____________”. Not Ruth. She will take you on a trip to New Mexico to experience red and green chilies, or China for Black Bean Sauce.
This is not the exact same recipe from Ruth’s book Save Me the Plums. I’ve been making this recipe from an article she wrote a few years ago. I love Asian flavors and these are profound.
Cook a pound of Chinese noodles, dried egg noodles or spaghetti until al dente, drain, toss with a tablespoon of peanut oil and set aside.
Mince fresh, peeled ginger until you have a quarter cup (it should be about a 3 inch long piece).
Chop 3 to 4 scallions.
Mix 2 teaspoons of sugar into 5 tablespoons of Chinese Black Bean Garlic Sauce (or Korean Kochujang sauce) and set aside. If you want it spicy, combine the Black Bean Garlic Sauce with the Black Bean with Chili Sauce. I like it a little on the sweet side so I sometimes add Hoisin Sauce.
Heat a wok or large skillet, until a drop of water skitters across the surface. Add two tablespoons of peanut oil, toss in the ginger and stir fry for about half a minute, until the fragrance is hovering over the wok.
Add a pound of ground pork and stir fry until all traces of pink have disappeared. Add the bean sauce mixture and cook and stir for about 2 minutes.
Stir in the scallions and noodles, and quickly toss. Add a drop of sesame oil and turn out onto a platter.
(I add green onions and sesame seeds on top since they add needed color and texture.)
and remember: As Ruth said: Let’s face it: my life tends to revolve around food, and I love feeding people. I feel the same. Big kiss, Lynn