The Mixing Bowl: Asian carbonara

(Photo by Tarmo Hannula/Register-Pajaronian)

If there was a restaurant in town that made this dish, I would have been saved a lot of work. But the beauty of being a home cook is that we can make almost anything we want, if we can find the ingredients, the recipe, and then figure out how to put in all together. This dish is worth it.

As wonderful as Italian pasta alla carbonara is, this rich Asian version topped with crunchy fried shallots and nori seaweed surpasses it, in my opinion. It’s from Susan Jung in the May 7, 2018 online edition of the Hong Kong newspaper, the South China Morning Post available on Apple News.

Although many excellent dried egg noodles are available, I’m going to recommend buying fresh ones. They are softer and better absorb the sauce, which is the highlight of the recipe. I used fresh fettucine noodles because a wider noodle was recommended in the recipe.

Dashi is a commonly used Japanese fish and seaweed stock that is made from dried bonito and kombu. It is not difficult to make your own if you have the ingredients but it’s easier to just buy Hon Dashi, an instant version, or the tea bag version. It is all available at the Yamashita Market at 114 Union St. You can also buy furikaki, soy sauce, ginger, rice wine and nori at the same time. They have a big selection of furikaki, a dry seasoning that is great sprinkled on rice or other foods and is made with sesame seeds, seaweed, dried fish, salt and other ingredients depending on the variety.

Asian carbonara

For the pork belly:

•1 pound skin-on, well-layered pork belly

•2 tablespoons soy sauce

•2 tablespoons rice wine

•1/8 cup or 2 tablespoons granulated sugar

•1 tsp fine sea salt

•1 inch chunk of ginger, peeled

•3 garlic cloves

•1 cup dashi broth: 2 teaspoons of dashi granules to 1 cup of hot water or use dashi tea bags

For the noodles and garnishes:

•1 pound fresh egg noodles, medium thickness like fettucine

•1 tablespoon sesame oil

•4 spring onions, sliced

•¼ cup crispy fried shallots – •4 large thinly sliced shallots deep fat fried in 1 cup of high heat oil

•4 small handfuls of shredded nori

•4 egg yolks

•Furikaki, Japanese spice and seed mixture

•Toasted sesame seeds

Make one cup of dashi broth; use the instant or mix your own. Make the crispy fried shallots by first thinly slicing the shallots.

Set up your stove for deep fat frying with a colander over a bowl to drain the fried shallots. Bring oil to high heat, watching carefully. When oil is 275 degrees, add the shallots and stir until golden brown for about eight minutes. Turn off heat and remove shallots from oil with a slotted spoon to colander and then to paper towels. Set aside.

Put the pork belly in the freezer for about 15 minutes. Then place skin-side down on the cutting board and cut into pieces that are about ½-inch squares. Put the pieces in a saucepan and add the soy sauce, rice wine, sugar and salt. Peel the ginger and garlic, then place the ginger on a cutting board and whack it with a meat mallet or the side of a cleaver to crush it lightly. Mince garlic and ginger together. Put the garlic and ginger in the pan. Add dashi stock (or chicken broth or water) to the pan and bring to boil over medium heat. Lower the heat, cover the pan with the lid and simmer, stirring occasionally.

Cook for about 45 minutes or until the pork is very tender. Check the consistency of the sauce; it should be glossy and sticky. If needed, simmer the ingredients, uncovered and stirring often, until the sauce lightly coats the meat. Remove the ginger and garlic cloves.

Chop the spring onions about ¼ inch thick.

Bring a large pot of water to boil, add the egg noodles and cook until done. Drain, return noodles to the pot, add sesame oil and mix to coat the noodles. Divide the noodles into 4 bowls.

Spoon the pork belly and sauce over the noodles. Sprinkle with the spring onions and a small handful of shredded nori. Make an indentation in the centre of the noodles and add some fried shallots. Crack the eggs, separating the white from the yolk. Add the egg yolk to the center of each bowl. Sprinkle with furicake and sesame seeds as desired.

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