My new favorite ‘quick and easy recipe for home cooking’ sounds like a character from Star Wars. It’s called Ja Ja Men (close to, but not quite Jar Jar Binks), and it is from Takashi’s Noodles, a fantastic cookbook that I can highly endorse. This book is filled with quick and easy Asian noodle recipes that are delicious and perfect for weeknight cooking. I’m all about quick and easy recipes these days, more so than ever. Pete and I challenged ourselves to stop ordering take out about a month ago to see not only the impact on our wallets, but also how we feel primarily eating homemade food—that is all natural, fresh foods without any additives or preservatives. I think that we all want something that we can put on the table really fast and we want it to taste good. I hate eating ill prepared and ill tasting food. (Airport food sends a chill up and down my spine.) I would rather be hungry. Relaxing with a glass of wine over a dinner that really tastes good and is healthy is something that I look forward to all day.
Here it is:
Spicy Eggplant Ja Ja Men Udon
Adapted from Takashi’s Noodles, by Takashi Yagihashi with Harris Salat
2 cups peeled, cubed eggplant, about 1 moderately sized eggplant or two small ones.
½ cup chopped red, yellow or orange bell pepper (This recipe originally calls for green bell pepper which is one of the few vegetables that I actively dislike, but if you like green bell pepper, by all means use it.)
1/3 cup drained, canned bamboo shoots, cut into ½ inch pieces
4 scallions, green and white parts separated and chopped
Combine the eggplant, bell pepper and bamboo shoots in a large bowl. Cover with cold water and set aside to soak for 10 minutes, then drain.
While the eggplant is soaking, combine the following and set aside:
3 Tbsp. sake
2 Tbsp. red miso
2 Tbsp. sesame paste
6 Tbsp. Soy Sauce (I used Tamari)
2 Tbsp. Chinese chili paste, if unavailable, you may use 1 Tbsp. Siracha. As always with chilies, add more or less according to your liking.
5 Tbsp. Mirin
½ cup Dashi or Water
Combine 1 tsp cornstarch with 1 tsp. water and set aside.
2 Tbsp or so of vegetable oil for sautéing.
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
1 Tbsp. minced ginger
8 oz. ground pork (If you are vegetarian, you could substitute 8 oz of tofu cut into a small dice.)
2 Tbsp. Sesame Oil
1 # dried udon noodles
Heat the vegetable oil in a large-ish sauté pan over medium high heat. When the oil is hot, sauté the garlic and ginger until they are a light golden brown. Add the ground pork or tofu and the chopped green scallion. Use a spoon to combine the ingredients in the pan. When the pork is no longer pink, add the eggplant, bamboo shoots and bell pepper. Cook for a few minutes so that the vegetable start to soften and the flavors begin to mingle. Add the sesame oil and stir well to combine. Add the sake/miso/spice mixture and bring to a boil. Stir the cornstarch and water if it has separated and pour it into the sauce. Stir well to combine and continue to cook for a few minutes until the sauce thickens and the eggplant is cooked to your liking. Remove the pot from the heat.
Bring a pot of water to the boil and cook the udon noodles according to the directions on the package. Drain and place a portion of noodles in each serving bowl. If the sauce has cooled, reheat and top the noodles with the sauce. Garnish with the reserved chopped white scallion.
*If you can’t find udon noodles, you can use linguine