Every time we'd go out to eat as a family growing up, if my Dad liked something that he ordered, he'd confidently declare that he would attempt to remake it at home. And he usually always followed through on this promise, at least making one (or hundreds) of attempts to get it just right. I think that somewhere along the line I inherited this gene and whenever I got out to eat, now I'm the one announcing that I will remake my own version at home. Sometimes it's one component of a dish or the whole thing and I'll work to do my own rendition of it to weave into my cooking. Case in point, the real star of these green tea noodles is the peanut sugar dusted on top and it is inspired by the pork belly buns at Jo Jo Taipei
in Allston. I've had numerous versions of pork buns at lots of places but none have come close to these - a soft steamed bun folded around a hunk of braised pork belly that melts in the most delicate and flavorful of ways. While those components are memorable on their own, it gets even better, thanks to the peanut sugar that laces the whole bun, providing a nutty, crunchiness that elevates this dish to new heights. I just had to make it. I had to have it.
I didn't follow any recipes, although I'm sure there are some out there. I just went by my tastes, just like Dad, and ended up with something pretty close to the real thing. Easily enough, I simply ground up roasted peanuts, white sugar, cilantro and salt in the food processor. I think they slick theirs with some oil at the last minute but I left mine more powdery because I liked the look. And then, since I needed to add my new treat to a dish, I stir-fried some shiitake, portabello and oyster mushrooms with some chopped snow peas and edamame. Then I mixed in some green tea soba noodles, which I've recently become obsessed with because not only do they have a beautiful green hue to them, I love their earthy and slight grassy tea-twinged flavor. The whole thing got a couple healthy shakes of some good quality soy sauce and sesame oil and then diced up grapefruit was added to give it a welcome, tart finish.
Similar to the Pork Buns at Jo Jo Taipei, the peanut sugar stole the show, adding a crunch to a dish that otherwise wouldn't have any and, not to mention, it just looked pretty, especially once combined with black sesame seeds. And while it was great in this dish, having some extra on hand has taken my salads to new levels too and I'm already dreaming up where else I can find a nice home for this special, crunchy, green powder. Maybe on some crostini? Topping a soup? Or maybe even hidden inside a sandwich or gracing the top of some meat? Endless options.
Green Tea Soba Noodles with Peanut Sugar
Serves about 3-4, or two, if you're really hungry!
For the Peanut Sugar:
(Makes plenty for this dish, along with extras)
- 1 cup roasted, unsalted peanuts
- 1/2 cup cilantro leaves
- 2 TBS white sugar
- Salt to taste
Combine all ingredients into the food processor. Process until powdery. Set aside and store extras in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Will keep for about a week.
For the Noodles:
- 1 small package Green Tea Soba Noodles
- Assorted mushrooms, cleaned and sliced (I used an assortment of oyster, shiitake and portabello)
- Olive Oil for drizzling
- 1/2 cup frozen, shelled Edamame
- Soy Sauce, to taste
- About 1/2 tsp Sesame Oil
- 1/2 tsp grated, fresh ginger
- 1 grapefruit, segmented and diced, juice reserved
- Peanut Sugar, for dusting
- Black Sesame Seeds (optional)
Bring water to a boil in a medium-sized pot. Once water comes to a rolling boil, add noodles and cook according to package. While the noodles are cooking, heat just enough olive oil to lightly coat a large skillet. Add the mushrooms and cook until the mushrooms start to brown. Add the cooked noodles, soy sauce, ginger and sesame oil. Stirring to combine. Add the frozen edamame and heat for another minute or so, just until the edamame is cooked. Add the grapefruit juice and diced segments, adjust seasoning if necessary. Divide into bowls and dust with peanut sugar and black sesame seeds.