When I was growing up, my mom would frequently make stir-fried noodles on the weekend. It was a simple, quick, and inexpensive dish– a few ounces of thinly sliced pork or chicken, a bell pepper, an onion, a carrot plus noodles– all things we usually had in our refrigerator and pantry– were the basic ingredients. But the characteristic flavor came from a silver colored can labelled with Chinese characters and the words “barbecue sauce.” The other time I would have this sauce would be mixed with raw egg for a dipping sauce when we would have hotpot, usually around Lunar New Year. This sauce, popular in Taiwan (and in the Southern Chinese province of Fujian), is made of brill fish, garlic, ginger, shallots, sesame, coconut, dried shrimp, chili powder, salt, pepper and oil. (The vegetarian version swaps out the fish for soy protein, soy sauce, mirin, oats and wheat.) As you can imagine, it’s briny and aromatic. A little goes a long way! (I made this a few weeks ago, and was surprised to find the sauce featured in Bon Appetit this week.)
While my mom’s version had a little meat in it, I substitute five spice tofu. The five spice nuggets from Hodo are perfectly seasoned and come in a marinade, which if you add to a frying pan with the tofu nuggets, will get the tofu nicely to caramelize and crisp around the edges, so use those if you can. Otherwise, any five spice tofu or even plain firm tofu will do.
When I make this noodle dish, I remember childhood weekends. If sa cha sauce is new to you, try this, and create new traditions!
Taiwanese Noodles with Sa Cha Sauce
Serves: 4 to 6
8 oz Chinese flat dried wheat noodles (found in Asian groceries in a rectangular white box, usually from Taiwan; use medium width); may substitute an eggless wheat noodle, or in a pinch, spaghetti
1 pack Hodo five spice nuggets
1 green bell pepper
1 large carrot
2T canola oil
3 T sa cha sauce (traditional or vegetarian; also known as “Chinese satay sauce” or “Chinese barbecue sauce”; the most popular brand is Bullhead, from Taiwan); adjust to taste
- Boil water in a large pot, then cook noodles until al dente, as you would spaghetti. Drain and set aside.
- Add tofu nuggets with their marinade to a hot nonstick frying pan, then cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until crisp around the edges, around 5 minutes. Allow to cool enough to handle, then slice into strips.
- Thinly slice the onion and bell pepper and julienne the carrot.
- Heat oil over medium high heat in a large saute pan or Dutch oven. Cook vegetables until tender, about three minutes, then add in cooked noodles, sliced tofu and sa cha sauce. Use chopsticks or tongs to distribute evenly. Taste and add more sa cha sauce if desired. Serve immediately.