Wok-Seared Noodles with Crab

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You know how in university, going to bed at four in the morning was no big deal and dinner was routinely “fancy” ramen at midnight? And by fancy, I mean instant ramen with an egg and a handful of vegetables thrown in. And it was delicious. Oh yes, it was what junk food dreams are made of.

This dish of lime and chili-flecked noodles and crab is the grown up version of that midnight college ramen. The instant noodles are still there, only the additions are more haute. Make sure to seek out the crab paste. It’s what makes these noodles so cravingly special.

Spicy wok-fried noodles with crab

Ingredients:

Three packages ramen, seasoning packets reserved for another use
1/4 cup vegetable oil plus two tablespoons
1/4 cup minced peeled fresh ginger
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon Thai-style crab paste
1 teaspoon chili garlic sauce, Thai chile paste, or sambal oelek
3/4 pound shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 pound lump crabmeat
1/3 cup chopped mint
1 teaspoon finely grated lime zest plus 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
salt

1. In a large saucepan of boiling water, cook the ramen for 3 minutes, until al dente. Drain well and set aside.

2. In a wok, heat 1/4 cup of the oil until smoking. Add the ginger, garlic, crab paste, chili garlic sauce, and mushrooms and cook over high heat, stirring, until the garlic is golden, about 3 minutes. Add the ramen and toss to coat. Spread the noodles in an even layer over the bottom and halfway up the side of the wok and drizzle with the remaining two tablespoons oil. Cook over high heat, undisturbed, until the edges start to crisp, about 
2 minutes. Toss the noodles, then spread them out again and cook until the edges start to crisp, about 2 minutes. Stir in the broth, crabmeat, mint, lime zest and lime juice, season with salt and toss again. Transfer to plates and serve.

Tuna Poke on Nori Crakers

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Listen, I love my poke bowls like any good millennial should, but sometimes I want to mix it up. Sometimes I want poke straight out of the mixing bowl sans rice. And sometimes, I like to get fancy and serve poke on crispy, briny seaweed.

Adapted from a recipe by Liholiho Yacht Club’s Ravi Kapur, this is one of my favorite appetizers to make. It’s a showstopper and delicious to boot. The crackers are a little bit time consuming but the method is easy. Just make sure you assemble the final dish at the last minute so the crackers don’t get soggy.

Tuna poke on nori crackers

Ingredients:

Canola oil, for frying
3/4 cup cornstarch
Four 8-inch-square nori sheets, cut into quarters
salt
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 1/4 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon chili garlic sauce
12 ounces sushi-grade tuna cut into 1/2-inch dice
4 teaspoons minced green onion
2 teaspoons minced ginger
2 teaspoons seeded and minced jalapeno
1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

1. Make the nori crackers: in a large frying pan, heat 1 inch of oil to medium-high. Set a rack over a baking sheet and line with paper towels.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk the cornstarch with 1/2 cup of water until smooth. Dredge the nori in the cornstarch mixture, letting the excess drip off. Slowly drop the nori into the hot oil and fry for 2 minutes. Flip and fry for 
2 minutes longer, until crisp. Transfer to the rack, season with salt and let cool.

3. Make the spicy mayonnaise: In a small bowl, whisk the mayonnaise, 1/4 teaspoon soy sauce, and chili garlic sauce until smooth. Set aside.

4. Make the poke: In a large bowl, fold the tuna, green onion, ginger, jalapeno, remaining soy sauce, and sesame oil together; season with salt.

5. Place the poke onto the nori crackers and dollop with some of the spicy mayo. Serve immediately.

Salmon Teriyaki

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Internet, do you have any idea how easy it is to make salmon teriyaki at home? I’m going to let you in on a little secret: it’s incredibly easy. Like, laughingly easy. And the best part? It tastes better than that sugary, syrupy rendition so many restaurants serve.

The secret to achieving the perfect glaze here is reducing the sauce appropriately. Reduce it too much and you’ll scorch the fish. Reduce it too little and you’ll end up with a watery sauce. You have been warned.

Salmon teriyaki

Ingredients:

1/2 cup sake
1/4 cup mirin
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
4 6-ounce skin-on, boneless salmon fillets
salt

1. Combine sake, mirin, and soy sauce bowl. Set teriyaki sauce aside.

2. Heat oil in a large nonstick pan over medium-high heat and season salmon lightly with salt.

3. Working in batches and adding more oil if needed, cook salmon skin side down until skin is brown and crisp, about 5 minutes. Turn and cook until other side is just beginning to brown, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

4. Pour off excess fat in pan. Bring teriyaki sauce to a boil in pan over medium heat. Cook until reduced by two-thirds, about 5 minutes.

5. Add salmon, skin side up, and cook, spooning sauce over, until sauce is syrupy and salmon is just cooked through, about 3 minutes.

6. Transfer to a plate and serve with rice or salad.

Fried Smelt with Garlic Chips

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Why don’t Americans eat smelt more often? I have a theory: for starters, it’s called smelt. Not the prettiest word, amirite? Secondly, smelt slightly resemble anchovies and there’s that whole anchovies-on-pizza revulsion thing from our collective Saturday morning TMNT cartoon childhoods. But let’s be real: smelt is delicious. And if it were called, I dunno, Maritime butterfish or Japanese elvenfish, they’d fly off the shelves.

This is my favorite way to enjoy smelt: dusted with flour, fried to a crisp, and covered in heaps of garlic. A perfect finger food. These are addictive. You have been warned.

Fried smelt with garlic chips

Ingredients:

2 or 3 large garlic cloves
3/4 pound smelt, cleaned
1/2 cup fish sauce
2 tablespoons water
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons umeboshi (pickled ume plums), pitted and minced to a paste
2 cups flour
salt
vegetable oil for deep frying

1. Thinly slice the garlic cloves. In a medium saucepan, heat 1/2 inch of oil. On low heat, fry the garlic slices until lightly golden, about 7-9 minutes. With a fine mesh sieve, transfer the garlic to a plate. Sprinkle with salt and set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, mix the fish sauce, water, sugar, and umeboshi. Add the smelt and leave to marinade for 15 to 30 minutes.

3. In the same saucepan as the garlic oil, add enough oil to reach 2 inches and heat to medium-high. Remove the smelt from the marinade, dredge in flour, and add to the saucepan. Deep fry until golden and crisp. Using a slotted spoon, drain smelt on a paper-lined plate and sprinkle with salt.

4. Garnish the smelt with the garlic chips and serve warm.

Halibut with Wood Ear Mushrooms and Bamboo Shoots

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Gimme all the wood ear mushrooms. Dried or fresh, in soups or stir-fries, their crunchy-yet-slippery mouthfeel adds texture to any dish. In this entree, juicy, flaky halibut pairs perfectly with wood ear mushrooms and bamboo shoots in a savory sauce redolent with garlic, ginger, and green onions.

Halibut with wood ear mushrooms and bamboo shoots

Ingredients:

1/3 cup fish stock or chicken stock
3 tablespoons Chinese rice wine
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon brown bean sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon chili bean sauce (tobanjan)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 pounds halibut or sea bass steaks
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup sliced bamboo shoots
1 cup fresh wood ear mushrooms, cut into thin strips
4 green onions, trimmed and cut into 2-inch lengths
6 quarter-sized slices peeled ginger, cut into thin strips
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon cornstarch, dissolved in 1 tablespoon water

1. Prepare the seasonings: stir the fish stock, rice wine, soy sauce, sesame oil, brown bean sauce, sugar, and chili bean sauce in a small bowl and set aside.

2. Sprinkle the salt over the fish and let stand for 10 minutes.
3. Heat a wok over high heat until hot. Add 2 tablespoons of the oil and slide the fish into the wok and pan-fry, turning once, until golden brown, about 3 minutes per side. Once the skin is firm, carefully transfer the fish to a plate.

4. Return the wok to high heat and add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Add the bamboo shoots, mushrooms, green onions, ginger, and garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the seasonings and bring to a boil.

5. Return the fish to the wok and bring to a boil. Adjust the heat so the seasonings are simmering, cover the wok, and simmer until the fish is cooked through, about 10 minutes. Turn the fish once during cooking. Remove the fish from the wok and place on a platter.

6. Stir the dissolved cornstarch into the sauce and cook, stirring 30 seconds to 1 minute. Spoon the sauce over the fish and serve.