Full disclosure: This is one of B.’s all time favorite dishes. Given that I’ve cooked hundreds upon hundreds of different meals over the past few years, this endorsement holds some weight. I can understand why—pork and fried noodles together can never be wrong—but bear in mind it’s not for everyone, nor is it going to win any beauty contests. This is greasy, porky, trashy Chinese food of the worst (and by worst I mean best) kind, and if that’s what you’re in the mood for, you’re about to enter the gates of heaven. The cost of the entire meal is under $4, and while it’s a bit tricky to execute, it can definitely be completed in less time than it would take to procure Chinese takeout. Plus, if you grow green onions in your garden, this dish can be made entirely from pantry and freezer items you can keep on standby.
This makes 2 servings…I think the original recipe is from an early-’90s copy of Gourmet or Bon Appetit.
• 1/2 lb. Chinese egg noodles*: 85 cents
• 1 T soy sauce: 3 cents
• 1 T sesame oil (if you have access to an Asian market, this is something worth stocking up on): 10 cents
• 5 T peanut oil for noodles, 1 T for cooking sauce: 75 cents
3/4 lb. pork tenderloin, cut into 1/2-inch-wide strips: $1.32
• 6 green onions, thinly sliced crosswise (combination purchased and from the garden): 20 cents
• 3 T soy sauce: 9 cents
• 2 T Chinese rice wine: 9 cents
• 2 T minced garlic: 2 cents
• 4 tsp cornstarch: 5 cents
• 1 tsp sugar: 2 cents
1/4 tsp sesame oil: 3 cents
3-4 T hoisin sauce, to taste: 9 cents
2 T Chinese rice wine: 9 cents
2 T soy sauce: 6 cents
1 1/2 T sugar: 5 cents
1/4 tsp sesame oil: 3 cents
TOTAL: $3.87/2 = $1.94/serving
They’re super-cheap at an Asian market but ridiculously expensive at the supermarket (something like $1.29 vs. $3.49), so if you can’t find them for a reasonable price, you could probably substitute spaghetti. I haven’t tried this, though.
Combine the pork marinade ingredients in a medium bowl, add the pork, and stir well to combine.
It’s not a true marinade, but instead a Chinese technique called “velveting”; the cornstarch mixed with the other ingredients provide a flavorful protective coating for the pork’s contact with high heat, allowing it to stay soft and tender.
Cook the noodles in a large pot of salted water according to package directions. Rinse, drain well, and transfer to a bowl. Add 1 T soy sauce and 1 T sesame oil, set aside.
Here’s the tricky part. It’s easy for the noodles to end up too brown or too greasy, so you may want to modify the amounts of oil and/or heat according to your particular pan or stove: Heat a 10-inch (preferably cast-iron) skillet over medium-high heat. Add about 3-4 T peanut oil, swirl to coat, and add the noodles. (I know this sounds like an ungodly amount of oil, but it really is the only way to get the noodles crisp without sticking.)
Press the noodles down with a spatula to form a sort of cake. Reduce heat to medium and cook until the bottom of the noodle cake is brown and very crispy, about 10-15 minutes. You may have to peek underneath a few times to ensure parts of it aren’t burning. Slide the spatula under the cake to loosen it and carefully move it onto a dinner plate. This is a rough approximation of how brown your cake should be…ideally it would be even a little bit darker than this. If you have a better stove than mine, it will probably be more evenly colored as well:
Put another dinner plate over the plate with the noodle cake and carefully turn it over, so the noodle cake is now brown-side-up on the new plate.
Add 2 more T peanut oil to the skillet and carefully transfer the noodle cake, uncooked side down, into the skillet. Cook until other side is brown.
While the noodle cake is cooking, heat 1 1/2 T peanut oil in a wok or large skillet (12 inches or more) over high heat. Add the sauce and bring to a simmer. Add the pork—just dump the whole bowl in—and stir-fry for about 3 minutes. Add about 2 T water and about 3/4 of the sliced green onions, continue stir-frying until the pork is cooked through. If the sauce has thickened up too much, add a few more tablespoons of water to loosen it.
When the noodle cake is finished, put it on a plate and cut it in half. Serve each half topped with pork and the remaining green onions.