Some of the things that come out of my step-mom’s mouth can make strangers cringe, and make them wonder if she has a gentle bone in her body. Last November when it was Nina’s birthday, she went on a tirade about how she forgot it was her birthday. Then she collected some tape and markers and presented it to Nina as her gift, followed by an epiphany and frantic search through her kitchen. Then she proclaimed, “I will make you the damn prettiest noodles!” And so she did.
Pretty can mean pink bows on little girls, or tainted beet water that stains the dough champagne. The effect wasn’t strong enough to result in an actual pink noodle dish–who wants to eat that anyway, pink belongs in cotton candy–but during the dough making process, the noodles took on the prettiest blush. It mesmerized Nina, and she lingered at the counter, completely in awe of the cheap trickery Grandma had sprung on her.
My children’s relationship to their grandma isn’t all that different than the one I had with mine. They are scrutinized, and then picked over by a pair of incredibly discerning eyes, ones that would shame a Hawk’s, and then a summary of misgivings would be addressed to the person that gave birth to such misfits. She never directly criticizes them, as they are way too innocent to be responsible for whatever shortcomings that are present, but that privilege is all mine.
My step-mom and my grandma are not for the faint hearted. But with that same sharp treatment, comes complete dedication. She always has on hand: marinated perilla leaves and pickled garlic for my hubby, bulgogi for Henry, some noodle dish for Nina, and ice coffee for me. These are the little treats we are spoiled with every time we see her–not to mention a bag full of veggies and fruits from her garden. Whenever I went to see my grandma, she’d have a tupperware full of rice crackling dusted in powder sugar. Rice, that she scraped off from the bottom of her pot, was gently fried in a pan and then collected over the week so I could gobble it up while watching game shows with her. She never partook in the rice crackling because of her weak teeth. But she would grin, a very rare grin, as she saw me eat with abandonment.
Such is the power of food.
The kids are back in school (silent cheer here) and I thought I’d make them the prettiest damn noodles as a consolation prize this weekend. Not only do they love Grandma’s noodles but whenever I make them fresh pasta, they think I am the best mom in the world. They don’t communicate that to me, but I can feel it when they slurp up the noodles.
- 3 1/2 c all purpose flour
- 1/2 c potato starch(found in Asian grocery stores)
- 1 beet
- 1 1/4 c water(dough)
- 1 tsp salt
- 4 tbs vegetable oil
- 5 garlic cloves
- 1/2 in. ginger
- 1 tbs sesame seeds
- 4 tbs soy sauce
- 3 tbs oyster sauce
- 2 tbs sesame oil
- 4 c mushrooms(any variety)
- Place 3 1/2 c flour, 1/2 c potato starch, 1 tsp salt and 2 tbs vegetable oil in a bowl.
- Drop a few slices of a beet in 1 1/4 c of water. Wait a minute or two until water becomes deep pink.
- Pour water into the flour mixture and bring ingredients together by hand.
- Knead on a well floured board for 5 minutes. Cover with a damp towel for 15 minutes.
- Make sauce for noodles while waiting.
- Mash or chop up ginger and garlic, and place in a small bowl. Add 3 tbs of oyster sauce, sesame seeds and 4 tbs soy sauce to the bowl. Set sauce aside.
- Chop or tear apart mushrooms. Set aside with sauce.
- Knead dough for 2 minutes or until it feels soft. Cut dough in half. Place one half under a damp towel while rolling out the other half.
- Roll out on a very well dusted surface, moving dough around constantly. Roll out to a rectangular shape about 15 in x 12 in.
- Fold the dough twice with a good dusting of flour between each layer.
- Start slicing the sheet of dough from one end. As you unroll each strand of noodle, roll them in some flour. Do this for both rolls of dough.
- Boil a gallon of water in a large pot. Drop the noodles into the boiling water. Stir constantly. The noodles will only take a few minutes. When they float to the top and foam forms on top of the water, the noodles are done. Drain and rinse the noodles well in icy water. Drain again.
- In a large wok or pan, saute mushrooms in 2 tbs oil.
- Add noodles and sauce to the mushrooms. Saute for another minute. Add 2 tbs sesame oil to the noodles. Garnish will chili peppers, mung bean sprouts, peanuts, or anything else you'd like.