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Crispy Noodle Cake

May 8, 2011

I’ve been seeing recipes like this one for a while but I always imagined an overly-oily outside and a too-soft and too-dense noodle inside. That and general blandness. But, after learning that Mark Bittman seasons the noodles before frying, I thought I’d give it a go. It is a bit of a treat, rather than an everyday meal, but it is absolutely delicious. I actually raved about it all evening, which is something that we all like to avoid with our own cooking!

One other note is that I’ve often seen this dish called a “pancake” which is I think what made me think of overcooked glumpy rice noodles. So I’ve called it a cake here, in order to indicate its shape but hopefully not its negative associations!

Crispy Noodle Cake

Egg/wheat noodles (use the curly ones to allow for more spaces to develop in the cake)
2 tbsp vegetable/canola oil
Various seasonings (see below)

I used about 1/3 of a package of noodles, which served two people with no leftovers. Try to estimate how much your pan will fit (think 1 inch cake) allowing for the fact that your noodles will expand while boiling. Cook the egg noodles in salted boiling water until just tender (do not overcook until soft!) then drain well. At this point, mix with all chosen seasonings while heating your pan, with oil, on medium heat.

Make sure that the oil is hot so that your noodles don’t stick, then spread all noodles into the pan, trying to get close to the edges and evenly spread for maximum crispiness! At this point, completely leave your pancake alone for about 4-5 minutes, checking the edges only very carefully! Your pancake should cook evenly, since you preheated the pan, so you should not have to disturb the pancake by checking the middle. Your lack of prodding really will pay off during the flipping.

When your satisfied with the bottom side, flip your cake! A number of years ago, I got a massively large flipper (which I call Pancake Master for its obvious skill in this area) for this kind of task, but I was feeling a little unconfident, so I opted for the plate system. Place a plate over the top of the frying pan, making sure it is large enough to cover the edges entirely so you don’t get hot oil on your hands. Place your non-dominant palm flat on the bottom of the plate (it won’t be hot enough to hurt) then grasp the handle of the pan with your dominant hand, as far up on the neck as you can without getting too close to the heat. In one motion, flip the pan upside-down using your plate hand to stabilize the movement. It’s a bit terrifying to imagine it, but as with pouring liquids, slow unconfident movements really don’t serve you here. If you’re too nervous, you can let the cake cool a bit since it will warm up as it’s being cooked on the other side. Now your cake is on your plate and you can just slide it back into the pan to cook the other side! I added about 1 tbsp oil here, because I don’t like being disappointed by one side, especially if you’re going to utilize the flip method again to serve.

Optional Seasonings:
Soy sauce (recommended)
Scallions (don’t worry – they won’t burn)
Sesame or peanut oil
Chili flakes or minced Serrano chili
Sesame seeds
Minced red pepper

And then for the topping! I used simple stir fried green beans with thus, but you could really top it with anything (or eat it by itself – seriously). I would recommend broccoli, braised carrots, or button mushrooms if you’re looking for more simple options, but you could really use this as a base for a full stir fry. If you’ve heavily flavored the base, you could go for a lighter option, but if you’ve pretty much stuck to soy sauce and scallions, I recommend bringing out the flavour in the topping – add some spice or other strong flavours like sesame oil/seeds.

Make with: Avocado Peanut Salad, Stir-fried Tofu with Scallions

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