Spicy Cold Noodles with Beef Slivers for Kitchen Chinese

We, at Cook the Books Club, are currently reading and getting inspired by Kitchen Chinese, a delicious, little debut novel by Ann Mah. Fairly light weight, but I very much enjoyed it, both for the storyline and an up close look at a country headlining the news lately, mostly in a negative way.

 Our protagonist, Isabelle, has come to a standstill in her life, with loss of job, no romance in sight and craving some new horizons.  She decides to explore the family connections in China, where her sister is working as an attorney in Beijing. One drawback being that her knowledge of the language is limited to a bit of "kitchen Chinese" picked up watching and helping her mother cook while growing up.

However, once there, Isabelle manages to land a job at a magazine for the expatriate community in Beijing and connect with a small circle of friends. The relationship with her high powered sister is not so smooth, and they circle one another warily at first.

From the Publishers: "Kitchen Chinese, Ann Mah’s funny and poignant first novel about a young Chinese-American woman who travels to Beijing to discover food, family, and herself is a delight—complete with mouth-watering descriptions of Asian culinary delicacies, from Peking duck and Mongolian hot pot to the colorful, lesser known Ants in a Tree that will delight foodies everywhere. Reminiscent of Elizabeth Gilbert’s runaway bestseller Eat, Pray, Love, Mah’s tale of clashing cultures, rival siblings, and fine dining is an unforgettable, unexpectedly sensual reading experience—the story of one woman’s search for identity and purpose in an exotic and faraway land."

I was inspired to make a cool summer dish, given the hot weather we've been experiencing.  And while a Mongolian hot pot sounds delicious and  is something I do want to make, along with Peking duck one day, not at the moment.  So, I thumbed through my cookbook, Land of Plenty, by Fuchsia Dunlop for a dish that wouldn't turn the kitchen into an oven.. What immediately hit me was this title "Spicy Cold Noodles with Chicken Slivers."  Not having the small bit of cooked chicken it called for, but instead a nice piece of tenderloin steak, the substitutions began.  No green scallions, or bean sprouts, okay, we do have fresh fiddle head ferns, and some Brazilian spinach to stir in there.  Added to which I thought a bit of chopped red bell pepper would be nice for both color,  taste, and because I like more vegetables.  With a garnish of garlic chives.  And there you have it, my version of Ji Si Liang Mian. Perfect.  You see that little dab of hot sauce?  It's all I'm brave enough to try of the Hawaiian Chili Pepper Sauce I just made.Yowza!  Salt brine fermented, it's the bomb!

Spicy Cold Noodles with Beef Slivers
Adapted from Land of Plenty by Fuchsia Dunlop

After all, it should really be about the taste, helped along by eye appeal. I'm sure your average Chinese country woman or man would use what was fresh and available, in the spirit of the dish. For note on the black vinegar, sauce ingredient, see the comments below.

She notes that this serves 4 as a snack, 2-3 as a main lunch dish.  Sorry dear, this is going to be dinner.  For 2.  We've been eating pretty light these days.  We both scarfed this down, so good, and I'll be making it again, with variations given what's on hand.

To be shared over at Cook the Books for my contribution this round.  You do have time to join in, as the deadline is July 31st.  Also I'll link up with Marge the Intrepid for our Weekend Cooking event, and with Heather for her July edition of the Foodies Read Challenge.  I hope you'll visit everyone for some great food and reading ideas.


Mae Travels said...

Asian noodle bowls have so many variations -- all good! As you say, the actual cooks there surely use whatever seasonal produce they have. I'm not brave enough to try to cook from any of Dunlap's books.

be well... mae at maefood.blogspot.com

Beth F said...

Sounds like came up with the perfect variation. I'm all about NOT heating up the kitchen these days. It's only 7:30AM here and my upstairs is already 80F. Almost time to turn on the window A/C units.

gluten Free A_Z Blog said...

Your spicy Chinese noodle dish sounds like just what I'm in the mood for! The weather has been so hot that we are looking for cold dishes to eat. I love the ingredients in the sauce.

Tina said...

Claudia, I wish I had gotten around to reading this book. We use Ann Mah's instant pot book quite a bit. Love this dish and I have to ask, is the Chinese vinegar different from others - vastly? I don't know if I can find that type.
Great lunch or dinner you have there!

Debra Eliotseats said...

Great dish. I love substituting things that I have on hand and coming up with a new recipe (only when it's successful, which this is!). I did enjoy the book a great deal, Claudia.

Claudia said...

Tina, I am ashamed to say that I got the black vinegar for a recipe awhile ago, and never just tasted it by itself or even read the list of ingredients. In the interest of culinary science, I just did that. Amazing, it has a complex flavor profile, I kid you not. And, the ingredients include: vinegar, sugar, salt, onion, orange juice, carrot juice, tomato paste, caramel, spices. Very good, not like a plain vinegar at all, and I'll be getting more when this runs out, which it probably will sooner, now that I've actually tasted it.

Marg said...

I did intend to read this but life got in the way this time. I will try harder for the next selection! I did read another book by this author and enjoyed it.

A Day in the Life on the Farm said...

I enjoyed the novel and your noodles sound delicious. I'm going to look up that cookbook too.

Simona Carini said...

I am curious about the Hawaiian Chili Pepper Sauce you made: it sounds quite powerful. The squiggle on the plate is tiny. It sounds like the jar should carry a large warning label :) Nice choice of recipe (you also made me curious about Brazilian spinach)

Claudia said...

Simona, that chili sauce is pretty hot, but not too too, if you use just a little. I think it has mellowed out a bit. I'll send you a picture of the Brazilian spinach.