ffwd: shrimp and cellophane noodles
This week’s recipe for French Fridays with Dorie is a bit of Asian fusion, sort of. Dorie says she was first served this dish, Shrimp and Cellophane Noodles, by her friend Hélène Samuel as part of a dinner of orange food. Interesting… I’ve been wondering which part of the dish is considered orange. The coral of the cooked shrimp or the red of the tomato puree. I’m not sure.
Ingredients for this dish spawned a trip to HMart, a gigantic nearby Korean supermarket with a usually large selection of Asian ingredients. Though they have more choices of kimchis and marinated meats for Korean BBQ than I’ve seen anywhere else, their inventory usually includes what’s needed for most Asian cuisines. For some reason, this trip, I was surprised that there was only one choice for tree ear mushrooms and one choice for cellophane noodles. On the bright side, half of the back wall of the store is a fresh fish counter, so I could pick up shrimp and make it a one-stop shop.
To be fair, this recipe should have been named Shrimp, MUSHROOM, and Cellophane Noodles. The dried tree ear mushrooms, once rehydrated, were the main ingredient. I couldn’t believe how much the mushrooms, well, mushroomed. The little one ounce pack grew to fill a medium sized bowl with gigantic tree ears. I debated using only half of the mushrooms, once shredded, but ended up using it all.
Also, I didn’t understand why the rehydrated noodles were doused in sesame oil and then, shortly before assembling the dish, cooked ever so briefly in the pot of water which simply washed the oil off. I added more sesame oil afterwards, but I wasn’t sure about the purpose this step. Anyone have a clue?
Asian ingredients with tomato puree sounded like we were in for a bit of fusion cooking. Unfortunately, the end result was weird. I mentioned the large amount of mushrooms. The dish offered varied textures with the firm shrimp, the slippery noodles, and the dominant shredded mushrooms. I didn’t expect it to taste Italian from tomatoes alone, however, the tomatoes seemed to flatten out the taste completely. There wasn’t any hint of the Asian flavors, even though there was ample sesame oil, five-spice powder, and garlic in there. To Howard, it tasted very sweet, though we couldn’t figure out if that was from the miniscule amount of sugar or the warm spices in the five-spice powder. The consensus at our table was that this dish didn’t quite work.