Weir Cooking in the City: Shanghai Noodles with Chicken, Cashews, Cilantro, and Mint

Serves: 6

So much of the really interesting cooking being done in our cities integrates flavors and techniques from disparate cultures. For me, one of the great pleasures and challenges of this kind of cooking is to bring my love of fresh, simple, and seasonal foods to bear on other cuisines, like this recipe that was inspired by a trip to one of San Francisco's three Chinatowns. The ingredients for this particular recipe are pretty straightforward; in fact, you can probably find them in the international section of a well-stocked supermarket.

Ingredients
Sauce
• 1/2 teaspoon ground Szechuan peppercorns
• 1/2 cup chicken stock
• 3 tablespoons soy sauce
• 2 tablespoons Chinese black vinegar or balsamic vinegar
• 2 tablespoon Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
• 2 teaspoons sesame oil
• 2 teaspoons cornstarch

Chicken and Noodles
• 2 skinless and boneless chicken breasts (about 12 ounces), thinly sliced
• 3 tablespoons oyster sauce
• 1 tablespoon soy sauce
• 1 pound fresh Shanghai-style noodles or Chinese egg noodles
• 1/2 cup raw cashews
• 2 tablespoons peanut oil
• 1 clove garlic, minced
• 2 teaspoons finely grated fresh ginger
• 1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
• 4 scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced diagonally
• 3 cups baby spinach leaves
• 1/2 cup fresh coarsely chopped cilantro
• 3 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh mint

Preparation
In a dry pan, toast the Szechuan peppercorns for 30 to 60 seconds.

Make the sauce: In a bowl, whisk together the chicken stock, soy sauce, black vinegar, rice wine, sesame oil, cornstarch, and peppercorns.

Prepare the chicken and noodles: Place the chicken in a bowl with the oyster sauce and soy sauce. Stir together and let stand for 15 minutes.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook the noodles according to the directions on the package, drain, rinse with cold water, and drain again.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Place the cashews on a baking sheet and bake until light golden, 5 to 7 minutes. Coarsely chop and set aside.

Place a wok or a wide skillet over high heat until hot. Add the peanut oil and swirl the pan to coat the bottom and sides with oil.

Add the garlic and ginger and cook until fragrant, 10 seconds.

Add the chicken and stir-fry for 2 minutes.

Add the red bell peppers and cook for 1 minute.

Add the reserved sauce and cook until the chicken is done and the sauce boils and starts to thicken, about 1 minute.

Add the noodles, cashews, scallions, and spinach and toss to coat the noodles. Cook, gently tossing, until heated through. Sprinkle the cilantro and mint on top.

Wine suggestion: Viognier or Sauvignon Blanc

Recipe ©2004 Joanne Weir from Weir Cooking in the City, reprinted by permission.