As a chef, I am always interested in expanding my knowledge and craft of cooking. I like to challenge the way that I think about cooking and eating on a regular basis. I have been cooking a lot of Chinese, Indian and Thai food these days. Partly because I love the cuisines, partly because I live in a rural area where quality ethnic food can be hard to find but also because I have been eating mostly vegan and these cuisines lend themselves well to vegan and vegetarian cooking.
A few years ago, I was composing a Chinese menu for a dinner party and one of the recipes I found was for spring onion noodles. The other dishes on the menu were somewhat complex so I wanted a simple noodle dish to compliment the Char Siu Pork, Chinese Cabbage and Sausage, Sweet and Sour Fish and Shrimp Dumplings I was making. The spring onion noodles were so tasty, satisfying and so simple to make that they have become a regular feature at our dinner table.
You might think the large quantity of spring onions in this recipe would make for an overwhelming onion flavor. I can assure you this is far from the truth, in fact, you may find you want to increase the quantity of onions in this recipe, which is simple to do. The onions are slow cooked and are more similar to a caramelized onion than a sautéed onion. The onion becomes tender, light in flavor and mildly sweet. The rich oil takes on a perfume from the onion, and we add a hint of rich dark soy sauce to the oil which coats the noodles in a surprisingly rich and satisfying way. Kids love this recipe too, so it is a perfect weeknight meal for the whole family.
One of the first signs of spring in a Midwestern garden are spring onions or scallions. I harvested a huge crop of them last week and knew right away what I needed to make: spring onion noodles. There are a million recipes that include spring onions or scallions but not many that truly celebrate this vegetable as well as this recipe does. I had such a big haul of spring onions that I thought I would make a big batch of spring onion oil, which is the base for the recipe. This will be really handy to have on hand since I make this dish so often. I can quickly make a batch of noodles on the fly. I will show you how I made a large batch of oil but also how to make a single batch of noodles.
Spring Onion Oil Noodles
Scroll down for a printable version of this recipe
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
3 bunches of spring onions, cleaned and sliced in 3-to-4-inch pieces
1/3 cup grapeseed oil (or make the onion oil recipe below and use that)
3 tablespoons dark soy sauce
3 tablespoons light soy sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
14 ounces thin round noodles such as low mein or spaghetti
*see my post on Chinese Essential ingredients
Step 1: Clean and Cut the Onions
Spring onions can hide a lot of dirt so be careful to clean them well. I start by removing any green or white part that looks browned or wilted. Then I cut the root and off and the green end down to the most lively and fresh segment of the onion. In essence, you are removing any wilted section of the green onion.
Cut the onions, using both the white and green parts, into 3- to 4-inch-long pieces. Once you have cut the onions cover them in cold water and swish the onions around to loosen and dirt. Let the dirt settle to the bottom of the bowl or sink and transfer the onion to another bowl or sink and repeat the process three times or until no dirt or debris is in the bottom of the sink or bowl.
Drain the onions and pat dry with a lint free towel. Try to get as much excess moisture off of the onions as possible. I suggest running them through a salad spinner if you have one.
Step 2: Cook the Onions
Place the spring onions and oil in a wide skillet and cook them for 20 to 30 minutes over a low to moderate heat, until the onions are tender and they are just starting to brown. Once cooked, turn down to a very low heat until the noodles are cooked and ready to be added.
Step 3: Mise en Place
While the onions are cooking, fill a large stock pot with salted water, cover and bring to a boil for the noodles.
Measure the dark and light soy sauce and sugar in a bowl.
Step 3: Cook and Assemble Noodles
Once the water comes to a boil, add the noodles and cook until tender but still retain some texture. Drain the noodles but do not rinse them.
Add the soy sauce mixture to the pan and toss with noodles and serve.
Bulk Spring Onion Oil
Yield: 2 cups of oil
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 30 to 45 minutes
1 pound of spring onions
2 cups grapeseed oil
Step 1: Clean and Cut the Onions
Spring onions can hide a lot of dirt so be careful to clean them well. I start by removing any green or white part that looks browned or wilted. Then I cut the root and off and the green end down to the most lively and fresh segment of the onion. In essence, remove any wilted section of the green onion.
Cut the onions, using both the white and green parts, into 3 to 4 inch long pieces. Once you have cut the onions cover them in cold water and swish the onions around to loosen and dirt. Let the dirt settled to the bottom of the bowl or sink and transfer the onion to another bowl or sink and repeat the process 3 times or until no dirt or debris is in the bottom of the sink or bowl.
Drain the onions and pat dry with a lint free towel. Try to get as much excess moisture off of the onions as possible. I would especially suggest running these through the salad spinner when doing such a large quantity of onions as the excess moisture inhibits the browning.
*If you want, you can try adding garlic slices, shallot and or ginger to the oil. This is a delicious and simple stir fry oil that eliminates the need to chop ginger, garlic and scallions for every dish.
Step 2: Cook the Onions
Place the onions in a heavy gauge stock pot and add the 2 cups of oil. Cook on a low to moderate heat for 30 to 45 minutes. A little browning is great but a what we are really trying to achieve is a long slow cook to tenderize the onions thoroughly, soften their assertive flavor and to infuse the oil with the onion flavor. Too much browning can create a bitter taste.
Step 3: Store the Onions and Oil
Place the onions and oil in a container fitted with an airtight lid. Make sure the oil level is higher than the onions by pressing the onions down into the oil and close the lid. If you think you might use all this oil in a week, feel free to leave it out at room temperature for up to a week, otherwise put in the refrigerator and pull out as needed. They will last for months in the refrigerator.
Both the onions and oil are delicious and can be used independently of each other. The spring onion oil can be used for general sautéing as well; cooking eggplant or mushrooms in spring onion oil adds a ton of flavor. The cooked onions can be added to eggs, vegetable or other noodle dishes… really anywhere you want a little tender and sweet onion addition.
I hope you enjoy this tasty and simple recipe as much I do. If you are looking for more seasonal vegetarian recipes, don't miss our virtual Summer Vegetarian class coming up on Friday, July 15 at 6pm CST. You'll make:
- Summer Corn and Herb Chowder
- Tomato Puff Pastry Tart with Goat Cheese