Za Jan Noodles — Iron Chef Night

Masaharu Morimoto wanted to be a baseball player. He was a catcher. Can you imagine the scowl, the steely glare that would shatter your nerves right before the guy threw a baseball at your head? Thank goodness he traded in his glove for a set of knives and can now intimidate us on-screen.

We ate at Morimoto’s restaurant in New York City and were dazzled by his playful interpretations of traditional Japanese food. The man is nothing short of brilliant. K brought home his cookbook not long after our arrival home and it’s the first cookbook I’ve read cover to cover. It’s full of imaginative food, gorgeous food porn and, best of all, the fascinating story and voice of the man himself. We decided to make this Top Chef Night into Iron Chef Night and cook our first dish from the Morimoto cookbook.

The Za Jan Noodles looked entirely do-able. Noodles with pork sauce and lots of traditional Asian flavors. I got started on the pork sauce as K mixed the broth. I sautéed some garlic and ginger, cooked up some ground pork and added bamboo shoots. K boiled up some chicken stock, miso paste, soy sauce, sugar and sake (a staple in our house). He added some cornstarch paste to thicken the sauce then put in some sesame oil. Meanwhile, the water bubbled for the lo mein noodles (the brand was China Boy, which made us both laugh for some reason). I julienned some cucumber and chopped some cilantro for garnish and when the noodles were just done, it was time to eat. All of this went so quickly I didn’t even have time to take pictures of some of the prep.

Umami is described as one of the five basic tastes — meaty or savory. Morimoto’s Za Jan Noodles were so very umami. The hot and hearty pork sauce melded perfectly with the miso soy broth in every mouth-watering bite. The cool cucumber and cilantro occupied the taste buds that weren’t being consumed by the noodles. So, so good. And so, so quick and easy. Who would have thought that a dish from the illustrious Morimoto could become a staple for a busy weeknight?

Morimoto Gazing Longingly at our Za Jan Noodles

Alterations: Not many. Chopped hard boiled egg was supposed to be a garnish, but we both hate that so we left it out. Sorry Morimoto.
Soundtrack: K’s “Transmission” compilation since we were heading out to dance, dance, dance at First Ave. with DJ Jake Rudh this week.
Would we make this again: Yes. It will certainly be a fall back last-minute dinner option.

P.S. Morimoto wants us sushi fools to know that you don’t dunk your sushi rice into soy sauce first, just “graze your fish” into the sauce. Don’t mix wasabi into the soy sauce, you’re messing with the flavors and texture and undermining the skills of the sushi chef. And eat your pickled ginger between bites, not *with* the sushi. Both K and I do all these things wrong. Morimoto would disapprove.

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