Chef Sheldon Simeon’s Hack For Homemade Chow Fun Noodles With A Microwave
Maui’s Chef Sheldon Simeon is many things:
There was the time when I dined at one of his previous restaurants, when he talked about how he and a line cook came up with a way to cook perfect pork belly — in Hot Pockets sleeves, of all things.
Then, there was the time when a table of chefs fell silent and began madly typing notes into their phone, when Simeon let slip that he makes his own chow fun noodles and generously began sharing the recipe just like that.
So when I spied that chow fun recipe in his debut cookbook, “Cook Real Hawai’i” (Clarkson Potter), I knew I had to make it. The book was written with Garret Snyder, a former Los Angeles Times food writer.
Through 100 recipes, Simeon gives you a taste of today’s Hawaii, mixing tradition with fun spins that amplify the unique cross-cultural blend of Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Filipino and native Hawaiian flavors that makes this cuisine so mouthwatering. Along the way, you get to know him, too, from how his grandpa left the Philippines at age 18 to work on a sugar plantation in Hawaii to how Simeon slyly fed the tired and hungry camera crew of “Top Chef” with his Spam musubi.
The Hot Pockets trick might not be included in this book, but there’s a nifty technique for making fried garlic in the microwave that I’m definitely going to try. There’s also a range of appealing recipes, including “Jumping Shrimp Kinilaw,” “Stuffed Uhu with Lap Cheong,” “Huli Huli Chicken,” “Pork Belly Adobo,” and “Condensed Milk Cheesecake with Ovaltine Crust.”
Making chow fun noodles at home might sound intimidating. But it’s easy as can be, and may even take you less time than the round-trip drive to your local Asian market to buy freshly made ones instead. Simeon’s recipe results in chow fun noodles remarkably similar to the latter, too, in their wonderful suppleness and chewiness.
A quick batter of all-purpose flour, tapioca starch (or cornstarch), oil, salt, an egg white and water gets mixed together just like that. After resting for a bit, ladle some of the batter into an oiled, microwave-safe pan, cover with plastic wrap, and zap on high for about 2 minutes until firm and springy. Carefully lift the noodle sheet out of the pan, grease it again, and repeat, until you use up all the batter. The noodle sheets are then cut into 2-inch strips before being stir-fried. Should you find any underdone noodle pieces because your microwave doesn’t cook evenly, just put those strips back into the oiled pan, and microwave a couple seconds more.
I used a glass Pyrex 8-inch pan, which made four large noodle sheets — all in less than 10 minutes. How remarkable is that?
Simeon includes a recipe for his “Lahaina Fried Soup (Fat Chow Fun)” that make great use of these noodles. Contrary to the name, it’s not a soup noodle dish at all, but a stir-fry of the thick, chow fun noodles with ground pork, bean sprouts, sesame seeds, and scallions. It’s based on a Lahaina dish that was popularized by a beloved family-owned restaurant in the 1950s.
Simeon revived the dish first when he was head chef at Maui’s Star Noodle restaurant, then brought it over to Tin Roof, after customers couldn’t get enough of it.
It’s a total comfort dish so easy to love — the fat, pliant noodles entangled with a jumble of ground pork, diced Spam (for that authentic Hawaiian touch, of course), garlic, ginger, bean sprouts, and scallions. The dish is flavored with oyster sauce, sesame oil and soy sauce. But it also gets another genius Simeon addition — instant dashi powder — that adds a potent punch of delectable umami to everything it touches.
This chow fun easily rivals the best takeout you can get. Plus, it’s all the more delectable when you MacGyver it at home, yourself.
Lahaina Fried Soup (Fat Chow Fun)
3 tablespoons neutral oil
4 ounces Spam or char siu, roughly diced
1/2 pound ground pork
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 pound Fat Chow Fun (recipe follows)
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 tablespoon shoyu (soy sauce)
1 tablespoon instant dashi powder (such as HonDashi)
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
6 ounces bean sprouts
6 scallions, cut into 1-inch sections
Ground white pepper
1 teaspoon roasted sesame seeds
In a large skillet or wok, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over high heat until shimmering hot. Add the Spam and sear on all sides, about 3 minutes. Add the ground pork, garlic, and ginger, and stir-fry until the pork is cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the pork mixture from the pan and set aside.
Add the remaining 2 tablespoons oil to the skillet. Heat over high heat until the oil begins to smoke. Add the noodles and cook, stirring occasionally, until seared at the edges, about 2 minutes.
Add the oyster sauce, shoyu, dashi powder, and sesame oil, tossing to coat. Once the noodles are coated, add the bean sprouts and scallions, tossing for about 30 seconds, until the bean sprouts have softened. Return the pork mixture to the pan and toss once more to mix. Season with a pinch of white pepper to taste and remove from the heat. Garnish with sesame seeds and serve immediately.
Fat Chow Fun
(Makes about 1 pound)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons tapioca starch or cornstarch
1 egg white
1 teaspoon neutral oil, plus more for brushing
1/4 teaspoon Diamond Crystal (or a pinch of Morton) kosher salt
Sift together the flour and starch into a bowl. In a large bowl, whisk together the egg white, 1 teaspoon oil, salt, and 1 3/4 cups warm water. Gradually stir in the flour mixture until a smooth batter forms (strain though a fine-mesh sieve to make sure there are no lumps). Cover the bowl and refrigerate for 1 hour.
Lightly brush oil over the bottom and sides of a square or rectangular microwave-safe pan or dish (whatever size will fit in your microwave is fine). Pour in enough batter to come 1/4 inch up the sides (set the remaining batter aside). Cover the pan with plastic wrap or a damp paper towel and microwave on high until the noodle sheet is firm and springy, but not dry, about 2 minutes. Depending on the wattage of the microwave and the size of the pan, more time may be required (if so, continue microwaving in 20-second increments). Let cool and carefully remove the noodle sheet from the dish with a spatula and set aside. Repeat the process with the remaining batter, making sure to brush the pan with oil each time.
Brush the noodle sheets lightly with oil so they don’t stick together and place in a stack. Cut into strips 1/2 inch wide and 2 1/2 inches long (they all don’t have to be exactly the same size). Carefully separate the noodles, brushing with more oil if needed, and cover with plastic wrap or parchment paper. Refrigerate until ready to stir-fry.
From “Cook Real Hawai’i” by Sheldon Simeon with Garrett Snyder
And: A Visit to Tin Roof