Three New Things to Try In the New Year

Momofuku instant noodles that cook in 4 minutes, which I garnished with fresh green onions.
Momofuku instant noodles that cook in 4 minutes, which I garnished with fresh green onions.

Momofuku Noodles and Chili Crunch

After reading that the initial release of Momofuku Noodles sold out in a flash, then had a wait list of tens of thousands of folks, well, I had to buy some when an ad popped up in my social media feed that they had been restocked. Because, yes, I am that kind of person.

Plus, when the irrepressible chef of the Momofuku restaurant empire, David Chang, develops a product, your curiosity can’t help but be stoked.

The instant noodles were initially available on the Momofuku online store, but are gone now until future restocking. However, they are still available at Target for about $9.49 for a bundle of 5 packets.

They come in three varieties: Spicy Soy Noodles, Soy & Scallion Noodles, and Tingly Chili Wavy Noodles.

I purchased the Soy & Scallion Noodles. Each packet of the wheat noodles serves one at 320 calories total. And they couldn’t be easier of faster to make. Just boil them in water for 4 minutes, drain, then stir in the seasoning packet plus freeze-dried scallions.

The noodle packages.
The noodle packages.

The curly, white, modestly wide noodles are very supple and bouncy, nearly akin to fresh noodles but with slightly more sturdiness. The seasoning packet is soy sauce-based and added a savory, homey taste.

Despite its tastiness, I found myself drinking a lot of water afterward. Not because it was spicy (it wasn’t), but because of the high sodium content — 1,400mg. Yes, for one serving. Next time, I’ll use less of the sauce or just make my own using fresh green onions, cilantro, sesame oil, and a mere teaspoon of soy sauce.

I also picked up a jar of the Momofuku Chili Crunch ($12 for a 5.3-ounce jar) on the Momofuku site. That’s the classic flavor, but there are also two others: Extra Spicy Chili Crunch, and Black Truffle Chili Crunch.

A very savory chili crunch.
A very savory chili crunch.

The Momofuku Chili Crunch has a good amount of heat, but unlike most other chili crisps, this one has a heightened savoriness to go with it, thanks to mushroom powder, seaweed, and yeast extract. It gives this chili crisp greater dimension. There’s also a nice pronounced crunchiness from sesame seeds, as well as fried garlic and shallots.

One teaspoon has 35 calories, 3.5g total fat, and 50mg sodium.

No doubt, you’ll be reaching for it for stir-fries, pasta dishes, scrambled eggs, grilled cheese, and yes, even a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

TCHO Chocolate Debuts Plant-Based Bars

Late last year, Berkeley’s TCHO chocolate began replacing dairy milk with oat milk to realize a goal of eventually going entirely plant-based by 2023.

To mark that transition, it introduced six new chocolate bars. They retail for $5.99 per 2.5-ounce bar or $35.99 for a gift box of six bars.

TCHO's fun gift box of six new plant-based chocolate bars.
TCHO’s fun gift box of six new plant-based chocolate bars.

I had a chance to try samples of the six new bars: Toffee Time, Aww Nuts!, Choco Latte, Holy Fudge, Born Fruity, and Dark Duo.

These do not resemble your usual wide, flat rectangular candy bars. In keeping with TCHO’s original design of small tiles, each “bar” is actually composed of three conjoined tile-shapes, which you can snap off to enjoy one modest piece at a time, if you like. You get three of those “bars” to each packet.

The Toffee Time bar. Each "bar'' actually contains three individually wrapped chocolates made up of three segments.
The Toffee Time bar. Each “bar” actually contains three individually wrapped chocolates made up of three segments.

All the bars have a great snappiness to them, as well as a luxurious smoothness as they melt on the tongue. Toffee Time has a filling of crunchy bits of toffee with a hit of salt. Aww Nuts! has a flavorful almond butter filling, reminding you of a Reese’s Cup, only peanut-free and dairy-free. Choco Latte is like a cup of black coffee with a splash of cream (or oat milk, in this case). Holy Fudge makes you think of a fudge brownie in taste. Born Fruity doesn’t have any chunks of fruit in it. Instead, its notes of berries and cherries are inherent in the cacao beans from Peru. With its single-origin Peruvian and Ghana cacao beans, the Dark Duo is deep and rich tasting — a dark chocolate lover’s dream.

The Aww Nuts!
The Aww Nuts!

TCHO’s retail line is now certified Free Trade, organic, vegan, gluten-free, and kosher. This year, its professional line of chocolates also will join in becoming entirely plant-based.

Corto La Padella Saute Oil

If you cook regularly at home — and even more so now, given the pandemic — chances are you go through a lot of cooking oil.

I used to La Padella to saute Jimmy Nardello peppers.
I used to La Padella to saute Jimmy Nardello peppers.

That’s why Corto’s La Padella comes in so handy. Based in Lodi, Corto harvests olives throughout California to mill and package.

Its La Padella is a saute oil, meaning it can withstand high-heat cooking because it’s a blend of rice bran oil, extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil, and grapeseed oil. Having had the chance to try a sample, I found it rich and buttery tasting but more neutral tasting than full-on olive oil. It also held up well to both high-heat roasting and stove-top sauteing.

It comes in a 3-liter, oxygen-free box for $59.99. Think boxed wine where the wine is contained in an oxygen-free bladder that starts to collapse as you remove some from a spout into your glass, and you get the picture.

Like wine in a box, you use the handy spout to decant as much as you like, while the rest stays fresh and sealed.
Like wine in a box, you use the handy spout to decant as much as you like, while the rest stays fresh and sealed.

Sure, it’s a lot of oil, but if you cook frequently, you’ll definitely use it all in no time flat. Plus, the packaging protects it for a long time from air and light. You can also decant a little at a time into another container, if that makes it easier to use.

The La Padella is available on the Corto web site and on Amazon.

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