Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Triple Noodle Taste-Off (Pork and Preserved Vegetable Noodle Soup)

Let's say there's an ingredient you use in your house all the time. Like, oh, I don't know, noodles. And you've settled on your preferred brand. How can you be sure you've really chosen the best available option? That's where a little thing I like to call the double-blind taste test comes in. You'll need at least two people to perform this extremely scientific experiment.

Select the item that you wish to test, in this case, fresh wheat noodles. One person prepares the ingredients and places them in three identical serving dishes labeled A, B, and C, noting which brand went into which container. That person then leaves the room. Now the second person rearranges the bowls, marking them 1, 2, and 3 (and of course, making note of which number corresponds to which letter). Now both tasters are effectively "blind". Of course, as you can see from the photo, it's often not hard to tell which is which.
For the triple noodle taste-off, I selected Korean noodles, Taiwanese noodles, and Shanghai-style noodles. All are made of roughly the same ingredients (wheat flour, salt, and water). All were roughly the same thickness. I made a pork and preserved vegetable soup as the carrier.
And the results according to both tasters were: Korean #1, Taiwanese #2, Shanghainese #3. The Korean noodles had a nice bite, but also a slippery quality that really gave them a nice mouthfeel, especially in the broth. The Taiwanese noodles had bite, but the texture was mostly one-dimensional. The Shanghai noodles were flabby and tasted bland. Next I need to do an all Korean noodle taste-off.

I've previously talked about a shortcut method for making pork and preserved vegetable noodle soup. For this taste-off, I made it the more traditional way. I also added a bit of napa cabbage, because I love veggies.

Pork and Preserved Vegetable Noodle Soup (for two)
½ pound pork tenderloin, cut into matchsticks
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
1 teaspoon corn starch
Splash of sesame oil
Fresh ground pepper
¾ cup slivered zha cai (Szechuan pickled vegetable)
4-5 cups of homemade pork broth
Two bundles of your favorite fresh noodles (I recommend Samdoo brand)
6-7 leaves of napa cabbage, washed and sliced (optional)
Chili oil and fried shallots for serving

1. Mix the soy sauce, corn starch, and sesame oil in a bowl and place the pork in this mixture. Then grind a little black pepper on top, mix well, and marinate the pork for about ten minutes. The corn starch helps break down the fibers in the meat, making it more tender.

2. Boil a pot of water for your noodles. Heat the broth in a small saucepan.

3. In a wok or large skillet, stir-fry the pork for a few minutes, until it is no longer pink on the outside. Then add the zha cai and stir fry for about two more minutes.

4. Cook noodles according to package instructions, about 3-4 minutes.

5. Meanwhile, pour about ½ cup of water in your skillet or wok and lightly braise the napa cabbage until it is just tender.

Place a bundle of noodles in the bottom of each soup bowl. Then divide the pork topping and cabbage between the bowls and ladle the broth over. Serve with chili oil and fried onions.


  1. I shall look for the brand you recommended. Thanks!

  2. Hee hee! This is an awesome idea and a great way to eat three bowls of noodles in a go! You should do it blindfolded. I've always want to do that Top Chef blind taste test.

  3. Luckily there were two testers, so we only ended up stuffing ourselves a tad more than usual. :) That Top Chef blind taste test looks hard!

  4. I have the recommended brand but I don't speak(or read) Korean. What are the instructions for cooking these noodles? Thank you.


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