Holding the glass plate, I swept the last bite of noodle with scallion oil into my mouth. Looking through the oil-stained glass, the trees outside became motley of greens, light and dark, reminding me of a painting by Claude Monet.
In my brief time working with an auction house, there was an auction preview of Monet’s works, and one of which I had never seen at museums or galleries I visited abroad. It depicted a path in forest where green shades covered the skies, grass and mosses blanketed the earth, composing shades of green. Standing in front of the painting, I felt like having walked into a hazy misty forest and at the end of the path, there was a beam of sunlight guiding you through. I adored the painting.
I’m fond of impressionist paintings – in the swift brushstrokes dotted across the canvas, the artists capture the fleeting moment of light and scenery in patches of seemingly casual wet strokes. When we appreciate a painting, what we interpret may not be the actual scenery in real life but the scenery in the artist’s memory or the memory he would like to bring to life. Reality and memory, they are so always involved with each other.
A lot of time, we wish to revisit an episode in memory, that precious episode of memory, with the help of food and flavours. We look back because we do not want to lose it and forget it. By repeating the same recipe or visiting the same restaurants, we take a trip memory lane in the forest guided by your familiar one-and-only flavours. The fact that memory is precious is because we can never rewind and repeat time. All bygones, masking the beauty at present we ought to see. When that flavours, that junction and that world we wish to behold reside in our mind, what we see with the eyes, taste with the tongue and step upon with our soles are nothing but the render of our mind.
Reality, a fabrication of memory, is subjective. All things are created by one’s mind, so are memory and flavours. Perhaps, when we offload some of the memories that we can see the world as it is.
花椒 ½ 湯匙
米糠油 ½ 杯
鮮磨無調味花生醬 1/3 杯
芝麻醬 1/3 杯
海鹽 1/3 茶匙
- 麵粉、海鹽清水混和，揉至稍稍光滑。開始揉麵時，麵糰會較乾身呈鬆散狀，太乾的話可以加1-2 茶匙清水。
Cold Dan Dan Noodles (For two)
Sichuan Peppercorn Oil Ingredients:
Sichuan peppercorn ½ tablespoon
Star anise 2 pieces
Clove 5 pieces
Dried hot pepper 5 pieces
Ginger 2 slices
Rice bran oil ½ cup
- Heat up the rice bran oil (or vegetable oil) over medium heat. Except the Sichuan peppercorn, add all ingredients to the pot. Simmer over low heat, for about 3-5 minutes, till you smell the fragrance of the spices.
- Put the Sichuan peppercorn in a heat-proof container and pour the sizzling spice oil over it. Let cool.
Peanut and Sesame Sauce Ingredients:
Freshly ground peanut butter 1/3 cup
Sesame sauce 1/3 cup
Ground sesame 2 tablespoon
Drinking water 4 tablespoon
Sea salt 1/3 teaspoon
- Mix all ingredients till smooth. As the taste of the sauces from different brands varies, taste and adjust the amount of salt to your liking. If the consistency of the sauce is too thick, add more drinking water.
- Put the sauce into the fridge.
Noodles ingredients (or use store-bought white noodles):
Tipo 00 flour 200g
Sea salt 2g
Ice water 1 big bowl
- Mix the flour, sea salt and water till you get a shabby dough. When you first knead the dough, it will be dry and loose. Add 1-2 teaspoon of water if it is too dry.
- Cover the dough in a kitchen towel. Let sit for 1 hour.
- Take the dough out, roll it even and slightly flatter, and cut it into 2 equal halves.
- Attach the pasta roller on your food processor. Feed the dough through the roller twice in the widest setting.
- Reduce the width setting, feed the noodle sheet into the roller twice.
- Reduce the width setting again, feed the noodle sheet into the roller twice. The noodle sheets now should be 1-2mm thick.
- Dust your noodle sheets with flour.
- Attach the spaghetti cutter to the food processor, feed the cutter with the noodle sheets. Dust the fresh noodles with flour to avoid them from sticking.
- Boil a big pot of water. Cook the noodles for about 2 minutes in boiling water. Drain the noodles and put them into ice water.
- Drain the noodles, put them into a bowl, spoon over 3 tablespoon of peanut and sesame sauce, and drizzle with Sichuan peppercorn oil. Garnish with scallion and sesame seeds.
It’s raining outside, crisp and bleak. Three chubby sparrows took shelter on my balcony and I gave them the baguette bits left on my breakfast plate but they flew away. I stayed in, played Damien Rice on vinyl and made apple crumble. Repeat.