In Nepal there are typically two big meals a day, one in the morning, and one at night. These meals consist of dal bhat and tarkari. Dal is cooked lentil soup, bhat is boiled rice, and tarkari is some kind of seasonal vegetable curry. Often there will be a chicken or goat curry as well. Because there are only two meals a day, and because Nepali people work very hard, there are loads of lovely snacks to be had. On my first visit to Nepal, my then fiance’s brother called to say he would be picking up some momo, (Nepali/Tibetan dumplings), to bring home for me “to prevent hunger”. I love momo, but I suspect it is better with meat, and I’ll never know what I’m missing and that’s just fine. Therefore, my favorite snack is “Chowmein”, (pronounced CHO-MANE), a Nepali hybrid of Chinese Lo mein, and Malaysian Mee goreng.
1 lb fresh Lo mein noodles boiled and tossed with a little peanut oil to prevent sticking (these can generally be found in the produce section of most grocery stores where the tofu is)
2 tbs peanut oil
1tbs minced ginger
4 cloves garlic slivered
1 serrano chili thinly sliced with or without seeds
1/2 tsp high quality FRESH curry powder, (seriously, if you haven’t used it in 6 months toss it)
1/2 red onion thinly sliced
2/3 cup Chinese flat chives sliced at 1 inch OR 1 bunch green onions
1/2 cup peeled sliced carrot
1 cup thin sliced cabbage or small cauliflower florets
2 small tomatoes chopped
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
For the sauce
1.5 tbs dark soy sauce (I like Healthy Boy Black Soy Sauce)*
1.5 tbs light or “thin” soy sauce or tamari
1tbs Sambal Oelek*
1/2 tsp sugar
Important: taste this sauce as you go and adjust it to your liking, do you like it sweeter? Spicier? the flavors should be in harmony, but there is a lot of room for personal taste.
*If you don’t live near an Asian grocery store you can approximate the sauce recipe by substituting the first 3 ingredients for 2 tbs soy sauce, 1 tbs molasses, and 1 tbs Sriracha.
Make sure you have your mise en place, (or “everything in it’s place”, chopped, portioned, organized) before you start cooking, this is especially important when you’re dealing with asian wok cooking where ingredients must be added in a particular order, and can go from perfectly cooked, to toast in roughly six seconds.
In a well seasoned wok heat the peanut oil on high until it is shimmering but not smoking. Add the ginger, garlic, and chilis and stir fry 10 seconds until fragrant and just beginning to color. Add the red onion and stir fry until it starts to brown, you know your stove better than me, gas stoves are much easier to work with than electric stoves, especially with woks, so pay attention and turn the heat down a little if need be. Add the curry powder and stir for 5 seconds taking care not to burn the spice. Add the carrots, cabbage and chives or green onion, stir to coat with oil and spice and then add the noodles. Working quickly and with undivided attention toss the noodles until all of the ingredients are evenly dispersed and then pour the sauce over everything. Add the tomatoes. You can turn the heat down to medium/medium high if you haven’t already. Cook stirring constantly for 2-3 minutes until some of the noodles begin to caramelize and the tomatoes soften and begin to break down. Remove from heat and top with cilantro.
I like to top this dish with an over medium egg, stirring the yolk into the noodles. Nepali people like to top this dish with a sweet and spicy red ketchup and salty green chili ketchup-like sauce. I can’t find either one of these condiments in the U.S. so I just use Sriracha liberally.