Television shows and movies have always inspired my food choices in some amazing ways. The tiramisu recipe was a product of high school love and the movie No Reservations; while my Aglio e olio was further improved through John Faverau’s indie film, Chef. However, both these movies have food at the core of their storytelling. From the onset of the movie, there was an assumption that audiences are going to be seeing characters cook beautiful food but what about movies and shows where you don’t expect to learn things about food? For me, the birth of the humble stir fry came from one such show — The Office.
Now, fans of the show are trying to think about what episode could this have been, others are giving up on the article and have moved to looking at the pictures and measuring possibility of them ever actually making these dishes. However, if you have stuck on then here’s what The Office is in a gist: it's a mockumentary themed show about people working at a paper recycling factory in Scranton, PA. The show boasts an oddball set of characters who seem too extreme but as you begin watching the show, you see how relatable it can be as you begin to realize that you literally know a person who can fit the bill of each eccentric character. The show also starred Steve Carell who’s a Denison grad (and yes, thats why I watched it in the first place).
The show is a beautiful caricature of middle class America. In fact, it's a perfect caricature of anyone who can resonate with white collar jobs. What I found fascinating, was how in each stage of my life, the show taught me something new. For example, when I started watching it for the first time which was right before college started, it taught me about the culture of small town America; and now as I work at an office, I just relate to the show on a structural and ideological level.
I loved the structure of the show. The ways in which the camera tracked characters and zoomed in on faces to showcase expressions. I loved how the camera followed the characters meticulously and constantly while they were at work. However, it was rare for the cameras to follow characters back home. I always wondered what those characters did at home. What was the kind of food they made? I know that Kevin made a famous chili, which was recreated with all its “trimmings” by youtube chef, Binging with Babish. It was Michael who introduced me the concept of the Hibachi and in turn, stir fry. I know I know, how did I not know about stir fry before? Well I did, I just never realized that it was something I could make. I didn’t know that cooking down veggies in oil and salt can be this tasty. This is when I started cooking this dish a lot. Adding a little soy sauce, some sriracha, and serving with fresh basmati rice, garnished with the greens of scallions. As I got better, I began diversifying— adding different flavors, frying proteins, and serving with things other than rice.
This Udon noodle was a product of this constant experiment. Udon noodles are made of buckwheat that are treated in such way that while they have the density of spaghetti but they have the porosity of rice noodles. This means that it can hold that al dente bite but soak in all the flavor with which you douse your veggies. I cooked this fry in about 2 teaspoons of sesame oil, added red cabbage, which is this amazing winter veggie that retains a crunch as it caramelizes. Further, I overuse some finely chopped fresh ginger, garlic, and introduced this to the noodles with a touch of hoisin sauce (soy + sugar), sriracha, greens of scallions, and lastly a garnish of sesame seeds. The seeds add so much flavor and texture, complementing the flavors imparted by the sesame oil.
1 handful of dried Udon noodles, cooked as suggested by the packet
8 cremini mushrooms, finely sliced
1/2 head of red cabbage, medium sized
1 inch ginger, chopped finely
4 cloves of garlic, minced
5 scallions with the greens chopped coarsely and the whites chopped fine
1 teaspoon hoisin sauce
2 teaspoons sriracha
1 teaspoon sesame seeds
2 teaspoons sesame oil
Salt, to taste
In a wok, add the sesame oil and the cabbage. Let the cabbage cook on side and turn only after 2 mins.
Add salt along with ginger and garlic along with mushrooms and scallion whites. One the mushrooms have sweat down and have some color, reduce heat and add the noodles and sauces
Add half the scallions greens and cook for no more than a minute. Garnish with sesame seeds!