Last night we made this recipe from Forks Over Knives: Chinese Noodles in Ginger Garlic Sauce. It’s an excellent recipe on its own, but we made some modifications to make it a little better. This recipe will be included in the forthcoming book Forks Over Knives Family: Every Parent’s Guide to Raising Healthy, Happy Kids on a Whole-Food, Plant-Based Diet. The book is set to be released in September 2016 and is available for pre-order at Amazon now.
As I’ve said before, our introduction to plant-based living came from the frugal living community. Ever since then, we have consistently tried to make our meals as inexpensive as possible while maintaining maximum nutrition and taste. This is the same approach we took with this recipe. Here are our thoughts:
Banh pho noodles
Banh pho noodles add a much different texture from the one you get with standard brown rice noodles. We find they have a much greater margin of palatable chewiness, which we reached by testing a noodle every minute or so. Once you have the texture you want, shock them with cold water.
To cook these banh pho noodles, we put the whole package in a covered pot. Separately, we boiled enough water to cover all the noodles. We poured the boiling water over the noodles, covered it, and let it sit for about 5 minutes. Then we drained the noodles, shocked them with cold water, and let them sit until reheating them in the main dish at the end.
We used three medium heirloom carrots from the farmers market: one purple, one yellow and one white. The white carrot helped to offset the sweetness of the others, giving it a subtle earthy, turnip-like taste.
Cashews are a nice touch, but they are expensive when you buy them oil-free and raw (unroasted), which is what we prefer. We save them for special occasions, like when we make a big lasagna or pizza. Next time we make the Chinese Noodles in Ginger Garlic Sauce we will use peanuts instead, which I think would be just as good in this dish, maybe better. The cashews add a certain flavor you may not get with peanuts, but buying oil-free cashews costs significantly more than peanuts.
Cilantro is especially flavorful at certain times of year, like summer, so you may not need to use too much for added flavor. We left ours whole out of habit. Because it is summer and cilantro is at peak flavor, it would have been more appropriate to give it a light chop to distribute the flavor more evenly, instead of getting big shots of flavor here and there. Chopped is the direction in the recipe, and we didn’t follow it. Next time, we will!
Cabbage instead of bok choy
We replaced the bok choy with cabbage, which is cheaper, and also because we had it in the refrigerator anyway. Cabbage is a fantastic, frugal substitute for bok choy. While bok choy is a good and worthy ingredient, for us it’s not always worth the added expense. This recipe calls for baby bok choy, which, depending on where you live, can be difficult to find and more expensive than normal bok choy. For us, the only real issue is one of appearance: bok choy is a much brighter green and stands out better against the noodles. Pound for pound, though, cabbage will nearly always be one of the cheapest vegetables you can buy, and you can reliably get it at most farmers markets.
The sauce is good, and the proportion of thickener to liquids is perfect. Overall, though, the ginger and garlic flavors in this dish were somewhat weak. We even used three times the amount of ginger called for, and while it was still detectable, it was far too subtle. The problem is that it is added at the beginning of cooking, which guarantees that the flavor will diminish significantly by the end. When we cook with ginger and garlic (which we often do!) we try to add them as late as possible to preserve as much flavor as we can. Even though it’s only ten minutes total, that’s still long enough to neutralize flavors like garlic and ginger, especially since they’re not sitting in a stew or soup. Next time we will add the garlic and ginger instead to the sauce, let the flavors marry, and then add the sauce at the very end. For us the sauce thickened very quickly, so it probably doesn’t even need to cook for the full 5 minutes.
We would recommend this recipe without hesitation, but don’t be afraid to make alterations or substitutions. In fact, that’s our advice for every recipe. When you do make changes, be sure to write them down. Keeping a food journal in the kitchen is the best way to keep track of it all.
How do you approach new recipes? Do you cook them as written or make changes the first time? Let us know in the comments!