Asian noodles to twirl, slurp, and savor

Outstanding cookbook writers produce special collections treasured by cooks around the world. Nina Simonds is one of those special authors who have written several books on Chinese cuisine and culture. Newsweek magazine named her one of “America’s Top Twenty-five Asia Hands.” So it is not surprising that Nina Simonds' Asian Noodles: Deliciously Simple Dishes to Twirl, Slurp, and Savor is a classic guide as well as an interesting book.

“I will never forget the flavor of Mr. Chang’s cinnamon beef noodles,” Simonds writes in the book’s introduction. “I lived on the simple noodle dishes from the hundreds of tiny noodle stalls that cluttered the streets. Each one was known for a certain specialty, but during my first raw winter in Asia, nothing comforted me more when I was tired, homesick, or chilled to the bone than a steamy bowl of Mr. Chang’s noodles. For seventy-five cents, I was rejuvenated – and so my lifelong love affair with noodles had begun.”

And, sure enough, Cinnamon Beef Noodles is one of the featured recipes. Slow cooked beef takes on the flavors of garlic, ginger, anise and cinnamon, then combines with spinach and noodles for a hearty, flavorful feast. But Simonds does not limit her recipe choices to China.

“I am still awed by the extraordinary diversity of Asian noodle dishes,” she continues. “While we mainly think of noodles as made only with flour, eggs and water, Asian noodles are much more varied. They can be made from buckwheat as well as wheat flour, mung bean starch, or potato or sweet potato starch: some include eggs, others do not. Noodles can be stir-fried, pan-fried, or deep-fried and served in soups, salads, and casseroles as starters, in entrees, as side dishes, or as snacks.”

From Vietnam, Singapore, Thailand, Japan, Korea, and China, Simonds provides noodles in all their varieties and settings. Hanoi Beef Noodles (Pho), Scallion Chicken with Soba Soup, Wild Mushroom Noodles, Thai-Style Spicy Beef Jantaboon, Pad Thai, Lemon Broccoli Noodles, and Spicy Korean Beef Noodles are just a few examples of Simonds’ Asian collection.

The book is well written with easy-to-follow recipes using ingredients available locally. Its abundance of four-color photos makes it all the more enticing and an excellent guide for cooks new to Asian cooking.

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