How to get the most out of instant noodles (and withered ingredients)

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Back in the BMG days (before mi goreng), my culinary repertoire consisted of microwave party pies, reconstituted soup with loose instant noodles and the (not so) classic salt and vinegar chip sandwich.

Doing mi goreng taught me establishment – a term more common in a professional kitchen than in a small kitchen covered in mustard yellow laminate in the northern suburbs of Adelaide. The procession begins with the click of the lighter looking for the hiss of gas; the sound of the flame on the stove. Mom fills a pot with water and places it on the fire, an invisible signal for me to take out the red and white packets of Indomie cupboard mi goreng instant noodles. Two packages for each person: today we cook for four – my parents, my brother and me.

I open each packet and pry up the aroma sachets. Indomie, the original Indonesian brand, contains five crucial flavors expertly divided into two sachets. In the plastic bag is the sweet soy sauce (kecap manis), chili sauce and seasoning oil. The accompanying foil pouch contains seasoning powder and fried shallots. I put the plastic bags in the pot, with the boil helping loosen the sauce, making it easier to pull out of the package when the time comes.

Mom rinses the tomatoes and cucumber. I take a lemon from the fruit basket and place it next to the cutting board. Together, mom and I got down to slicing each fruit: the tomatoes in quarters, the cucumbers on the bias, stacked in groups of four to five, as many as I can handle. The lemon is topped and cut into a tail, then cut into quarters. We rummage through the crisper looking for wilted Asian greens (bok choy, choy sum, gai lan, chrysanthemum leaves) or a head of iceberg lettuce.

The greens found are given a quick rinse, chopped, and placed in a plastic pastel colander – the ones you’ll find in the farthest aisle of Asian grocery stores, stacked in piles as large as a small child. The water begins to bubble. Chả lụa, a Vietnamese pork sausage, is stripped of its banana leaf husk, cut into discs and again, into strips. If we’re lucky, thinly sliced ​​lap cheong (Chinese sausage) is added to the mix.

As soon as the water starts to roll, I dip a pair of chopsticks into the water to fish out the plastic bags and replace them with dried noodle patties. Chopsticks are used to immerse them in water for a while before running through each block, bringing the noodles from the bottom to the surface. I roll through the stack of cakes before each one begins to unwind from its tightly coiled state, turning into a sea of ​​yellow curls.

I know better than to leave them longer and bring the pot to the sink where the colander is, containing the prepared tomatoes, the cucumber and the greens from the bottom of the bin, the chả lụa – they are blanched and continue to cook the noodles under the fire.

The pan is put back on the stove, the flame has been lowered. I empty the seasoning powder and the fried shallots in the pan, followed by the kecap manis and the chili sauce. Mom never adds the seasoning oil, as my taste buds adjust to her penchant for acid, I also give up the oil. In a way, it intensifies the heat of the chili.

The flavors are mixed (again, using chopsticks), with a squeeze of lemon to loosen the sauce. The ingredients in the colander are tilted, the heat adjusted. We work quickly to coat everything in flavor, working against the flame. The crispy noodles in the pan, just like the lap cheong slices and maybe an extra egg.

The bowls are arranged in order. Bigger portions for dad and my brother, the rest shared between mommy and me. Each topped with the leftover sauce from the bottom of the pan and the treats in the frying pan.

This is the dance that was repeated throughout my childhood: standing on the lid of the dishwasher to reach the stove, preparing 20 packets of noodles for a hungry horde of dirt-covered cousins ​​busy with each other. unleash on the family farm, while our parents toil in the greenhouses. They left snacks and instructions. We leave the dishes stacked in the sink before running to the fence of the neighbor’s paddock to watch the horses.

This is the dance that was repeated throughout my childhood: standing on the lid of the dishwasher to reach the stove, preparing 20 packets of noodles for a hungry horde.

As an adult, I keep a stash (the five-pack, to be precise) on hand for long days, long weeks, and lockdown lunches. I never stray too far from basic flavors: the addition of sriracha unbalances everything, it languishes in the fridge next to a bottle full of kecap manis that I bought in case I included too much. ingredients from the refrigerator. The gas stove flame only comes alive if there is a lemon – the burst of acidity instantly makes my mouth salivate.

My culinary repertoire has grown since our life in the old mustard kitchen, but mi goreng is still the perfect antidote for a refrigerator that needs to be cleaned of withered greens and overly mushy tomatoes. Long live Indomie.

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