Sunday, 6 December 2015

Easy Sesame Noodles

These days, even noodles are not free from controversy. The 1990s were a simpler time. As I recall, there were only two varieties of packaged noodles available in Delhi back then - regular Tops noodles that came, straight and thick, spaghetti like, in a rectangular box, and instant noodles, a category led by Maggi noodles, the original "2 minute noodles". As they still do, Maggi came in shiny yellow packets, with two crucial sachets of masala that was tasty enough to make me want to lick the packets clean. 

My mother experimented with Tops on a few unhappy occasions. Spiced up with only the few sort-of-Chinese condiments she had on hand - black pepper, and a bottled chili sauce, the noodles came nowhere close to the Maggi meals of my dreams. For all her genius and perseverance, she never did manage to crack open the secret code to the Maggi masala mix. 

Maggi remained close to heart even as I left Delhi, and ventured to Bangalore for college. It was there that my Maggi consumption really took off. In our second year at college, a couple of generous graduating seniors bequeathed an old hotplate to my room mates and I. Like boxy rotary dial telephones and film cameras, hotplates are one of those contraptions that I never run into these days. A hot plate is literally just that - a coil, atop a metallic base, that heats up with electricity, allowing you to cook a simple meal if you're not in the vicinity of a gas range. 

Strapped for space in our shared room, we stored our hot plate in a cubbyhole next to the door, on top of a lopsided pile of old, discarded copies of The Hindu. That hot plate served us well. It made Maggi more accessible to us than ever before. With no maternal figures around to object to our frequent Maggi consumption, we went all out. Maggi kept us company on the dreariest nights, before dreaded exams and unforgiving project deadlines. 

On days when we didn't have a packet of Maggi in the room, we'd walk down to our favored local hangout - a bakery-cum-snack shop a couple of blocks from campus that sold Maggi by the plate. They sold regular Maggi, vegetable-less, unlike my mother's version which was saddled with chopped vegetables I wanted nothing to do with. They also sold Cheese Maggi - an ingenious variation in which a couple of melting slices of Amul cheese were thrown onto a steaming plate of hot Maggi. 

With all of those childhood and teenage associations, it was disappointing to see Maggi in the news in India earlier this year for all the wrong reasons. At my local Indian store here in the U.S., they're still selling Maggi packets, but I steer clear. 

Luckily, my taste in noodles has evolved substantially since my Maggi days. Here's a recipe that I tried recently. Simple but tasty. 

Easy Sesame Noodles (inspired by this recipe)

1 12 oz pack of egg noodles, cooked in salted water, and drained fully
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp toasted sesame oil
4 green onions, green parts only, finely chopped
2-4 cloves garlic, finely minced (optional)

Mix all sauce ingredients in a bowl large enough to hold the noodles. If using garlic, I would suggest sautéing in oil in a small pan before adding to the sauce. The version I tried with raw minced garlic, per the original recipe, was too pungent. Add the noodles, bit by bit into the bowl containing the sauce, and combine with the sauce until well mixed. Garnish with the chopped green onions.