Cooking Green Tea Noodles Adds Refreshing and Complex Flavors | Food
I studied food history and anthropology in college, and I remember in one of my first classes the teacher asked everyone to write a short essay on a food “in its pure state”. I can’t remember what I chose, but it only got me a passing grade. The student who wrote an essay on tea received the highest score.
There are thousands of varieties of tea, and its complexity is like that of wine. It is the second most popular drink in the world, after water, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
Tea is also a social drink, and that’s how I met my friend Robert Wemischner. We met, if I remember correctly, during a tea tasting class in Los Angeles. Wemischner is a culinary school teacher, tea expert, and author, with Diana Rosen, of “Cooking With Tea: Techniques and Recipes for Appetizers, Mains, Desserts, and More.” Today’s recipe, for Cold Tea Noodles, is taken from their book, and it’s a surprisingly tasty and remarkably easy summer meal.
It starts with green tea, which you’ll brew and then use to cook udon noodles. Wemischner says genmaicha, an herbal green tea with chunks of toasted sticky rice, is his favorite tea to use here. (But he offered some suggested substitutions, below.)
“Forward, grassy, green and fresh, it even has a little sea or saline side to it”, is how he described the genmaicha. “I like it because I think there’s umami there, and this flavor makes us crave for the next bite. You’re not going to be bored with a full serving of this flavor. There’s nothing dull or monotonous about it.”
After you’ve steeped the tea and cooked the noodles – they only take a few minutes to become tender – your cooking job is done. Wemischner recommends doing this the night before, so the noodles are ready for lunch or dinner the next day, when you top them with tender enoki mushrooms, scallions and sprigs of cilantro. Season each bowl with light soy sauce – different from low sodium soy sauce – sesame oil and togarashi (preferably shichimi, although ichimi also works) or other chili flakes before to serve.
“You can use many different types of tea here,” says Wemischner, “but I love the hauntingly memorable flavor of green teas with udon and tofu.”