Southern Fun Noodles
Chow fun is one of the dishes that defined my childhood. It was my favorite growing up, and whenever my mom told me chow fun was for dinner, my eyes would light up. Nowadays, when I go home to Las Vegas—where my parents currently live—for Thanksgiving or Christmas, it’s the first thing waiting for me at the dinner table when I walk in the door.
My mom’s chow fun is a little different than the dish we serve at the restaurant. I would call hers a more traditional version. It’s also a little lower in sodium. In more recent years, my mom has cooked with less oyster sauce and soy sauce. Personally, I’m okay with using those ingredients. I’m not one to walk away from MSG. I eat because I enjoy eating and I enjoy food. If I’m going to take the time to make a dish, I want it to be flavorful and robust.
While our rendition of chow fun, called Southern Fun, uses a lot of the traditional ingredients—garlic, ginger, onions, bean sprouts, and ho fun rice noodles—we tweak the dish just enough to make it distinctive and ours. In true Austin fashion, we use brisket as the protein component in the dish. For typical chow fun, you’re looking at some form of low-cut red meat thinly sliced and marinated in a little bit of soy, sugar, cornstarch, white pepper, and Chinese cooking wine.
I really think, however, that our secret is in the sauce. We use a blend of regular soy, chili-garlic sauce, sweet soy, and oyster sauce. Sweet soy is one of the most magical Asian ingredients I have ever cooked with. It almost has the consistency of molasses, with a licorice back-end taste to it. Sweet soy really lights up this dish, and contrasts perfectly with the regular soy (saltier than sweet soy) and the chili garlic (the spice counteracts the sweetness). Make sure your ratios are on point for this sauce, because it makes a difference.
FOR THE DRY RUB
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1⁄2 tablespoon kosher salt
1⁄4 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1⁄2 teaspoon mustard powder
1⁄2 teaspoon chili powder
1⁄4 tablespoon garlic powder
1⁄4 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon brown sugar
TO MAKE THE DRY RUB
Mix together all the dry rub ingredients in a small bowl.
FOR THE BRAISING LIQUID & BRISKET
3 1⁄2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 (4-pound) piece of brisket, first cut (the flat, leaner portion of the brisket) (see Note)
1 yellow onion, quartered
3 cloves garlic
3 bay leaves
1 1⁄2 quarts beef broth
TO MAKE THE BRAISING LIQUID & BRISKET
1. Preheat the oven to 325°F.
2. Drizzle 1⁄2 tablespoon of the oil over the brisket and then spread the dry rub over the brisket.
3. Place a Dutch oven or a heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat and add 2 tablespoons of the oil to coat the pan. Sear the brisket on both sides for 3–4 minutes on each side until it has a nice sear (the meat will be browned, but make sure you don’t char the outside). Remove the brisket and set it aside.
4. Reduce the heat to medium, add the remaining oil to coat the pan, then add the quartered onion and garlic cloves. Brown the onion and garlic cloves for 2–3 minutes, and then add the bay leaves. Turn off the heat.
5. Place the brisket back in the pot, with the fat cap facing up. Then add approximately 1 quart of the beef broth. The braising liquid should come halfway up the brisket. Depending on the size of the pot, you may need more or less braising liquid.
6. Cover the pan and braise the brisket at 325°F in the oven. After 2 hours, check the pan and see if additional beef broth needs to be added to ensure that the braising liquid is still halfway up the brisket.
7. Braise the brisket for an additional 2 1⁄4 hours. The brisket should be fork-tender when you take it out of the oven. Once the brisket is fork-tender, remove the brisket from the pot and strain the braising liquid. Discard the onions, garlic, and bay leaves. Using a large spoon, skim some of the liquid fat off the top of the strained braising liquid.
8. On a cutting board, chop the brisket while it is hot. If you are not serving the brisket immediately, pour a little of the braising liquid over the chopped brisket to keep it moist while it is refrigerated. Store the brisket in an airtight container in the fridge. The chopped brisket will keep for up to 3 days in the refrigerator.
Note This recipe will yield around 2 1⁄2 pounds of cooked brisket, more than the recipe for Southern Fun calls for. However, you can use the rest to make BBQ Brisket Tacos (page 74) or Brisket Grilled Cheese (page 81).
FOR THE SOUTHERN FUN SAUCE
2 1⁄4 tablespoons light soy sauce
1 tablespoon Sweet Soy Sauce (see Asian Food Glossary, page 219)
2 1⁄4 tablespoons Oyster Sauce (see Asian Food Glossary, page 219)
3 1⁄4 tablespoons Chili Garlic Sauce (see Asian Food Glossary, page 219)
TO MAKE THE SOUTHERN FUN SAUCE
Whisk all the ingredients together.
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 teaspoons garlic, minced (from 2 cloves, peeled)
2 teaspoons ginger, minced (from about 1⁄4-inch knob, peeled)
3⁄4 cup yellow onion, sliced
1⁄2 pound Braised Brisket, chopped (recipe above)
1 1⁄2 pounds ho fun noodles (peeled) (see pages 12–13 for a description of how to prepare these noodles)
Pinch of white pepper
1 1⁄2 cups kale, chiffonade (or thinly shredded)
1 1⁄2 cups bean sprouts
3⁄4 cup green onions, thinly sliced
1⁄4 cup Fried Shallots
1⁄4 cup cilantro, whole leaves, for garnish
1. Heat a wok or a wide nonstick stir-fry pan over medium-low heat and add the oil. Wait for the oil to shimmer, and then add the garlic and ginger. If the garlic starts to brown too quickly, reduce the heat.
2. Once the garlic and ginger are fragrant after about 30 seconds, add the onion and stir-fry it until it becomes translucent. This should take another 45 seconds to a minute. Add the brisket and stir-fry for an additional minute.
3. Add the ho fun noodles to the brisket mixture in the pan and stir them in over medium-high heat. Make sure to constantly turn the noodles when you stir-fry them so they don’t stick to the bottom of the pan and burn. Don’t be overly aggressive with the noodles, however, or they will break.
4. Once the noodles have cooked for 1 minute, add the Southern Fun sauce to the pan. Add a pinch of white pepper. Continue to stir-fry the noodles for another 2 1⁄2–3 minutes.
5. Taste the noodles to make sure they are getting close to al dente. Add the kale and bean sprouts to the pan and stir-fry the noodles for another 30 seconds.
6. Take the noodles off the heat and plate them. Garnish the noodles with the green onions, fried shallots, and cilantro.
If your pan is not big enough, you may need to cook this dish in multiple rounds. That’s fine. You can always cut your ingredients in half and repeat the process.
Note: Ho fun noodles, which are sold fresh, need to be hand-peeled. Make sure to purchase noodles that are precut. If the noodles sit on the shelf for a while, you’ll need to heat the packet before you pull the noodles apart; otherwise it will be difficult to separate them. I recommend taking the noodles out of the package and microwaving them for 20 seconds to loosen them prior to peeling.
Recipe excerpted from The Peached Tortilla by Eric Silverstein; Sterling Publishing, 2019.