The other night, my mom and my sister came to visit me in Harlem. My sister -- who is also my best friend -- is about to move to Ann Arbor to get her Ph.D at the University of Michigan. We are so proud of her and this was our last gathering as the Kang women for a while and of course, I wanted to feed them. I decided to go with a dish that my mother taught me when I first started cooking -- kale sauteed with onions, garlic, and soy sauce served over Chinese style noodles, topped with a fried egg.
I chose this dish because it is a comfort food, both in the sense that it always makes me happy and also in the sense that it is a safe dish for me -- I’ve made it more times than I can count. But mostly, the kale and noodles remind me of my mother’s love and evenings spent around our round kitchen table in the house of my childhood. What better dinner to make on my last night with my sister?
I started out by opening a Corona with lime for me and my sister. Then I set a large pot of salted water to boil for the noodles. I also set some low-sodium organic chicken broth to heat. I cut the kale into sizeable strips, chopped half a bulb of garlic, and minced 1/3 of a red onion.
I then sliced some organic beef round eye steaks into thin (though not thin enough to my mother’s standards -- her one complaint!) strips and marinated it in soy sauce paste with half of the chopped garlic. I set that aside to marinate for a little.
To prepare enough broth for three, I chopped three stalks of green onion and put that at the bottom of the bowl. I added a sizeable glob of soy sauce paste, two capfuls of Marukan rice vinegar, a generous dash of sesame oil, and white pepper.
To cook the kale, I heated olive oil and when it was hot, threw in the onions. After a minute or two I then added the garlic. When the air was heavy with the intoxicating smell of onions and garlic, I added the beef along with its marinade. After cooking that for about three minutes, I added the kale. Kale reduces greatly so it’s always a battle of leaves spilling out of the pan and it seeming like you’re going to have way too much and then being disappointed with how scant it seems in the end. A lid was placed over the kale to let it reduce in size and then sauteed. I added some soy sauce (not paste) and a pinch of white pepper.
At this point the water is boiling so the noodles can be prepared while the kale is cooking. I haven’t advanced to handmade noodles yet so I just follow the instructions on the box. Thankfully, Leanne (my sister) was helping me out so she took care of the noodles. When the noodles are done, I usually toss them in sesame oil for flavor and to make sure they don’t stick. The broth was hot at this point too so I asked Leanne to pour that into the bowls and then add the noodles. Hot water is added to the bowls to reduce the heaviness of the broth, especially if the broth is not low-sodium (it happens).
While this was occurring, I fried three eggs in olive oil and dribbled soy sauce on top. The point is to break the yolk over the noodles so I didn’t fry them for long. When the eggs were done, I placed one over the noodles in each bowl. The kale was served in a bowl so that one can help herself and put them on top of the noodles as well. Of course this is eaten with chopsticks and Chinese soup spoons.
Thankfully the hot weather that had been plaguing New York for a few weeks had broken and there was a cool rain and wind in the air so the broth and noodles didn’t make us uncomfortably hot. The effect was exactly what I wanted -- sitting around a table with my mother and sister eating something familiar and nutritious while we talked about our lives, hopes, dreams, and struggles. At the same time, this was something I hadn't made for my mother before so she was thrilled to see how it was translated down to her daughter. We laughed and chatted and slurped down our noodles and ate till our bellies were warm and full. This was comfort and it was delicious.