This is my attempt to give noodles “fall vibes”. These Cumin Pork Noodles with Apple Cucumber Relish have both pork and apples, so in my admittedly strange brain that makes them Oktoberfest-appropriate, which makes them fall appropriate. Phew! It was a long walk to get here, but have I convinced you that these are the fall-friendliest rice noodles to ever grace a table? I doubt it. To be honest, I haven’t convinced myself. But I can tell you regardless of how seasonally-appropriate these noodles may or may not be, they are freakin’ delicious so don’t sleep on them.
Noodles will always be my one true food love. They are one of the few foods I could eat every day of the week. And I know that is a common hyperbole but I really do mean it and it really means something. When it comes to food, I have an astonishingly short attention span. I am in constant awe of Japanese culinary professionals who focus on nothing but rinsing rice or preparing tamagoyaki for years of their lives. I can’t help but respect the focus and drive for perfection.
But I know that I will never do that kind of thing in my culinary career because I just can’t keep the blinders on long enough. I am a gnat, I flit from dish to dish, discipline to discipline. I will never be a master of anything but I am lightly versed in most trades. So what does this have to do with noodles? well, when you possess a “unique” personality like mine, it’s hard to find any food item that can hold your attention for more than an afternoon. So when I say, I could eat noodles every day, it’s really something. I am a culinary commitment-phobe. But I would happily give up my philandering ways if noodles wanted exclusivity. Thankfully, noodles are not monogamous…as far as I know.
I think I could live with noodles as my one and only because, as with pasta, a whole lot of variety of lives under the “noodles” umbrella. Wheat, rice, and alkaline. Thick, thin, and crimped. There are as many noodles as there are ways to enjoy them. Swimming in soup, or sauce, or fried until crisp. Spicy, sour, or umami-rich. Noodles lend themselves to a whole host of eating adventures. I’ve experienced my fair share of these adventures and pretty much enjoyed every single one.
But enough about the noodle family tree, let’s talk specifically about these Cumin Pork Noodles. I must confess, I originally envisioned this dish with lamb. Sort of a nod to the cumin lamb that typically adorns a bowl of biang biang mian but, alas, there was no lamb to be found at my local grocery store. So, I went with pork instead because, like lamb, pork has enough fat to coat the noodles for optimal slurpability. But having said that, if you can easily find ground lamb, use that instead.
But one very good thing did come out of using pork instead. Whenever I think about pork, applesauce is never far behind. My family always served apple sauce with roast pork so it’s a deep culinary memory. Personally, I think this early exposure to salty/sweet excellence made me the cook I am today. So when I picked up the ground pork, apples immediately flew into my mind and in the time it took me to backtrack to the produce aisle, the recipe for this Apple Cucumber Relish had formed. And I am so glad it did! There is nothing like a sharp hit of acid to set off a bowl of rich, meaty noodles.
Beyond the slightly odd addition of the relish, these noodles behave as any stir fry would. I suppose there are two things you should be mindful of: The first, use whole spices when they’re called for, and the second, don’t boil your noodles. Just don’t do it! You want the noodles to only be on the verge of cooked when they go into the wok. If they are fully cooked or, heaven forbid, slightly overcooked, they will break apart. They will still taste delicious, mind you, but you will be robbed of slurp-able fun. Only speaking from hard-learned experience.
As for the whole spices, well, they’re just better. They season the wok and add so much flavor to the pork itself. You can, of course, use ground fennel or cumin in the whole spices’ stead, but I think you’ll be missing something. I may just be being snobby but I’m not exaggerating when I say whole fennel seeds are among my favorite things – I never eat sausages without them.
So that’s everything you need to know about these Cumin Pork Noodles with Apple Cucumber Relish. They deliver the familiar comfort of saucy, slightly spicy noodles with some serious fall vibes. A bowl of these with a mug of something warm is the perfect mid-October comfort food.
Cumin Pork Noodles with Apple Cucumber Relish
- A large wok
Apple Cucumber Relish
- 1 McIntosh Apple finely diced
- ½ cucumber finely diced
- 1 shallot finely diced
- ¾ cup rice wine vinegar
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1 tsp salt
Cumin Pork Noodles
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 tsp fennel seeds
- ½ tsp coriander seeds
- 454g (1lb) ground pork
- ½ tsp salt
- ¼ cup black vinegar
- ¼ cup soy sauce
- 3 tbsp Lao Gan Ma Chili Crisp**
- 1 ½ tbsp honey
- 454g (1 lb) uncooked broad rice noodles
- 2 tbsp neutral oil
- 3 shallots cut into thin wedges
- 2 celery ribs chopped
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 knob ginger minced
- 2 tbsp Shaoxing wine
- 1 bunch broccolini cut into thirds
- 4 serrano peppers thinly sliced
- 2 scallions thinly sliced
For the Relish
- Place the apple, cucumber, and shallot in a bowl and pour the vinegar over top. Add the sugar and salt and toss to combine. Cover and let stand at room temperature for at least an hour or for up to three.
For the Noodles
- Place the cumin seeds, fennel seeds, and coriander seeds in a cold wok. Place the wok over medium heat and toast until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Remove the spices quickly and place them in a large bowl. Add the pork and the salt and, using a clean hand, mix until all the ingredients are well integrated. Set aside.
- In a bowl whisk to combine the vinegar, soy sauce, chili crisp, and honey. Set aside.
- Place the noodles in a large bowl and pour a kettle full of boiling water over top. Cover and let stand for 5 minutes or until the noodles are nearly cooked. Drain and rinse the noodles and set aside until ready to use.
- Pour the oil into the wok and place over medium-high heat. Once the oil is shimmering add the pork and fry until just cooked through. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the pork from the wok to a bowl. Set aside.
- Add the shallots and celery to the wok and fry until just translucent. Add the garlic, ginger, and broccolini and fry until the broccolini is tender. Deglaze the wok with the Shaoxing wine and add the pork back in along with the serrano peppers.
- Reduce the heat to low and add the noodles to the wok. Pour the black vinegar mixture over top and toss to coat. Take the noodles off of the heat and toss in the scallions. Garnish the noodles with fresh celery leaves and serve immediately with the Apple Cucumber Relish on the side.