Five-minute sauces to whip up while your noodles cook | Noodles

What sauces can you make in the time it takes to boil noodles?
“You can bash together a decent yakisoba sauce from soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, a little mirin and oyster sauce,” says noodle connoisseur Tim Anderson, author of Microwave Meals. “But it does beg the question: why not just buy yakisoba sauce? Most Japanese noodle sauces come ready-made and are as good as or better than anything you’d ever make at home.” Much the same goes for mentsuyu, a concentrated, dashi-based sauce that can be used as a dip for chilled noodles (soba, udon, somen) or diluted with hot water for a broth. “Make that from soy sauce, mirin, sugar and dashi, though the bottled versions are good, so you may as well buy one of them.”

If the goal is to reduce the number of bottles in your cupboard, however, Yui Miles, author of Thai Made Easy, would knock up a “not too heavy, not too light” honey-soy number: “Mix them in a 1:1 ratio, then add sesame oil and sesame seeds, if you want.” Toss that through rice or egg noodles, and, if it’s the latter, you’d be wise to add some peanut butter, too, for a bit of body. Miles’ lemon and basil dressing will also take noodles from basic to brilliant – “crush fresh basil, add lemon juice, brown sugar or honey, plus a little soy” – as will Anderson’s goma-dar or goma dressing. “That’s often used in chilled hiyashi chūka [ramen salads],” he says, making it ideal for this time of year. “Toast white sesame seeds, then grind them to a coarse, sandy consistency and blend with soy sauce, rice vinegar, sugar and sesame oil until thick-ish.” You could also incorporate the likes of miso, garlic and ginger, then pour over cooked and chilled noodles, along with some julienned veg.

All that said, different noodles have different cooking times. If, like Erchen Chang, chef and co-founder of Bao in London, that’s a white wheat noodle, you’re looking at about three minutes, “which is tight to make a dressing”, she says. “Cooking the noodles is so important and you need to focus, so I’d make the dressing first.” This is not to say you can’t keep things simple: Chang heats two generous tablespoons of rapeseed oil, then adds a diced knob of ginger, two diced spring onions (both green and white parts), and seasons generously with salt and sugar. “Take off the heat, season with soy sauce and vinegar, and that’s it.” Similarly, Ping Coombes, author of Malaysia, leans on aromatics, getting garlic and spring onion in some hot vegetable oil, then adding equal amounts of light and dark soy sauce, plus a little brown sugar. “Cook until the sugar melts, and the sauce is then ready to dress your noodles as you please.”

Another shortcut to flavour is Chang’s crispy shallot goose fat dressing: “It’s super-savoury, but also simple.” Heat 100g goose or duck fat (or lard) to about 120C, then chuck in 100g thinly sliced shallots and some salt and pull the pan off the heat just before the shallots turn golden. “Take a good tablespoon of the onions, and add soy sauce and a drop of rice vinegar to combat the fattiness.”

Finally, there’s ponzu, the tart citrus- and soy-based sauce, which Anderson says is always a good idea. Start with something sour – “lime, lemon and yuzu are classic choices” – and add soy sauce, mirin, sugar, vinegar and maybe dashi to taste. “The soy and citrus should dominate, though,” Anderson says. “It should be pretty sour!”

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