I hope you’re sitting down. Huge surprise ahead. Sailors tend to drink and can often be found in beach bars. I know. It shocked me too. Plus as an added revelation, the better the beach bar the better the chances of finding those with bigger crews. Amazing, right?
When you’re looking to sign on as ships’ cook, or “Cookie” as we were called, you usually wound up seeing the same small group of Cookies no matter the port. These were the really good ones and where I learned to love rum. We’d frequent the local establishments and usually wind up in the best beach bar together. Since we were all “between jobs” or “On The Beach” as sailors call it we decided such places should be called Beached Bars.
Bad jokes aside, during these pauses I was lucky enough to get to know some fantastic cooks and learned more than I can say from them. It always started with the basics and noodles were a constant. Many of the guys were Chinese so they called the noodles Mein. Lo Mein translates to tossed noodles and Chow Mein is fried noodles. Same noodles, different presentation. The thing to remember about noodles is that there is sort of only one way to prepare them but endless variations on what you can do with them taste-wise. I mean, they’re pasta, right? So preparation involves hot water, salt, and maybe some oil. Here’s the standard way:
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil
- Drop a pinch of salt in the water. This helps flavor the noodles and helps the water boil at a higher temperature, reducing the cooking time.
- Place the noodles in the boiling water. Don’t add the noodles until the water has come to a rolling boil, or they’ll end up mushy.
- Boil the noodles until they are almost done. Cook them until they are al dente (a tiny bit chewy) This is because chances are you’re going to “cook” them again either as a stir fry of by adding sauces and such and overcooked noodles will ruin the dish.
- Remove the noodles from heat, rinse in cool water and drain
- Put the noodles in a bowl and add a few drops of olive oil. This keeps the noodles from sticking together again and beginning to look like something that crawled from under the reef. It keeps them loose for use.
Once your noodles are cooked and loose you are in business. You can mix them with almost any proteins, vegetables, and sauces. You can add them to stir fry, or soups, or as a substitute for rice in almost any dish.
Our first collection of recipes taken from the sailing journals of R. B. McCarthy will be released soon and will be available on Amazon.com. From Paradise With Love (And Rum)
Along with many amazingly delicious and easy exotic feeling dishes plus the stories that inspired them, the eBook includes quite a few sauces and noodle recipes you will love. And speaking of noodles, one of my favorites is the entry called Matai’s Island. Here’s a sneak peek…
In the story our hero, R. B. McCarthy, cooks for a party thrown by the island’s Matai, or leader. The menu includes grilled pineapple, glazed coconut rum shrimp, with pina colada dipping sauce, It is topped off with Shanghai noodles and fresh fruit. Here’s how he makes an incredibly easy yet fantastic tasting of Shanghai Noodles…
1 pound fresh thick Chinese wheat noodles
1/4 cup ketchup
3 1/2 tablespoons sesame oil
3 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons lime juice
1/4 cup chopped green onion
2 carrots, peeled and shredded
1 small zucchini, cut into matchsticks
1 red bell pepper, cut into matchsticks
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds.
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes. Or instead you can add 1/4 teaspoon of chili paste