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Try spaghetti in ‘Asian noodle’ dish

Italian noodles make for good stand in for traditional udon

By CHRISTOPHER KIMBALL, Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street
Published: May 31, 2023, 6:04am
2 Photos
This image released by Milk Street shows a recipe for spicy pork and oyster sauce noodles.
This image released by Milk Street shows a recipe for spicy pork and oyster sauce noodles. (Milk Street via AP) (Milk Street) Photo Gallery

With bold, exciting flavors and speedy cooking, savory Asian noodles are ideal for weeknight meals. But what happens if all you have in the pantry is spaghetti? No problem.

Though the dish won’t be traditional, Italian noodles can make a good stand-in for Asian noodles if that’s what you have on hand.

All you need are a few heavy-hitting pantry staples to strike the right balance of sweet, savory, salty and umami.

For this recipe from our book “Cook What You Have,” which draws on pantry staples to assemble easy, weeknight meals, you can use udon noodles if you have them, but spaghetti or fettuccine will work just fine, too.

Since we were throwing tradition out the window anyway, we decided to blend the meatiness of Sichuan dan dan mian, or spicy noodles with ground pork, with the simplicity of peanut noodles. Whisking together soy sauce, peanut butter and oyster sauce (or hoisin) creates a rich, savory sauce loaded with umami, and the creaminess of the peanut butter helps it cling to the noodles.

We sauté ground pork with chili-garlic sauce, and a touch of vinegar balances the richness. Balsamic, with its sweet-tart flavor, makes a good stand-in for the more traditional Chinese black vinegar. The noodles also are delicious topped with a fried egg.

Spicy Pork and Oyster Sauce Noodles

Start to finish: 30 minutes Servings: 4 to 6

1 pound spaghetti or linguine or dried udon noodles

3 tablespoons creamy or crunchy peanut butter

3 tablespoons soy sauce, plus more if needed

3 tablespoons oyster sauce or hoisin sauce

Ground black pepper

3 tablespoons grapeseed or other neutral oil

8 ounces ground pork or turkey or beef

2 medium garlic cloves, minced or 1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated or both

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon chili-garlic sauce or 1½ tablespoons Sriracha sauce or ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes

In a large pot, bring 4 quarts water to a boil. Reserve ½ cup of the hot water. Add the pasta to the pot, then cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente. When the pasta is done, drain; set aside.

While the pasta is cooking, in a small bowl, whisk together the peanut butter, soy sauce, oyster sauce, ½ teaspoon pepper and the reserved water.

In a 12-inch skillet over medium-high, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the pork and cook, breaking the meat into little bits, until no longer pink, 1 to 1½ minutes. Add the garlic, vinegar and chili-garlic sauce. Cook, stirring constantly, until the pork is browned, about 1 minute. Stir in the peanut butter mixture, followed by the pasta. Cook, stirring and tossing with tongs, until the pasta is shiny and the sauce clings, 2 to 4 minutes.

Off heat, taste and season with additional soy sauce and black pepper.

Optional garnish: Chopped roasted peanuts or chili oil or cucumber matchsticks or toasted sesame oil or thinly sliced scallions or a combination