Mention Chow Fun noodles to anyone who grew up in Hawaii, and chances are what immediately comes to mind is the “Manapua Man”, or an Okazuya. For the latter, my pick for “best Chow Fun” goes to Matsumoto’s on Gulick, and the “keep it simple” approach to perfection at St. Louis Delicatessen on Waialae.
Chow Fun is another of those seemingly simple dishes, yet it can also be ambiguously complex, with so many interpretations, and no “local standard”. It’s easy to mess up it up by overdoing it and adding too many ingredients, where it ends up “lost”.
Recently a new member on a discussion board I frequent shared a recipe for her “Vegetarian Chow Fun”, which had me intrigued to try, since she mentioned she used to operate an Okazuya shop herself.
I’m assuming it’s called “vegetarian” due to the lack of chicken, charsiu or luncheon meat in it, which is most often what Chow Fun is prepared with here in the islands. But what had me most curious was the use of Hijiki, which I’ve never cooked with before.
So I went for it. Here’s the recipe…
Vegetarian Chow Fun Noodles
• 1 package dried chow fun noodles (Hula brand)
• Shiitake mushrooms (don’t forget to soak them first, julienned)
• Carrots and onions, julienned
• Green onions, chopped (for garnish)
• Broccoli and zucchini, cut into bite size pieces
• 1 can water chestnuts (the ones already sliced)
• Hijiki (dried black looking seaweed, soak in water to rehydrate)
• Oil for stir frying
• Sesame oil for drizzling when everthing is pau cooked.
• Grated ginger and garlic (according to taste)
• 2T shoyu (i guess you could sub bragg’s amino acids, but i don’t know)
• 1T vegetarian style oyster sauce (if no more, use regular)
Boil noodles until al dente. You have to keep checking on them. app. 9 minutes. rinse in cold water and drain. Cut noodles in half and set aside.
In a large skillet or wok, saute the garlic and ginger (do not burn) for app. 1-2 minutes in the oil. add the shoyu or bragg’s and oyster sauce. mix until well blended.
Stir fry all the veggies until al dente. Add the cooled noodles and heat through. Drizzle with sesame oil (don’t over do it) and then toss in the hijiki at the end.
What’s obviously the most important factor in this recipe is the type of Chow Fun noodles, as in this case is called for HULA BRAND…
Hula Brand Chow Funn, purchased recently at Tropic Fish & Vegetable Center on GOB clearance for just 50 cents a bag!
Interestingly, when uncooked and dry, these noodles appear “pasty” and delicate, but once they begin to cook in the water, they really tighten-up and become resilient. I think that has something to do with the Potassium Carbonate in it. I’d go as far saying you could make a darned tasty Fetuccini Alfredo out of this.
What’s nice about this package is that it includes 4 individual servings bundled up separately, which should come in handy for restaurant service.
Here’s the cooked Chow Fun (Funn), perfectly al dente…
So while that’s set aside, you saute all the veggies…
When these are all cooked, throw the cooked Chow Fun into the pan with it, combine and finish the dish according to the instructions in the recipe above.
I actually rushed this job, not paying particular attention to how I cut the veggies, as you can tell. As far as the quantity of veggies, it’s really up to you. For that one package of Chow Funn, I used half a Zucchini, 1 large carrot, and about 8 medium-sized Shiitake mushrooms. I also only used only about 1/3 of the can of sliced water chestnuts, as any more than that looked like it would have been too much.
I must note, sometimes the noodles may be sticky or dry from sitting, so when I added them in, I also sprinkled some water and a drizzle of extra cooking oil to “loosen” it up. That worked. I also had to readjust by adding a little more Oyster Sauce.
Speaking of Oyster sauce, that’s another key ingredient here, as that’s the main “flavorizer”. In this preparation, I used Shirakiku brand Premium Oyster Sauce, which was fantastic. Others swear by the Lee Kum Kee brand. Up to you.
I added very very little Sesame oil at the end, as the stuff can be overpowering. But what little was added gave it that “nuttyness” that helped punch out the flavor of the Shiitake mushrooms.
That first photo shows the finished dish in the pan, all done and ready to serve.
Note that I also added Beni Shoga on the right side (red stuff), which goes well with anything savory.
What does bring savoriness to the table here is of course the Shiitake mushrooms, but also the Oyster sauce, along with the way the garlic, ginger and onions are sauteed in the oil before everything goes in.
The Hijiki added a “seafood” like element to it, along with it’s crunchy texture, yet I added just enough, but not too much where it may have been overpowering. You have to be careful how much you add in.
As for the “vegetarian” part, most carnivores would be hard-pressed to find anything “not meaty” about this dish. It doesn’t miss the chicken, char siu or luncheon meat at all.
Now the devil on my right shoulder knocks on my brain and says, “Wait a minute? No meat you say? Well, let’s add some on top of it, Okazuya style!”
So I added a cooked Teriyaki Winner on top. This kine..
I swear, these are one of the BEST hot dogs on the market. I’m not really a huge Teriyaki fan, and I try not to eat too many hot dogs for health reasons, but for what it’s worth, this one has that perfect balance of savory-sweet going on, with hint of shoyu-laced depth that’s unlike any other hot dog I’ve ever had. Knowing how popular Teriyaki is in Hawaii, If Costco sold these at their concession, they’d probably move containers full of the stuff.
The devil made me do it…
Hey, this was somethin’ yum! There’s almost this “surf ‘n turf” thing going on with the combination of the Hijiki and the savory-sweet hot dog. I’d take out the Shiitake mushrooms next time though, if I’m gonna’ “carnivorize” this Chow Fun, as that, combined with the porky wiener was a little too “meaty”. Still ono though.
Back to the original recipe, this Vegetarian Chow Fun recipe, as is, turned out to be a winner. It’s relatively cheap and easy to make, and best of all, it can be served as a delicious, satisfying, nutritionally balanced, guilt-free (if you resist the hotdog!), all-in-one meal.
Mahalo kani-lehua for sharing it!