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Great NY Noodletown ginger-scallion sauce - makeable?

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I've made David Chang's ginger-scallion sauce, but Great NY Noodletown's is better. Does anyone have a recipe they think gets it right? I live in Philadelphia now and for some reason our Chinatown doesn't seem to have a joint like GNYN, so I'm going to see if I can do it at home (though I'll never beat the prices).

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  1. If you are talking about the condiment that is served with Roasted, Braised or Barbecued Meats....the recipe is quite simple

    It's just vegetable oil with fine diced ginger and scallions....salt to taste. For variety, I make with either red pepper flakes, red pepper/chili powder, fresh fine diced jalapeno or long hot peppers.

    16 Replies
    1. re: fourunder

      I know that that's basically it, but

      that's it?

      I'm only (faintly) skeptical because:

      a- that's more or less Chang's recipe but his ends up with a slightly harsh bite where the GNYN sauce is sort of sweet. I wondered if there might be a little sugar or other sweetener in there.

      b- I also wondered if the unbelievable compelling deliciousness of the sauce might be due to a little help from MSG. I spend a decent amount of time in countries where MSG is a standard condiment and I love the stuff and think the weirdly moralistic stance we have on it is... weird. It's a seasoning. So if there's MSG in there, I want to know so I can put it in mine.

      But if you're confident, fourunder, then I guess I should just try again with a big pile of scallions, ginger, oil and some salt.

      1. re: GDSwamp

        A very simple solution to your dilemma. Make a master batch of the condiment. Then with three small spin-offs, add msg to one, a little sugar to the second and both to the third. Do a blind taste test and see if you like the results for each.

        I never found Noodletown's condiment to be much different than other places in NYC Chinatown. The differences I usually notice do not have to do with sweetness, rather the type of oil used and the degree of saltiness.

        BTW...myself, I use sea salt or Kosher salt when I make it at home with Wesson vegetable or Canola oil...whichever is on hand at the moment.

        1. re: GDSwamp

          Giving this some serious thought....I must first tell you it;s been a while since I have been to Noodletown and I believe there has been some chatter about new owners...

          The classic method to make this condiment is using the human food processor, i.e. two cleavers. The scallions and ginger are first sliced thinly or julienned, before the chopping process with the two cleavers. The second step may actually meld the two flavors better through incorporation. I have noticed in the past in some places the scallions and ginger appeared to be more liquified, rather than chopped....I surmise this was possibly due to the use of a food processor. I do not know if Noodletown has embraces the use of modern gadgets, but if you do not have two cleavers, or two good sharp knives to accomplish the feat....I suggest you take the approach similar to combining ingredients when making *Pesto*, and try making it with a mortar and pestle. The smashing of the ginger, scallions and salt will definitely infuse the oil better than with simple chopping, as the paste will release more oils from the ginger and scallions......I may actually give it a try myself next time I make some.

          1. re: fourunder

            All good thoughts, on a worthy topic. I'll take your master-batch experiment suggestion, and will possibly try out multiple chopping methods as well.

            Now do you have a recipe for homemade char siew?

            1. re: GDSwamp

              Growing up, my best friend's family owned a Chinese restaurant...so that's where my love for Chinese food originates from. As a teenager, they gave me a job and I have fond memories and can recall how things were made, but I never fully paid attention to the red barbecue sauce and how it was made......however, I do recall it was made with red bean paste and soy sauce included.

              I find it's much easier to purchase the Char Shiu, rather make it myself. Traditionally, it's made with Pork Butts....but when I made it at home, I used Pork Tenderloins.....which was incredibly tender without the fat. I cannot give you a recipe for the sauce....I just pulled off something on the internet....probably from Martin Yan, Ming Tsai or Fushia Dunlap

              1. re: GDSwamp

                One last thought.....I'm no food scientist, but with regards to the scallions, I find when they are roasted or grilled, they become naturally sweeter in taste. I imagine this has to do with caramelization. This may give you another option to try.

                1. re: fourunder

                  That's true. And there's one recipe online here:

                  http://www.salon.com/2010/06/19/ginge...

                  that has you heat the oil and then pour it over the scallion-ginger mix. So maybe I'll try that one first.

                  1. re: GDSwamp

                    The concept seems solid and makes perfect sense....My favorite steamed fishes made Chinese style is pouring hot oil over julienne scallions and ginger....flash frying them to wilt and taking the edge off....very nice.

                    1. re: fourunder

                      Made it tonight. Solid recipe, very delicious, takes no time at all and makes a lovely translucent-green oil.

                    2. re: GDSwamp

                      Now you've got it .... heating the oil is the key! And by heating I mean just to the point of smoking ..... it should sizzle when it hits the ginger and scallions. The hot oil takes away the raw
                      bite but still allows the flavors to come out. Seasoning the raw ginger and scallions with kosher salt is also helpful.

                      1. re: gordon wing

                        Been awhile since that post. My memory is that the resulting sauce was very good but didn't quite have the "How is this so effing delicious?" quality of the NYNoodletown version.

                        Since then I've bought some MSG crystals - you've reminded me to try out making this again and stirring in a little of the magic monosodium at the end.

                      2. re: GDSwamp

                        Thats the method I use...I find when you throw the scallion-ginger into the pot with the oil, it gets mushy.

                2. re: GDSwamp

                  Just googled and saw a times article interviewing David Chang about the noodles. They say GNYN squirts some hoisin sauce on it before serving it- I'm sure that's where the sweetness comes from! No need to add other things to the ginger scallion sauce.

                  Btw, hoisin is considered carcinogenic in England. And people seem to LOVE dipping everything in hoisin-based sauce at Vietnamese & Thai restaurants. Hoisin scares me more that MSG.

                  1. re: Tulagirl

                    Why would it be carcinogenic? It's just bean paste and sugar.

                    1. re: Tulagirl

                      There's not much good evidence to be the least bit scared of MSG, unless you're scared of a possible mild headache if you happen to be one of the people that gets those when they eat that.

                      On the other hand it looks like there's reason to worry about some hoisin - specifically cheaper brands that use hydrochloric acid to speed up the fermentation process:

                      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/3-MCPD

                      So there's an argument for investing in higher-end slow-fermented hoisin.

                      1. re: GDSwamp

                        So useful--thank you! The wikipedia article gives a list of some brands that were found to have high levels of 3-MCPD.

                        But do you know which are the brands that make "higher end slow-fermented hoisin?"

                        If yes (or if anyone else knows and wants to chime in) please post.

                3. I can relate to this topic. The chinese make their sauces sound very simple to make, but when you try it at home, you never get it as good.

                  After having homecooked chinese food for years, with different cookbooks at hand, I´ve come to a conclusion.

                  The answer to get that restaurant quality taste, is two options:
                  -Homemade stock
                  -MSG

                  When you add your own fresh stock, you highten the quality of everything. Even if it is just a tablespoon. Have you watched them carefully?

                  In this one noodle place I´ve been, they have the stock in skillets keeping warm on the stove, and constantly use it in their cooking.

                  As for MSG, I´ve never tried it, but I hear its very common in chinese cooking. Can any chinese chef attest to this? We want your secrets exposed China!

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Ramius

                    Yes, just add a sprinkle of MSG. I think cooks also use chick boullion powder sometimes- basically MSG also.

                    And there is always a giant tub of chicken bones bubbling in stock at the cooking stations.

                  2. Still have yet to try this dish at Noodletown. But my mom makes the same ginger scallion oil at home all the time. And my parent have owned a chinese restaurant for 30yrs (although in the suburbs, so few customers know traditional food, but the chefs make food for their lunches)

                    We use the oil as a light dip for steamed chicken, this recipe is for a tiny dish of the condiment.
                    -mix equal parts (maybe 1TB each) minced ginger (by hand) & finely sliced scallions in a small low dish. (my mom's also used one of those ceramic spiked japanese grater dishes, but I feel it mashes up the ginger too much & loses a lot of the flavor)

                    -slowly heat up corn oil (about 1-1.5 TB) in a shallow pan with a good rim. You want to heat up the oil slowly & gradually, maybe tilt the pot so the oil pools together at one end of the pot. The oil should get to the point where it is smoking & liquid-like in the pan, but don't over heat it.

                    -pour slowly and carefully over the ginger/scallion mixture. It should make a sizzling noise and 'cook' the ingredients. If it doesn't make noise, then the oil wasn't hot enough.

                    My mom has said that she's sure that the sauces in Chinatown have MSG in them. Yes, MSG is very standard in households in China. I'd say go ahead and use it, if that's the taste you're after. Just add a dash to the mixture before you add the oil. It's just a salt substance after all.

                    If you feel it has a sweet taste, I would just try adding white sugar. Or maybe cane sugar. Most chinese restaurants use a basic combination of 3 white powders: salt, sugar, & MSG. I doubt they would go out of their way to use more fancy ingredients or broil the scallions, etc. But I could be wrong.

                    We also make a ginger/scallion soy sauce to dip chicken in. Just add enough soy sauce (Pearl River Superior Light Soy) to cover the ginger scallion mixture, them pour the hot oil on top. Stir a little.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Tulagirl

                      Just happened to check back in on this thread - so glad to've gotten more responses. I'll try again this week!