BUNKER CRACK SLURP

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I TAKE MY CRACK, VERY… VERY, SERIOUSLY

I AM not, by even the most flexible standard, what you would call a person of a particular faith…  I have no investments in god/gods, demon, Buddha, ghost, after-life, next-life, karma, heaven or hell… or paying somebody to tell me that I shouldn’t be moving my furnitures next week.  I would almost say that I’m an atheist if I wasn’t in fact, slightly uncomfortable with the absoluteness of such term.  When it comes to this stuff, I’m pretty sure the truth is…  Nobody knows.

Look, I know there’s an unspoken rule for smart-asses to comment on anything, anything… as long as they don’t touch the subject of religion.  So why am I babbling all this and making Jason very nervous?  I guess I’m not smart, nor an ass, and also because I don’t want to sound the least bit superstitious when I say that my personality – the genetically coded behaviour – has largely dictated the scripts of how my life is played out.  Or as some like to call it, “destiny”.  A word I don’t use but I think that my previous 34 years of walking this earth up till now – including this blog, this post, everything leading up this moment – is predetermined by my hard-wired, inexhaustible desire to…

NOT leave my apartment.  For as looong as I can.

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Seriously, I cannot understate my jedi-like ability in talking myself out of leaving my home.  Weather’s bad.  Weather looks bad.  Weather could potentially look bad.  Going out means spending the money I have, or not having any money to spend on going out.  Hey, my thumb is sore.  Anything, perceivable by excuses, can make sleeping-in and laying low inside my comfortable bunker feel like a much better idea.  It’s in my DNA, or “soul” as they call it.  But there really is no romantic mystery to why I am now, after years of attempts for the opposite but still end up sitting here, “destined” to tell you about this particular subject.

No, not about religion.  About cracks.

Obviously being a bunker-dweller, or living with one, it means we have to frequently deal with the scarcity of food courses.  I know it may not look that way, but the diversity of our diet is actually… oftentimes limited.  Aside from a couple of “new and exciting” experiments I churn out, gladly, for the sake of blogging, for the rest of the time, very possibly, we’re actually eating this.  This as I call it, the crack-slurp.

Why because if we were gonna eat the same thing up to three times a week I daresay, it better freaking tastes like crack.  Slurpable crack, and it’s as much about tastiness as making wonders out of practically nothing.  Over the years, it has evolved into any Asian-style, non-soup noodles that are mixed in an intensely flavoured “sauce”, based on of course homemade….

The crack:  The foundation… the mother-earth.  I call it “crack” not only because it consists of fat-cracklings and crispy aromatics of some sort, but also because it will pretty much make anything it’s scattered on, taste goood.  There’s a couple variations but most of the times, chicken skin-cracklings and crispy shallots fried in the same fat rendered from the cracklings.  Sometimes crispy garlic or ginger is added to the equation.  Solid crack + liquid crack.  You know you’re set up to succeed.

But as we all know, one cannot sustain life purely based on crack.  Other substances are needed, and for something that we consume in such high frequency, believe me when I say that I take my crack-slurp, very… very, seriously.  Aside from the original that we’ve been “addicted to” for more than a decade, an sichuan-style “dry noodle” which is what we’re focusing on today, I have also discovered a few other exciting variations for diversity-sake. And they will be posted in the following month.  But first, it’s helpful to get familiar with the crack-slurp principles… the breakdown of my equation for Asian saucy noodles, if you will.  Aside from the crack, you’ll also need:

The carb:  Asians love their noodles, no doubt.  And as a result, there is gazillion different types of noodle to select from.  As a rule of thumb, I like to go with fresh noodles made with wheat flour, or rice (a more common option in Southern China or Southeast Asia) which I store frozen in individual portions.  But if in absolute isolation from any of this, dried noodles can be good substitutes.

The paste:  There is always, always, some kind of “paste” that is unique to a regional cuisine in Asia.  Always.  They keep forever in the fridge, figuratively speaking, a “Godsent” bunker foods.  From the more well-known miso from Japan, gochujang from Korea, to douban-jiang (broad bean chili paste) from sichuan, tianmian-jiang from northern China, and different assortment of curry paste from Southeast Asia.  All widely available online these days and more will be featured in the following posts, but today, we’re talking douban, and this is the exact brand that I use.

The Seasoning:  This part doesn’t stray too far from the usual suspects – soy sauce, fish sauce, vinegar, sugar and whatnots.  What’s important is the ratio between each that builds a well-balanced flavour.

The spices:  Goes from simple ground black/white pepper to sichuan peppercorns, chili flake or ground corianders and whatnots.  Just a little magic dust to pump things up.

The aromatics/herbs:  Diced scallion, garlic and sometimes ginger is my go-to, but the party gets more crowded  as we move down to Southeast Asia.

Once you have overcome the phobia – if any – of rendering oil out of skins and fat (hey, exactly like cooking bacons…), and witness the complete transformation of shallots after a (figurative) baptize in the same oil until caramelized and crispy, and you mix all of the above good-things together, you will never see “weeknight meal” with the same light again.  Enlightened…  Found…

And as far as I go, this is as religious as it gets.

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Servings: 2 people

Based on what’s most available, you can choose different fat to render the cracklings.  Chicken skins (what’s used here) will give you chicken skin cracklings + chicken fat/schmaltz.  Pork fat (what’s generally used in Asia for this purpose) will give you pork cracklings + pork fat/lard.  And of course if you happen to have access to duck skins… oh lucky you.  The recipe is what you need for exactly 2 servings, but of course, it will make total sense to double or even triple the crack-portion and store it in the fridge for future use (instructions follows).

I used the method of stacking, rolling, then freezing the chicken skins to get an even, unified thin slices.  Of course if you want to just throw them in a bag and freeze, then cut into very small pieces, it’s not gonna ruin the dish.  Whatever you do, flash-freeze the skin until hardens will make things a lot easier.

The recipe has MSG.  Every single bowl of noodles you get from either restaurants or street-vendors in Asia, has MSG.  But if you’re not gonna use it, the dish will taste great anyways.  Just not as great.


The crack (makes for 2 servings):

  • 6.2 oz (175 grams/approx from 2 large whole legs) of chicken skins, rinsed clean and dab dry
  • 5 small or 4 medium Asian shallots, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 tsp of fine sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp of ground white peper

To make the crack:  Stack the chicken skins on top of each other over a large plastic-wrap.  Roll the chicken skins into a thick log as tightly as you can, then twist the two ends of the plastic-wrap together to secure.  Apply another layer of plastic-wrap if need to.  Freeze for at least 2 hours until harden.  Then remove from the plastic-wrap and cut into thin slices, which will give you even strips of chicken skins.  Add the skins to a non-stick pot/non-stick deep skillet (just trust me on this…) over medium heat.  Let the skins render out its own fat, and stir occasionally as they slowly dehydrate and crisp up as they fries (they will get sticky mid-way through frying, then not-sticky again when they’re done), until they are golden-brown and crispy, approx 8~9 min.  Drain through a fine sieve.  Then season it immediately with 1/4 tsp of fine sea salt and 1/4 tsp of ground white paper.  Set aside.

You should have approx 1/4 ~ 1/3 cup of chicken fat.  Add however much vegetable oil you need to make it a heaping 1/2 cup, and return it to the same pot/skillet.  Add the thinly sliced shallots and cook over medium-low heat.  Stir constantly until the shallots dehydrates and turn lightly golden-browned, approx 10 min (they will continue to darken a bit, and will crisp up after removed from the oil).  Drain through a fine sieve, then immediately season with 1/4 tsp of fine sea salt and 1/4 tsp of ground white pepper.  Mix the fried shallots and chicken cracklings together, season with more fine sea salt if need to.  Set aside.

If you want to store crack.  Freeze the chicken crackling + fried shallots in an air-tight container, and refrigerate the oil in an air-tight container.

The slurp/noodle (makes for 1 serving only/for each bowl):

  • 2 tbsp of crack-oil (the reserved fat)
  • 3 tbsp of crack (chicken crackling + fried shallots)
  • The carb:  14 oz (400 grams) of fresh, thick-cut Chinese hand-rolled noodles
  • The paste:  1/2 tbsp of sichuan douban chili paste
  • The seasoning:
    • 1 1/2 tbsp of soy sauce
    • 1/4 tsp of dark soy sauce (mainly adds color to the dish)
    • 1/4 tsp of rice vinegar
    • 1/4 tsp of sugar
    • 1/8 tsp of MSG, optional
  • The spices:
  • The aromatics/herbs:
    • 1 smashed garlic clove
    • 1/4 cup of finely diced scallions

To make the slurp/noodle:  Bring a large pot of water to boil.

Meanwhile, in a bowl, mix 2 tbsp of crack-oil, douban chili paste, all the seasonings and spices, and 1 smashed garlic clove (smashed enough to release flavour, but intact so you can pick it out later) until even.  Cook the noodle until done, then drain through a slotted spoon and add to the bowl.  Mix well, add a couple tbsp of the cooking water if it’s too dry.  Then top with 3 tbsp of crack and the diced scallions.  Mix again, and slurp.

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52 Comments

  • Melissa says:

    Kick ass food+ lack of religion= my new best friend! Ok, well, I don’t want to sound creepy, but you are my twin. Well you would be if I had one. Can’t believe I just found your blog via Lifesucker, I mean Pinterest. I will follow it religiously!

  • Robin says:

    You’ve done it again Lady .. Incredible recipe, fantastic post, fabulous picture!

  • MARK says:

    I need to tell boss-man…. need more time off, at least one more day a week, timed with the day after you blast my food imagination, sost ( its a word) I can stay home and however ineptly, jam in the kitchen replicating these eye/mouth feasts.

    number 1 blog in my world!

  • molly yeh says:

    ohmygod. i need you to open a restaurant with all of the lady and pups recipes and i need this restaurant to be… my neighbor.

    or i at least need to figure out how i can get those hand rolled noodles. i brought some back from hong kong and they were gone in a second. i haven’t been able to find them since.

  • cheri says:

    Wow, this looks amazing, love the noodles!

  • I believe I just found religion. It is hiding somewhere under those noodles!

  • Laurie says:

    Ha – you’re killin’ me!! So funny -” NOT leave my apartment. For as looong as I can.” I kind of know the feeling. At least it is getting warm…. This recipe sounds great. We pretty much always have the stuff. I do freeze duck fat, so I might use that to add some flavor. I love frying shallots or scallions and adding on top of stuff with a fresh herb – lots of good textures.

  • Laurie says:

    p.s. The religion part – I totally get it. Nobody knows!!! Seems it has just caused anguish, judgement, wars and death…….

  • Haha so much angst! I love your posts and love all the food pictures. Makes me drool and miss REAL Asian food in Hong Kong. Going to have to make some of your recipes!! Thanks again for the good laugh.

  • Sophie says:

    MSG not optional. But it was nice of you to say so, for the unbelievers :) Such a great post, Mandy! I need these religious noodles, like need is not too strong of a word, right?, soon, perhaps TONITE.

  • I must be dreaming but have you just made the most addictive noodles on the planet? Please Mandy send me a bowl of bunker noodles because I sure could use its healing powers now.

  • IG says:

    you = rockstar

  • Another amazing recipe. I totally agree on the religion aspect. Plus if there was a god, he would not let people get cancer or all the other horrible things that happen in the world.

  • Abigail says:

    This looks AMAZING

  • Jasmine says:

    I wish I was eating this RIGHT now! I’m pretty sure it’s impossible to get those fresh noodles where I live :(

  • Carby, salty goodness. Looks delicious. I will look out for that paste!
    http://liveitinerantly.com/

  • Deborah Dowd says:

    Love your site- thanks Foodgawker! This looks amazing, I can see myself becoming addicted for sure!

  • Marry me! (I’m married to a vegetarian)

  • An amazing recipe! Love your gorgeous pictures!

  • Barry says:

    I grew up eating this in my Grandma’s house ( Crack-Oil + Crack = Schmaltz and Gribenes) except it was onions not shallots and they were mixed into mashed potatoes making them the best side dish in the world for roast chicken. She always had a jar of schmaltz in her fridge and used it everywhere you would use butter (she kept Kosher, no mixing dairy and meat). For example try making an omelette with it or in a sandwich of chopped chicken livers, schmaltz, and black radishes on rye or pumpernickel bread. I am salivating. Looking forward to trying these noodles. Thanks for bringing back a great memory

  • Wow, this looks so delicious! I really like fried shallots. I think I have most of the ingredients and will give it a try!

  • cynthia says:

    Man, I don’t even know where to begin with these noodles. Chewy wide noodles, crackling, chili paste, MSG (!!) — as a fellow bunker-dweller, I think just saying “I need this in my life” is a gross understatement. I need this in my life like every day, every meal. It looks SO GOOD. P.S. I feel like using MSG in a home-cooked recipe deserves a HARDCORE fist bump, just btw. P.P.S. I second Molly. Restaurant please! Along with a cot in the corner for me to sleep on so that I never have to leave.

  • Your photos are gorgeous! I am now craving a bowl full of these noodles. Too bad I JUST ate dinner..

  • Noodle Junky says:

    Holy mother of carbs!!!! the noodles look too good to eat……yeah right, let me dive into the bowl and slurp my way into blissful oblivion. Thanks for the recipes.

  • sharon says:

    Oh my goodness, that looks incredible, but alot of work, come make me some… on the other hand I am religious and believe in God.. It just makes sence… My beliefs anyways, I have found a lot of answers through my faith and prayer and my religion, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints…You ask the questions and they have the best answers and you pray about it and listen. Its hard to accept that God cannot be in control of everything, do away with all the evil and sickness, if he did, that would take away free agency…sad as it is its part of his plan…we agreed to it in pre-earth…Our choices =consequences. someday we will understand the fullness of it all. Keep Cooking and where do you live?

  • Stephanie says:

    Love this! As if I needed an excuse to eat more chicken skin. I’m going to try this ASAP, thanks.

  • And I was beginning to think I was the only non-religious food blogger out there….. Glad to know I’m not alone in my lack of beliefs, my desire to never leave the house unless the weather is pristine, and my love of crack (noodles that is). Seriously though, those noodles look amazing. Consider me a new follower!

  • Jody Docksteader says:

    Please share a trick to making this delicious as a vegetarian dish!!!!!!! I’m dying.

    • JODY: Just switch chicken fat with olive oil! You’ll have to do without the chicken skin cracklings though… I don’t know if there’s something to place that in vegetarianism?

  • Lillian says:

    OMG that crack! My mom makes that and it’s seriously addicting. I can eat that with just rice and soy sauce any day!

  • Chris says:

    Wowza! When I go back to work on my boat (for a month) my bag will be stuffed with Asian noodles and douban paste. Will there be mutiny if I run out? It’s almost a moral dilemma.

  • Tracy says:

    This looks delicious! Also, it’s SO refreshing to read page, with a great recipe by someone who is NOT religious. I’m adding you to my rss feed! :)

  • simon says:

    this amazing post ended up being the most religious experience of my life! I’ve now divide my life into Before Crack (BC) and after. and besides the recipe, great photos and stoey telling. you got a new cult member here for sure :)

  • linda says:

    Totally enjoyed your wanderings..inside your dwelling of course! As a senior, i love my little dwelling and enjoy the mysteries of finding new delights within my little home. Thanks for the fun

  • nicole says:

    Well….it’s official….A blog made me laugh so hard I wet myself. Well done friend. …well done.

  • Joy says:

    Great blog! You have a new follower!

  • Lex says:

    Aww I was super excited to try this until I read your opening paragraph .. & speak for yourself when you say “nobody knows” because I do know :)

  • Kerry says:

    WOW, that Bunker Crack Slurp looks soooo good! Not sure I’ve got what it takes to actually make the solid crack, or liquid crack, but will definitely use some substitutes I’m thinking of right now… Never tried douban paste, but the pix look so good, I’ve gotta try this recipe with something right now!!! If any of the substitutes I use turn out worthy, I’ll send those along, if you like…

  • Morgan says:

    Where I live, we don’t have fresh noodles. Not even in our “Asian specilaty markets”, which have great varieties of stuff and mostly authentic goods. None of these had fresh noodles and none had chicken skins! Or pork skin. Or duck skin. One not so authentic looking place actually looked horrified I asked for such a thing. I ended up with pork belly, which looked fabulous, so I snagged it- despite my girlfriend being convinced their health standards are so subpar we will die if we ingest their meat, hahaha.
    I’m not sure how this will work out. I will slice it super thin and hopefully crisp up everything. Skin, fat and meat! I’ve never used pork belly myself, but I’m so excited to try. Have you ever used pork belly for this incredible, religious-zen-invoking crack?
    Ps. I share your intense pleasure in food and hermetic tendencies. I wish I’d discovered this recipe a long time ago!
    Pps. I’m so jealous of your food related opportunities in Beijing! I’d be in every food vendor on the street’s stall, pigging out. I could eat someone out of house and cart if the food is good enough!

  • Laura says:

    You had me at fried chicken skin. I can’t wait to start slurpping!!

  • Suze says:

    Two questions:
    Can I just chop my unfrozen chicken skins up small instead of freezing them first?
    Can I cook chicken skins and shallots at the same time, or throw the shallots in with the chicken skins after they’ve rendered a bit of fat?

    • Suze, yes you can use unfrozen skins. Frozen ones are just much easier to cut into small pieces. But you can’t cook them at the same time. If you throw shallots in while the rendered skins are still in there, the skins may get burnt because it also takes some time to fry the shallots.

  • ELAN says:

    Just tried this recipe….YUM! I used the dried noodles and it was still amazing…I also substituted the crack with bacon and the fat with hot oil. I also added some chili paste to make it extra hot! AMAZING! Nothing I didn’t love about this noodle dish….even with the substitutions….can’t wait to make the original and many more versions of this dish. Thanks!!!!

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