Somen Salad with Pork Belly Char Siu

I don't know how to break this to you guys but Vienna has turned into a vampire. KIDDING. Sorta. She's actually dropped her normal sleeping schedule and flipped it upside down: she's NOCTURNAL!! Our place recently had the foundation redone and ever since, Vienna's made it her mission in life to catch whatever it is she's smelling from under there. My guess is that the neighbor's cat has made a home under our house and crawls in there at night but your guess is probs as good as mine if not better. What I do know is that girlfriend does not sleep. At least not at night. I find her lurking in the corner, under the dresser sniffing at the cracks in the trim. If it wasn't so loud *sniff sniff sniff*, I'd think it was funny. But her crazy, frenetic energy radiates to all areas of our home, so no one's getting a proper night's rest anymore.

If you're wondering why she gets so wound up, I've got one word for you: DACHSHUND. That's right guys. She's a badger hunter and damn proud of it. She lives for the chase and won't let up till she's caught whatever it is she's hunting. Her tail shoots straight up and she moves with such acute determination and agility, you forget that she's a tiny, six-pound creature with short legs. And that my friends is why I'm tired. I guess it's time I face the reality that I'm a dachshund mom and it comes with the territory. Never have I ever met a more stubborn, spirited dog, and yet, I love her with my whole heart, so I hope she proves herself not crazy and catches whatever it is that seems to be lurking in the cracks (dust, air, etc.)!!

If you're wondering what that story has to do with this somen salad, the answer is, absolutely nothing!! However, I wanted to share cause if you weren't well versed in the quirkiness of dachshunds, you now know a little more about mine. And if you're a dachshund lover like myself, well then I hope you had a good laugh. Ps - Yes, I know, I've got a high strung weenie dog. :D 

Regarding this salad, which we should probably speak a bit about, it's refreshing, somewhat healthy, and for me, it's laced with nostalgia. It's one of those dishes that you always find at family lu'aus (parties), or in the bento (lunchbox, pre-made deli) section of the local grocery store. If you're really lucky, you have a mom like mine who will make it for you. My version isn't exactly traditional but it sure is tasty. In Hawaii, somen salad is typically served up with iceberg lettuce for extra crunch but I'm just not a fan so I used savoy cabbage for crunch and a bit of watercress to pepper it up a hair. I've topped the noodles with kamaboko (fish cake), fried egg, sliced beans, julienned carrots and cucumber, green onions, and of course, pork belly char siu. It's served up cold and perfect for these unbearably hot summer months.  I hope you love it as much as I do! Oh, and you might find that the char siu recipe might make more than you'll need for this salad. That's not a mistake--I promise that you'll be thanking me later (think: bonus meal with that belly served up hot over steaming white rice!).

Somen Salad with Pork Belly Char Siu

Pork Belly Char Siu Adapted from Yi Reservation

Serves 2-4 people, depending on hunger levels :D

INGREDIENTS

PORK BELLY CHAR SIU

  • 2 lbs. skinless pork belly, cut into two thick strips
  • 3 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. oyster sauce
  • 2 Tbsp. hoisin
  • 4 Tbsp. mirin (sweet cooking rice wine)
  • 1 Tbsp. soybean paste
  • 1 Tbsp. granulated sugar
  • 1/2 Tbsp. kosher salt
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced or grated
  • 1 tsp. Chinese five spice
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 bay leaf

DRESSING

  • 1/4 c. granulated sugar
  • 1 c. low sodium chicken broth
  • 1/4 c. soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp. sesame oil
  • 1/4 c. mirin

NOODLES + TOPPINGS

  • 1/2 savoy cabbage, thinly julienned
  • 1 handful watercress, coarsely chopped
  • 1 (12 oz.) pkg somen noodles (3 bundles), cooked, rinsed w/cold water, and drained
  • 1/2 lb. pork belly char siu, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 lb. kamaboko (fishcake), julienned
  • 3-4 Persian cucumbers, thinly julienned
  • 2-3 medium carrots, thinly julienned
  • 1 handful long, green beans, julienned
  • 2 eggs, fried into thin omelets, then thinly sliced
  • 3 stalks green onions, thinly sliced 

TOOLS

  • Mixing bowls
  • Measuring spoons and cups
  • Pan/bag for marinating meat
  • Baking sheet + wire rack
  • Foil
  • Medium saucepan
  • Serving bowls/pan

FIX

PORK BELLY CHAR SIU

  1. Combine all ingredients, except for pork belly, in a small bowl and whisk till thoroughly combined. 
  2. In a shallow bowl/pan large enough for the strips or gallon sized ziploc bag, pour the sauce over the two strips of pork belly and massage in and thoroughly coat both pieces. Cover bowl/pan or seal bag and transfer to fridge to marinate overnight. Let marinate for at least 12 - 24 hours.
  3. Preheat oven to 400° F and line a baking sheet with foil then set wire rack on top of lined sheet.
  4. Place pork belly on wire rack and bake for 18 minutes. Reserve remaining sauce. Remove from oven and flip strips over and brush with remaining sauce then bake for another 18 minutes.
  5. If eating immediately, slice into thin slices and serve over piping hot white rice. For the somen salad, let cool completely then slice into thin slices.

DRESSING

  1. Combine all ingredients in a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan and heat on medium until sauce comes to a boil let boil for 20-30 seconds then remove from heat and let cool at room temperature. Once cool, transfer to the fridge to chill until ready to use. (I recommend making sauce the day before you serve your salad).

NOODLES + TOPPINGS

  1. Evenly distribute cabbage and watercress into the bottom of your serving bowls/pan.
  2. Cover with somen noodles.
  3. Top with pork belly, kamaboko, cucumbers, carrots, green beans, egg, and green onion.
  4. Pour dressing over right before serving and toss ingredients together. (Dressing my have separated overnight; simply whisk or shake before using!)
  5. Serve and enjoy!