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Homemade spicy, soupy noodles for those monsoon cravings

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Spicy noodles are having a MOMENT. TikTok and Instagram have thousands of videos of youngsters slurping them down on camera, while YouTube has playlists dedicated to spicy noodle challenges and mukbangs - with many people throwing in the towel, unable to handle the heat.

Nongshim, the makers of the original instant spicy ramen noodles, struck gold when their product made an appearance in the 2019 film Parasite. There’s a scene where the housekeeper tosses cubed sirloin steak into a mix of Nongshim noodles. With 8 minutes on the clock before her employers get home (and chaos in the background) the noodles cook up quickly - and serve up the perfect distraction when the lady of the house enters.

The film made Nongshim (and instant spicy noodles) world-famous, and once the pandemic hit and convenience cooking became a necessary evil, sales boomed. Starchy, salty, spicy, satisfying, and ready in seconds - what’s not to love? But instant ramen is no friend to a healthy gut - so we’re showing you how to make healthier versions at home, which are simple, spicy and just as satisfying than the packaged stuff.

FOR THE BOLD: Drunken rice noodle stir-fry from Raman Okram

If you can handle the heat, turn to this one, from Delhi-based food blogger Raman Okram, who knows his noodles. A bachelor who lives alone and is committed to his fitness regimen, noodles are an easy way to get the carbs, protein and fibre he needs, fast.

The recipe he shares with us is inspired by a Thai dish called Pad Kee Mao or Drunken Noodles - so called, because it has enough chilli in it to cure even the most severe hangover. The dish has the classic Southeast Asian flavour trio of salty, spicy and sour, with fiery Thai bird’s eye chillies. Raman uses his homemade chilli oil as a replacement to enhance the flavour and give the noodles a glossier coating and adds sausage and shrimp to give it some heft. The combination of heat + meat makes it the ideal cure for a Saturday night that grew into a Sunday morning - or for when you’re binge-watching a K-drama and get the cravings from everyone on screen eating noodles.

•    How often he makes it: Once a week

•    Why you should give it a go: This one’s pantry/freezer-
      friendly and doesn’t require a lot of prep.

•    Cook’s tip: You can switch up the protein (choosing to use 

     only one type or any combination) or go vegan with seared tofu and/or meaty mushrooms.

Drunken Rice Noodle Stir-Fry

•    1/2- 3/4 cup cooked flat rice noodles
•     2 tbsp oil
•     1 tbsp chopped scallions
•     2-3 cloves pinched garlic
•     1 red chilli, sliced thinly
•     1/4 cup smoked sausage
•     1/4 cup diced chicken, seasoned lightly with salt and pepper
•     1/4 tip shrimp, seasoned lightly with salt and pepper
•     1 tsp light soy sauce
•     1 two dark soy sauce
•     1 tsp fish sauce
•     Pinch of sugar
•     Water as needed
•     1 egg
•     A handful of fresh basil
•     1 heaping tsp Ramano’s OG chilli oil/any other chilli oil

•     Cook your noodles according to the package instructions, drain, and set aside. (Use flat rice noodles for this, and not vermicelli, as you want
       the noodles to hold up well against the protein.)
•     In a small bowl, mix both soy sauces, fish sauce and sugar and set aside.
•     In a large wok, heat the oil on a medium-low flame. Once it bubbles, add your scallions, minced garlic and sliced red chilli and sauté.
•     One by one, add the smoked sausage, chicken, shrimp and sauté.
•     Add the cooked noodles and toss; pour over the soy sauce mixture and toss to coat. At this step, you can add a little water of needed.
•     Move the noodles to one side of the wok and make room for the egg.
•     In this little well you’ve created, add a dash of oil and crack in the egg and season with salt. Gently scramble the egg, and once it’s starts
      cooking, toss it with the noodles.
•     Add basil and mix well.
•     Add the chilli oil, toss to coat.
•     Serve!

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FOR THE DESI-AT-HEART: Street-style Chowmein from Anshul Malhotra

Desi Chinese or Chinjabi is a love child of Indian street-style food and Chinese food - and that’s what twentysomething food blogger Anshul Malhotra is sharing with us. Growing up in a home where both his parents worked and shared kitchen duties, he saw cooking as a basic, must-have skill, gender no matter. Now he shares his skills and love for food with his IG followers, posting easy everyday recipes and the occasional stunner of a cake.

Anshul says the pandemic has demonstrated the need to for youngsters to ramp up their culinary know-how from 2-minute noodles to more substantial stuff. This is his version of desi “thele waali chowmein” (hawker style chowmein), inspired by his childhood in Meerut, where he used to eat a plateful at the chaat bazaar each week. He’s taken the basic chowmein with cabbage, carrot and peppers and added chicken + chillies to make it filling + spicy. He also has a hack - adding turmeric to give the noodles that classic golden street food hue.

•    How often he makes it: Once a week, for the entire family

•    Why you should give it a go: It’s a real crowd-pleaser that
     can satisfy even picky eaters

•    Cook’s tip: Add only a pinch of salt at the second-last step, 

     since there’s enough of a salty kick coming in from the soy sauce and MSG. You can adjust for more salt later.

Hawker-Style Spicy Chowmein

•     1 packet hakka noodles (150 g)
•     1 tsp turmeric powder
•     2 tbsp oil
•     1 large or 2 small chicken breasts, cut into thin strips and
       marinated in 1 tsp soy sauce, 1 clovesof grated garlic, salt &
       pepper to taste
•     1 small cabbage, thinly sliced (roughly 1/2 cup)
•     1 onion, thinly sliced
•     1 large carrot, julienned
•     1 small green bell pepper, thinly sliced (roughly 1/4 cup)
•     2-3 deseeded dried red chillies
•     3-4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
•     1-1 1/2 tsp dark soy sauce
•     Pinch of MSG (optional)
•     Salt to taste

(You can also add bits of whatever vegetables you may have lying in the fridge - mushroom, broccoli, etc).

•     Start by boiling water in a pot and add the turmeric powder to it. Cook your noodles as per packet instructions, drain, and set aside.
•     Heat the oil in a wok. Once the oil is hot enough, add the marinated chicken strips and toss till the pieces cook through. Remove from the wok
      and set aside.
•     In the same wok, add more oil if required, then and add the red chilli and garlic and let it flavour the oil, getting nice and aromatic.
•     Add the onions and toss till translucent. Next, add the carrots and capsicum.
•     Add in the cabbage and the cooked chicken strips and season with salt, pepper and MSG if using. Be very quick here – you don’t want the
      cabbage to lose any moisture.
•     Add your boiled noodles and soy sauce and toss till well combined.
•     Serve!

FOR THE VEGGIE-FORWARD: Spicy coconut-buckwheat noodles From Ana Khatiwara

Ana Khatiwara is a Kalimpong born-and-bred girl from the hills who now calls Pune home. The 24-year-old fashion graduate was diagnosed with PCOS and was on a cocktail of pills to manage the disorder. Looking for a way out of daily medication, she did her own research and switched to a vegan diet - and it helped.

This soupy noodle bowl has plenty of fresh vegetables and tofu - but you can add and subtract based on what you like. The veggies are combined with gluten-free buckwheat noodles, coconut milk, peanut butter and a special chilli paste made from Dalle Khursani (fireball) chillies, native to Darjeeling and Sikkim. The small, plump, dome-shaped chillies are amongst the hottest in the world, ranging between 1,00,000 to 3,50,000 Scoville Heat Units - on par with habaneros.

It’s not for the faint-hearted, so Ana says if you can’t source Dalle paste or handle the heat, use whatever chilli paste you have on hand. The final broth is well-balanced: hot enough to clear a sinus, but creamy enough to keep you from tearing up!

•    How often she makes it: Pretty often, because everyone
      loves this dish at home!

•    Why you should give it a go: It’s vegan and uses gluten-free
      noodles, making it ideal for people on special diets.

•    Cook’s tip: Make your own chilli paste by boiling a few red chillies and blitzing them into a thick paste (remove the stems).

Spicy Coconut-Buckwheat Noodle Bowl

•     1 packet buckwheat noodles (roughly 300 g)
•     1/2 tsp soy sauce
•     1 tsp brown sugar
•     2 tsp hot sauce, like Sriracha
•     1/2 tsp smoked paprika
•     1 tsp garlic powder
•     2 tsp lemon juice
•     2 tbsp peanut butter
•     2 tbsp coconut oil
•     3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
•     1 medium onion, diced
•     1/2 cup crumbled tofu
•     1/2 cup oyster mushrooms, chopped
•     1/2 cup bell peppers, sliced
•     1/2 cup leeks, sliced
•     1/2 tsp salt
•     1 1/2 cups coconut milk
•     1/4 tsp red chilli paste
•     For garnishing: 2 tsp chilli oil, coriander leaves, chopped spring

•     Cook the noodles according to the packet instructions, drain and set aside.
•     In a bowl, mix the soy sauce, brown sugar, hot sauce, smoked paprika, garlic powder, lemon juice and peanut butter and set aside.
•     In a wok, heat the coconut oil on flame medium. Add the garlic and onion, stir for 1 minute, then add add the crumbled tofu and mushroom. Let
       the tofu sear and stick to your pan so it crisps up. (Don’t worry if it looks brown, this gives it a better texture.)
•     Add the bell pepper, leeks, and a salt and stir for 2 minutes.
•     Add the coconut milk, Dalle Khursani/any chilli paste, reduce heat to low, and simmer for a few minutes.
•     Pour the soup in a bowl, add the buckwheat noodles on top (as much as you like). Garnish with spring onions, coriander leaves, a drizzle of
      chilli oil and a squeeze of lemon.

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