It has been a long week at work, and fast simple dishes are what is required. It is ok to cheat and use packets of flavouring rather than make from scratch. And Asian food cooked all together in a big wok is so fast and easy that it is perfect for any working parent.
7am – Take the chicken out of the freezer and put it on the bench to defrost. I put it in a shady spot on a plate to catch all the de-frosted ice. Finish the morning routine, get everyone out the door and go to work.
6pm – We arrived home tired and scratchy tonight and all I can think tonight is “Thank fuck for the Octonauts”. On went the telly, and I headed to the kitchen, fobbing off cries of “I’m hungry” and “Can I have milk?”, like a rugby player fends off the opposition.
And just as I manage to gain some peace and the chicken is sizzling, No3 arrives.
“Can you make me a bike rack?” Yeah, kid, I think, sure I’ll just whip one up while I chop vegetables with the other hand.
“No, I’m cooking.”
“Not today,” he says as if I’m an idiot. “Tomorrow.”
Breathe, I tell myself. The next bit just blurts out of me. I guess the thought of the chore is at the front of my mind…
“Sorry. I have to go to work tomorrow and interview a grumpy old man.”
Somehow through the laughter I manage to say “nope, not Dad!”
Cheaters Chicken Noodles
- Rice Noodles (dried or fresh)
- Chicken Thighs (skin off)
- Jar of Pad Thai paste
- Olive Oil
- Sesame Oil
- Coriander (optional)
- Chinese Vegetables
- Capsicum (or banana chilli)
- Snow peas
How to prepare and cook at the same time!
Wok cooking is faster if you chop everything first, especially if you are adding lots of vegetables that require slicing. But today is even faster, using the ‘do it as you go’ chaos method with less vegetable variety.
Put the wok on the stove, throw in some olive oil and a touch of sesame oil for the scent. Slice up the chicken into thin-ish strips and add them to the wok as you go. Stir occasionally to ensure they all cook evenly.
Ignore the instructions on the packet and add it now, mixing the whole lot thoroughly. Now turn it down to simmer and let the chicken cook through properly. If it is sticking, add a dash of water (it’ll boil off as you go, but will keep the whole lot from burning).
Put a pot of water on another element to boil. Add a pinch of salt and leave it to boil.
To your wok, now add some loosely chopped coriander or other herbs if you want, or don’t add them if you don’t have them – most of the flavour comes from the packet anyway.
Chinese vegetables covers such a huge range of greenery, and you can use any sort you have at hand for this recipe. I used a variety of spinach that had variegated leaves with green and purple on them, but mostly because the colours look great when photographed. I also used snow peas, spring onion and banana chillis (they aren’t hot, but taste like capsicum and as the name says more banana in shape).
The water in the other pot should be boiling by now, so add the rice noodles. They will only take a minute and you can serve.
How to serve
Most recipes tell you to drain the noodles and stir them into the wok. I don’t do this because we have lots of people and the wok is usually at capacity without adding noodles.
Get a kid to set the table if you can. I usually can’t, so I do it myself. It’s faster and easier. Drain the noodles and dish them out on each plate. I move the wok to the table, putting it onto a folded tea-towel to stop it burning the table, then dish it out onto each plate. Place the wok food on top of the noodles and the flavours and juices will flow onto the noodles.
6.30pm – We made it. All the little mouths are happy, except the one who doesn’t like green vegetables. “Just put them on the edge of your plate and eat the rest” I say, as I watch them being picked out. And the bike rack will have to wait for the weekend, although part of me is hoping he’s forgotten by then.