Spicy Warm Chili Noodles with Mint and Tomatoes

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Last year (2012 seems awfully far away already, doesn’t it), in my first days in Guatemala, I met a new friend, Jose. Jose, among other wonderful things, is a tour guide and a lover at Duran Duran and seriously loves to eat. We geek out over places to travel to and concerts we have been to and what and where we are going to eat next. My favorite moments with Jose are the ones over a cup of coffee and La Parada (shameless shout out), when his eyes suddenly brighten and he begins, You know, I forgot I had something to tell you. There’s this medicinal (read: alcoholic), traditional drink the Garifuna in Livingston drink to help with virility and good health. It is meant to taste like shit, but hell, let’s go to Livingston and try it! We spent a lot of time in 4x4s last year taking around all of the visitors who came to see just what the hell I thought I was doing, living in Guatemala and all. Between the two of us, I think we not only convinced them that I had the right idea by moving to Guatemala, but now we have them thinking about when they will move here.

When Jose and I aren’t traveling or talking about traveling, I am constantly chatising him for not cooking. Right, right, I understand he’sa bachelor and is lost when it comes to the kitchen, la la, and the only thing he knows how to cook are eggs and frijoles from a can and warm tortillas. In my mind, this is not an excuse! 

Until….I started working. Don’t get me wrong, I was working in Guatemala last year, but now, as of my return in January, I am WORKING. Two jobs – a volunteer position in the kitchens of Cafe Condesa (more on this later) and my regular freelance writing gigs that sustained me all last year. For quite a few weeks in the beginning, I was up at 4:30a, at work by 6, finishing in the kitchens at 3, rushing home for Spanish classes and working to make magazine deadlines. More often than not, I ended up lying down on the couch at 5:30p just for a quick rest and woke up in the middle of the night, disoriented and hungry, and would stumble the 17 steps to my bed for another four hours of sleep.

I complained to Jose, The only thing I have in my fridge right now is eggs and frijoles and frozen tortillas! To switch he looked and me and, with a big Cheshire cat smile, replied, Babe, welcome to my world.

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This noodle salad, well, I would love to say that I planned it meticulously and sourced out the best ingredients and blah blah blah. I didn’t. This dish came out of absolute, sheer luck. After six hours of recipe testingfor My Other Jobs on my one day off from Cafe Condesa, I had a bunch of odds and ends lying around with nothing to use them for, and my bean and egg supply had run low… But this is where those creative juices really flow, when you don’t have a recipe and you are forced with work with what you have, like say, granola and artichoke hearts. With a little help from the herbs in the San Juan House garden, this salad came together fast and makes an amazing weeknight meal. And as the weather gets warmer (hold on NYC, spring is coming) this would make a great picnic dish, as there is no mayo or eggs or anything else needing cold climates. 

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Now, having eaten something other than frozen products in the last three weeks, I can go on goading Jose about his terminal bachelor lifestyle. Unless, of course, he wants to try this recipe… Enjoy!

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Spicy Warm Chili Noodles with Mint and Tomatoes 

I used rice noodles, but in theory you could use any kind of Asian noodle – egg, mung bean, udon, soba, etc. This is easily made vegetarian by omitting the chorizo and adding crumbled smoked tofu or tempeh. My first go around, I roughly chopped the chorizo, but I think the better option is to remove the casing and pulse until roughly ground in a food processor. Either way will be delicious, but the ground pieces integrate better with the fine noodles. Time: 20 minutes; Serves 4

Dressing
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1-2 tablespoons minced jalapenos or serranos (to taste) 
1 minced garlic clove
1/2 small red onion, cut into very thin slices
3 tablespoons light soy sauce 
2 tablespoons lime juice 
2 tablespoons black vinegar or cider vinegar
1/4 cup grapeseed or other neutral-tasting oil 
2 tablespoons EACH slivered mint and basil leaves 

Salad 
1 5 oz package thin rice noodles or similar 
1/4 pound spicy Spanish or Chinese (Kam Yen Jan) chorizo
1 cucumber, peeled and diced into 1/2 inch cubed
3 tomatoes, diced 
More slivers mint leaves to garnish

Combine first seven ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Allow to stand for ten minutes. Slowly drizzle in oil, whisking constantly. Add herbs and reserve. 

Bring a pot of water to boil. Remove from heat and add rice noodles and allow to five for five minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water. Reserve. 

Remove casing from chorizo and pulse in a food processor for 5-10 seconds, until it is roughly chopped. Add to a skillet with a drizzle of vegetable oil and fry until crispy, about five minutes. Turn off heat and toss in noodles, cucumbers, tomatoes and dressing to taste, adjusting soy sauce if needed. Transfer to plates and garnish with more mint leaves. Enjoy! 

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