Last November my husband and I visited Shanghai, the fastest growing city in the world. In the midst of this mind bogglingly immensity, we nibbled a bowl of noodle that had an arresting, deep flavor that I thought must have come from with some exotic mushrooms, but was merely caramelized green onions.
Back home, the taste of those noodles lingered with me. I consulted Fuchsia Dunlap's Every Grain of Rice: Simple Chinese Home Cooking, and found her Shanghai Noodles with Dried Shrimp and Spring Onion Oil, which she describes as "a southern Chinese equivalent of the Italian spaghetti all'aglio, olio e peperoncino." As I read more, I realized that caramelized onions of all types are an integral condiment in many Asian cuisines, adding a deep umami layer of flavor. Thus started my obsession with crispy fried alliums.
These spring onions and their fragrant oil make a wonderful topping for a bowl of noodles, but they can also transform Korean rice cakes, which I recently found fresh, rather than frozen, at the Sunrise Asian Market in Eugene.
I'd read about fried, rather than braised rice cake in David Chang's recipe from Momofuku, and indeed this method of cooking them makes the cakes puff up into delectable treats with a toasty exterior and soft, chewy inside. These are delicious as a snack (perfect for an Oscars party) topped with sriracha sauce and the fried scallions.
These roasted rice cakes also make a wonderful base for a riff on kimichi fried rice, tossed with kimchi (my latest batch was made with red cabbage) and topped with a fried egg. And of course, sprinkled with the fried scallions.
Roasted Rice Cakes with Scallion Oil1 bunch scallions
1/4 cup canola oil
1 lb fresh rice cakes
1. Trim the scallions. With the flat side of a chef's knife, smash the white parts of the onions and then cut them into 2 inch sections.
2. Heat the oil in a wok over medium high heat. Add the scallions, lower the heat slightly, and cook, stirring off and on, until they turn a deep golden brown, but be careful not to burn them. When they are done, remove them from the oil with a slotted spoon and reserve in a bowl.
3. Return the wok with the oil to a medium high heat and add the rice cakes. Cook, stirring off and on, until they become browned and puff up in size. You can eat them like this, sprinkled with a pinch of salt, a drizzle of sriracha sauce, and the crispy scallions. Or, stir in a couple of spoonfuls of kimchi into the wok and cook until heated through. Serve with a fried egg on top, along with the fried scallions.