Throw Us a Noodle Party! (Please)
You know the situation. When times are rough, you say some variation of these, hopefully, comforting words: “Whatever you need, I’m here.” You wonder if anyone is really going to take you up on it. Then, you make sure to follow up with something that’ll be well-received, since no one ever tells you what they really need. Because when you say you’ll do anything to help, you really do mean it...right?
Ask us what we might need during a trying time and it’s likely that we will request food. Our request is sure to be very specific. After all, we’ve learned a lot about our good friends’ cooking skills through the years: we know who to ask for the best cheesy lasagna, or authentic out-of-this-world paella, or vegan versions of classic Bulgarian dishes, or stellar pizzelles made from a treasured family recipe, or the perfect grilled cheese, or maybe some very magical noodles.
Here, let’s focus on the one-pot-wonder that has come to be known to us as ‘noodle party’ so you can make them, too! With so much care and love, our dear friends Marlinee Iverson and Max Maloney posed the ‘We’re here for you; what do you need?” question one bleak fall day, and one of us answered, without any qualms or even so much as a hint of self-awareness, “Throw us a party and make those noodles.”
Well, they did ask!
So Marlinee and Max did just what we requested because they’re awesome. (We kinda knew that they would.) We love this dish because it comes with a good deal of community. We all share a laugh while the noodles boil, and compare battle scars, and consider all the choices of condiments at the family-style toppings buffet. Being around good friends and sharing awesome food (that we didn’t have to make all by ourselves) helps to cheer us on when circumstances have us feeling down. This is really what life is all about: spending time with the people who love us no matter how much of a hassle we can be at certain times.
Our friend, Marlinee, grew up with noodle dishes often on the table. “Noodles are the street food of Thailand,” she says. “It’s like hamburgers here in America. We’d have noodles all the time for lunch and dinner, and there are at least 1,000 ways to make them.”
When we were invited over to Max and Marlinee’s house, we also got another chance to watch how it’s all done and take a few mental notes. At previous noodle parties, we’d quizzed Marlinee’s mom, Chouwanee Clark, as she ladled her flavorful broth over noodles. She’s very humble, and our over-the-top praise for her authentic Thai cooking caused her to laugh and say, “It’s nothing; it’s easy.” We finally coaxed a little information out of her. One secret to making a good broth is including a whole daikon radish. The radish helps flavor the broth and becomes silky smooth and soft, almost like a potato. Marlinee adds, “Put as much depth, flavor-wise, in the broth as possible, because, like any soup, it gets better the longer you let it sit.”
The best part is that everything — the stock, the vegetables, and the noodles — is cooked in the same pot. It’s efficient. This also makes it pretty simple, which is a main requirement of ours when we’re feeding a crowd. If your broth is flavorful, then everything will be delicious. The broth is basically the soul of this dish. The vegetables and noodles all soak up the flavor of the broth and the fresh herbs, peanuts, limes, and other garnishes enhance the whole noodle bowl experience.
Marlinee says that the most important thing for people to remember when cooking this dish at home is to offer a bunch of different toppings. “Don’t forget a sprinkle of sugar,” she also warns, “It seems weird but it must happen!”
With our friends’ help, we think we’ve figured out this noodle game. Spring is here, and we want to share the bounty that’s been shared with us. We love these infinitely adaptable noodle bowls because we can swap out or add ingredients based on the seasons.
Now when a friend needs cheering up or cheering on, you don’t even have to ask, “What can I do to help?” All you have to do is say, “I know just the thing!”
Justin and Amy are the Memphis team behind The Chubby Vegetarian (TCV). Their blog is a regular source of creative vegetarian recipes. Their dishes are inspired by local, seasonal produce and the inventive flavors of nearly all the great chefs they meet. Justin and Amy have authored two cookbooks — The Southern Vegetarian (2013) and The Chubby Vegetarian (2016) — both must-haves for any Memphian cook who wants to eat great-tasting vegetables.