Scallion Oil Noodles

Garlic, leeks, and especially green onions - my affection for spring/summer alliums runs deep. Scallions on all the things is a life motto worth living.

I came across scallion oil a while back and promptly bookmarked it in my brain. Frying naked green onions while infusing the oil with their greatness was a brilliant idea. But what to do with this treasure? A quick search produced several recipes for what is apparently an "essential" Shanghai street food - Scallion Oil Noodles. Most of the dishes are similar with slight (but important) variations when it comes to heat and acid. The version in this post isn't original as much as the ingredient ratios are dialed in to my liking.

While fried scallions are excellent on their own, intertwining them with chili crisp and umami-soaked noodles hits every note. The play of the buckwheat in the soba noodles gives the meal an earthy anchor. Soba noodles aren't the traditional choice but they soak up the sauce nicely and I've been inspired to use them in part thanks to Sonoko Sakai's Japanese Home Cooking and Betty Liu's "My Shanghai". It's fair to say that I'm a rude dinner date when a plate of Scallion Oil Noodles is placed before me. Head down and focused, each flavorful bite compelling the next.

The process is easy with some bonus interludes of mindful prep. Slicing the green onions is pleasantly slow and deliberate but the dish comes together in a few effortless steps once the initial work is done.

Make this recipe so that you, too, can sit down for a meal and ignore someone you love.

Recipe Tips

Enjoy The Process

I made these noodles with scallions that were julienned (pictured above) and on one occasion a "faster" preparation resulting in wider strips of greens. I enjoyed them all but the texture and cohesive flavor with the julienned green onions was superior and is now the only way I will make them. The process is part of the pleasure.

Stuck in Neutral

Out of habit, I reached for my olive oil the last time I made this dish and didn't realize the error until it was already in the pan. The finished noodles were delicious and I couldn't pick out any fruity/grassy notes even though I knew they were there. It's worth noting that Katz's Chef's Pick is meant to be a cooking oil so it has a relatively mild flavor. I don't think a high quality finishing oil would be a good idea in dishes that call for neutral oil.

Truth is, I often substitute mild olive oil in recipes that call for "neutral oil" if it's unlikely to impact the flavor. Olive oil isn't the cheapest option but much of the information I have found over the years suggests it's one of the healthiest.

Give Me 5 (to 6) Minutes, I'll Give You The World

The Internet was inconclusive when it came to frying all the onion bits at once or frying the whites and greens separately. I found that the whites and greens cooked up a little differently depending on how thin the greens were sliced. Additionally, there isn't a lot of oil so frying in batches ensures proper coating and contact with the pan. I prefer to fry the whites and greens separately since it only adds 5 to 6 minutes. The onions are the heart of the dish so show them you care.

On the timing note, many recipes suggest cooking the scallions for 20-30 minutes over low heat until brown and crispy. I am all for low and slow but found the flavor to be excellent with the quicker cooking time. I plan to test the slower method with the next batch of Scallion Oil Noodles and will report back.

UPDATE: A reader mentioned that she fried the greens and whites together. She said the whites ended up a bit too dark but that it was delicious all the same. One possible way to adjust for this method is to fry everything together and then pull the onions off the heat when the whites are done. The greens may be a touch less fried but the dish will still be enjoyable so play around with the technique.

Don't Believe Everything You Read

The local store has Eden soba noodles and I discovered that they cook much faster than the package suggests. I almost ruined a dinner as a result and that's not the first time this has happened with a new noodle. Whatever brand you use, if it's new-to-you start sampling the doneness early.

Spicy Is Relative

Each brand of chili crisp is different as is an individual's tolerance for spice. I use two tablespoons of Boon Sauce but recommend starting with 1 tablespoon of whatever brand you prefer. It's easy to taste the sauce and work up to the heat you like.

Endless Noodle

If you use buckwheat noodles, I recommend choosing a brand that combines buckwheat with a second wheat such as Spring, Sonora, or similar. Flour blends enhance the texture.

Farmers | Artisans

I make an effort to source my food from California artisans with a special focus on the Santa Monica Farmers Market. Below is a list of the folks who contributed to this dish.

Tools

Ingredients

Inspiration drawn from My Shanghai and The Woks of Life.

Scallion Oil

  • 1 to 2 large bunches of green onions Note: You should end up with approximately 4 ounces (115 grams) of light greens/whites and 4 ounces (115 grams) of greens after prep. The green onions at the farmers market are Jurassic size hence the suggestion that two bunches may be needed.
  • 1/4 cup neutral oil

Sauce

  • 1 packed teaspoon organic dark brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons organic cane (white) sugar
  • 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons regular soy sauce
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons chili crisp Note: I use Boon sauce. See also "Recipe Tips".
  • 1 teaspoon white rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Chinese black vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chopped garlic (2 to 4 cloves)

Noodles

  • 10 ounces soba noodles Note: I use the Eden soba noodles that are spring wheat and buckwheat - I don't use 100% buckwheat. Many other types of noodles would work as long as they lend themselves to soaking up the sauce.

Instructions

Julienne

Per the Recipe Tips, the whites and greens are fried separately so put them in two piles.

  • Cut the greens into roughly 4" pieces and then thinly slice them lengthwise. See above photo for reference.
  • Thinly slice the whites lengthwise. You should end up with approximately 4 ounces (115 grams) of light greens/whites and 4 ounces (115 grams) of greens after prep.

Fry

  • Heat an enameled sauté pan or large non-stick pan over medium-high (my temperature is on the low end of medium-high). Add the oil, heat until shimmering, then add the white parts of the onion. Toss to thoroughly coat then spread the onions out in an even layer. The onions should have a solid sizzle but if they start to brown too quickly lower the heat. Stir frequently. Note: After 2 minutes the whites will look dry and there may be hints of color. After 4 minutes the onion whites are turning brown and things transform quickly from there. The onions are done when they are all light to medium brown, 5 to 6 minutes. Avoid letting the color get too dark since there will be some carry-over cooking. See photo for reference.
  • Turn the heat off, tip the pan, and using a large spoon drag the onions away from the oil and press them gently against the side of the pan. This will drain most of the oil off of the onion whites. Promptly transfer the onions to a plate and set aside. Note: Don't drain the onions on a paper towel - you want every drop in the dish.
  • Return the heat to medium-high and add the greens. Cook using the same process as above. The greens take about 5 to 7 minutes depending on how thinly they're sliced. When finished, turn off the heat, transfer the greens to the plate with the whites, and set the pan with the remaining oil aside. (Don't discard the oil in the pan.)

    Boil, Sauce, & Serve

    • Heat a large pot of water for the noodles.
    • While the water comes to a boil, whisk all of the sauce ingredients together (dark brown sugar, white sugar, soy sauces, chili crisp, vinegars, and garlic) and then add them to the pan with the scallion oil. Stir to combine and adjust the chili crisp as desired per the Recipe Tips.
    • Cook the noodles just shy of al dente.
    • Transfer the cooked noodles to a mesh strainer and rinse immediately under cold water. Drain and set aside.
    • Heat the scallion oil mixture over medium-high until warm to hot (the edges will just start to bubble) then add the drained noodles and half of the fried green onions (both greens and whites). Toss briskly to coat and incorporate. Continue to toss over medium-high until the sauce is mostly absorbed and the noodles are hot throughout. This process goes quickly - a minute or so.
    • Plate and then divide the rest of the fried green onions between each dish.

    Storage

    • There aren't ever leftovers in our house (see "rude dinner date" in the intro) but I imagine Scallion Oil Noodles would be fine stored in the refrigerator for a day.

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