Food as Shelter: A Recipe

In our homes there exists an inextricable web of food experiences, memories and stories that provide us with shelter and therapy. These ultimately relate to our comfort foods, the chow that makes us feel better when we are feeling down, provides us with a sanctuary when the weather is inclement, and transports us to a bygone time when we are feeling nostalgic.

For many, the idea of comfort food involves indulgence and redemption. Perhaps it is a childhood-favourite chocolate bar or a bowl of ice cream that drowns your sorrows.  Or maybe it’s a hearty soup served in your Grandma’s hand-me-down bowl that warms your cockles. At its heart, comfort food delivers an unerring sense of completion.

Over the years, I have found comfort and shelter in all kinds of foods. But, for me, it is ginger, and its distinct scent, texture and flavour, which offers me complete comfort. The aroma of ginger reminds me of my mother’s hands preparing countless delicious meals for us, her family. Its pungent, bitter sharpness takes me back to my ultimate hangover remedy dish – ginger fried rice.

These days, when I am in need of an energy boost or a mood lift, I still turn to ginger. I steep a few slices in hot water to ease nerves or an upset tummy. I grate it finely in Asian-style salad dressings for that unrivalled punchy charm. For me, ginger brings me home, where my heart is.

Soba noodles with shredded vegetables and ginger shallot sauce

Ginger and shallot sauce is my most prized Chinese side-dish. This fragrant, salty, punchy sauce is the perfect appendage to white rice or, as in this salad,  noodles. This very simple salad of cold soba noodles and shredded vegetables is intensely satisfying and comforting.

Serves 4-6 as a main meal

  • 500g soba noodles
  • 5 medium (500g) carrots, peeled
  • 500g purple (or white) cabbage (or a combination of both)
  • ½ cup Chinese shallots, finely chopped
  • ½ cup sesame seeds, toasted
  • Salt and black pepper

Ginger Shallot Dressing (makes 4 cups)

  • 150g ginger, peeled
  • 150g Chinese shallots, finely sliced
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 cup rice bran oil (or other neutral oil such as sunflower)
  • 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce

To make the dressing, mince the ginger. If you prefer the ginger very fine, simply run the root over a microplane. If you prefer the ginger slightly chunkier (which is how I’ve always eaten it), chop with a knife.

Combine the ginger, shallots, salt, vinegar and soy in a bowl. Heat the oil over a medium heat until it starts to boil. Take off the heat immediately and add it to the ginger shallot mix, taking care not to burn yourself, as the oil will spit when it makes contact with the ginger and shallot mix. Allow to cool.

Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil, add the soba noodles and cook for 4-5 minutes or until just tender. Drain and refresh under cold running water.

Using a mandolin, food processor or knife, shred the cabbage finely and grate the carrot into long strips. Add the vegetables to the soba noodles and pour over 1 cup (or more) of ginger shallot sauce. Toss to combine well. Transfer the salad to a large platter and sprinkle over the toasted sesame seeds.

Photography: Luisa Brimble
Styling: Erika Raxworthy