Cross-Cultural Sharing With Food: Chinese Spaghetti

Geek Culture

Chinese Spaghetti. Photo: Jenny Williams

Here is the story of our journey of learning about, and falling in love with, Chinese Spaghetti.

We recently took a long 40 day road trip around the country. Our first night’s stop was at GeekDad Jonathan Liu’s house, when he and his family still lived in Kansas. We got to spend the whole next day with them, playing games and talking. And for dinner, we had Chinese Spaghetti. Jonathan wanted to serve a meal that would interest all of us (in the end it didn’t interest my son, but that wasn’t a surprise to me). His email description of this dish sounded very straightforward with basic flavors and ingredients. Past that, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I wasn’t sure what gave this dish the “Chinese” in the name, other than the soy sauce. I don’t eat a lot of Chinese food, and only crave it approximately bi-annually. So I expected to think that the meal was just okay.

The Chinese pasta we used. Photo: Jenny Williams

Reality was quite different. We were blown away. I liked it so much that I had seconds, despite already being pretty full. My daughter even had seconds. My husband had thirds. This magnificent dish, that was just something that Jonathan’s mother whipped up for meals sometimes, was fantastic.

According to Jonathan’s mom, this dish is something that her mom used to make, and they called it a name akin to “noodles with ground meat and tomatoes.” They had used Chinese hand-pulled noodles instead of store-bought, which is something else we should try doing sometime. They had also used freshly ground (and likely freshly slaughtered) meat. We had to make do with meat from the store. Jonathan’s mom dubbed it “Chinese Spaghetti,” which it will forever be to us.

I knew that once we got home from our long trip, 38 days later, that we’d have to make it for ourselves. Jonathan gave me the basic recipe, but without quantities. There is definitely wiggle room with proportions.

Now that we’re home and settled, and have also managed a trip down to Phoenix to an Asian grocery store, we have made Chinese Spaghetti for ourselves. Here’s the recipe that we tried and I wrote down, based on Jonathan’s direction.

Chinese Spaghetti

2 pounds ground meat (original recipe uses 1 pound of ground pork)
chopped scallions (we used one very large one from the garden)
tomatoes, chopped (we used 10 Roma tomatoes – it made a lot)
6 tablespoons soy sauce (use more or less to taste)
wheat-based Chinese noodles
cooking oil (several tablespoons)

Marinate the meat and scallions in the soy sauce. Cook the tomatoes in the oil and salt until fairly mushy. Make sure there is still some liquid left, as this will help make up the sauce later. Remove tomatoes from the pan and brown the meat mixture. Mix tomatoes with the meat mixture. Simmer for about 30 minutes, depending on how ready it looks. While it is simmering, boil the noodles, following experience or package directions.

We ended up with much more tomato and scallions than when Jonathan made it, and ours was less saucy (oo la la!). We also used ground beef instead of buffalo. But the flavor was fairly close. I can’t wait to taste it left over!

Chinese Spaghetti is definitely something that we’ve now put in our cooking repertoire. It isn’t much more difficult than regular spaghetti, and has a very different flavor. If only our vegan friends could partake!

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