Global Noodles for a Delicious World Pasta Day

Since the 12th century, Italians have been feasting on an addictive amalgamation of flour, eggs, and water, also known as pasta. Though Americans often associate pasta with Italian dishes, such as spaghetti and ravioli, there are, in fact, dozens of cultures around the globe whose staple foods include noodles, many of which are made of rice, buckwheat, potato starch, or kelp in place of flour, in a plethora of shapes and sizes. On this momentous day, then, we thought it only apropos to round up some of our favorite global noodles for a delicious World Pasta Day – each of which you can find right here in the states.

Vietnamese Vermicelli
Though it looks like its sister noodle, spaghetti, vermicelli is the Asian equivalent, made from rice flour and water (called rice vermicelli) or mung bean starch (known as cellophane noodles). In Vietnam, rice vermicelli finds its way into many signature dishes; it’s in pho (noodle soup), gets tucked into summer rolls, and is the main event in other noodle-based plates, called bún. Surprisingly, you can find all three in Atlanta at chef-owner Guy Wong’s gorgeous French-Vietnamese hotspot Le Fat. Though the summer rolls are fresh and vibrant and the pho earthy and satisfying, we recommend the bún, in which the rice noodles are topped with an aromatic herb salad, pickled daikon, crushed peanuts, and crispy grilled pork.

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Thai Pad Thai
Here in America, there’s perhaps no dish more closely associated with Thailand than Pad Thai, stir-fried rice noodles. Though the dish is often watered down to appease our penchant for sugar, the traditional version is made with soaked dried rice noodles stir-fried with eggs and tofu (or often prawns), topped with roasted peanuts and bathed in a tangy sauce made from tamarind (never ketchup or peanut butter), fish sauce, dried shrimp, chiles, and palm sugar. For the real deal, head to none other than Bida Manda in Raleigh, North Carolina, where chef Van Nolintha serves up a Laotian version of pad thai made with crispy tofu, tomatoes, rice noodles, and plenty of crunchy peanuts and aromatic herbs.

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Japanese Soba
In Japan, the name of the pasta game is soba, a thin noodle made from buckwheat flour that’s eaten near daily, whether chilled with a dipping sauce, enjoyed in hot soy-dashi broth as a noodle soup, and even grilled in a stir-fried dish known as yakisoba. Boston chef Tim Cushman hand-makes two different varieties of soba noodles at his award-winning o ya restaurant — squid ink soba alongside seared octopus and bonito, pictured, (he also serves a chilled squid ink soba dish in an uni consommé) and chilled soba noodles topped with uni, fresh wasabi, and a rich dashi broth.

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Top Chef Texas Episode 12: Chef Ed ‘Teddy Roosevelt’ Hardy on the Joy of Tofu

Having exhausted her wardrobe, Padma borrows daughter Krishna's onesie for tonight's episode.

He’s speaking softly and carrying a big stick, but we were still able to revisit the latest episode of Top Chef: Texas with Ed Hardy of Red Rooster Harlem.

How scary is this first speed challenge? As you move up the food chain as a chef, is it possible that you lose some of that prep-chef speed, when it comes to taking down, like, 40 chickens or whatnot?

A year ago I wouldn’t have admitted it, but its true. You DO lose some of your speed. I can feel my Super Chef speed being drained away by that vile, despicable, chef kryptonite known as meetings. Most of them are about how to motivate my staff. I always have the same answer: “A stick! Duh!”

Is there a solid corn dekerneling technique? Sometimes in my farm mags, see special tools for it, but I always just use a knife. Not sure if mine would pass muster with Chef Cora, though.

Always just use a knife. Flip the knife around and use the flat edge to “juice” the corn if you so desire.

Chef Cora? Let’s talk about “Chef” Cora. She’s not a chef. Not by a longshot. She’s a media creation. True, she was sous chef at the Old Chatham Sheepherding Company Inn for a year (now closed) and was Chef de Cuisine at Bistro Don Giovanni for, like, half a year. But from that to Iron Chef? Nada. She’s deliberately kept her career off her bio because there isn’t anything there. We deserve better. She’s not qualified to judge toast, much less pasta. And, before my wife jumps on me for being harsh to Lady Chefs, let me repeat that some of the best chefs I’ve worked with in the business are women. Missy Robbins at A Voce, Meg Grace at The Redhead, Melinda Bradley at Canon Seattle, Melissa Close at Palladio — I’ve been  honored to work with them all. Cat Cora? Not so much.

You forgot Lisa Griffin! What is Grayson’s disconnect here with the pasta? I mean, she pulls it out, but that was like a hot mess. Is pasta-making a skill you can lose if you don’t use it?

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There’s No Place Like OM — or I Trulli: Don’t Miss Today’s Spotlight Offers!

OpenTable’s Spotlight deals in Boston and New York are ending tonight at 12AM EST. Don’t miss your chance to purchase $50 worth of food and drinks for just $25 — a 50% discount! OM, in Cambridge, is a terrific place to soothe your soul with aromatherapy cocktails and satisfy your appetite with summer-fresh dishes that will awaken your all your senses. I Trulli in Manhattan’s Murray Hill neighborhood is renowned for its housemade (or we should say ‘mom-made,’ as the owner’s mother is I Trulli‘s resident pastamaker) pastas and its use of seasonal ingredients to serve authentic Italian fare.

Grab your Spotlight deals before they go dark tonight. And, stay tuned for next week’s deals.

Who do you think should step into OpenTable Spotlight in Boston and New York? Suggest a restaurant in the comments section!

Valentine’s Day 2010: Put a Fork in It!

Valentines-Day-2010-Put-a-Fork-In-ItValentine’s Day 2010 is just a fond (I hope!) memory by now. I hope yours was as fun as mine (I dined at SHO Shaun Hergatt and had a delightful Valentine’s Day dinner!). I didn’t get there in a limo, but some lucky Tweeps had that option, thanks to winning the OpenTable Valentine’s Day Limo Twitter Giveaway, sponsored by Congratulations to all our winners!

One of the most popular eateries for Valentine’s Day, according to your tweets in response to Monday’s query, was — surprise! — The Melting Pot. On Tuesday, when we asked who your celebrity dream date is, the most popular celebs were actors Halle Berry and Tyrese. Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds took second place. Angelina Jolie may have Brad Pitt, but more of you want to dine with his first wife, Jennifer Aniston. The “Jersey Shore” cast proved popular, with JWoww, The Situation, and DJ Pauly D getting some love from OpenTable diners (but not, alas, Snookie. Poor Snickers!) Your most random dream dates? “Golden Girl” Bea Arthur and hockey great Gordie Howe. Someone chose reality-TV-star-turned-punchline Jon Gosselin. Let’s hope it was in jest.

In terms of your favorite food to eat on Valentine’s Day, your tweets told us that it was a bad day to be a cow or a lobster, as surf and turf was one of top most romantic dishes. OpenTable diners are clearly chocoholics as chocolate, though, took first place. Strawberries dipped in chocolate were also wildly popular. Back on the savory side, a stand-alone steak, pasta, oysters, and fondue were also all the rage. The sweetest most romantic food-related tweet I saw? A diner tweeted, “Anything healthy so we can live a long life together.”

When we asked you to tweet your favorite romantic movie on Thursday, Love Actually was the winner — but just by one vote. The Notebook came in second. Other picks included Casablanca, Ghost, Sleepless in Seattle, When Harry Met Sally, and The Princess Bride. Offbeat tweets highlighted Better Off Dead, The Empire Strikes Back, and Shaun of the Dead (Nothing says romance like zombies, really.). Cutest tweets: Lady and the Tramp got two votes. That pasta-sharing scene gets me every time I see it, and, clearly, I’m not alone. It also makes me want to eat spaghetti every time I see it.

Finally, the most romantic city, according to your tweets, is — shocker! — Paris. New York bumped San Francisco to third place, by just a single tweet. Florence and Venice, Italy, each got a lot of love as did Charleston. Unique suggestions included Bruges, Pittsburgh, and Warsaw.

Congratulations again to our winners, and thanks to and for all your terrific tweets. If you’re still seeking more romance until next Valentine’s Day, check out the Top 50 Most Romantic Restaurants, according to the 2010 OpenTable Diners’ Choice Awards.