My version of Chinese Spaghetti was inspired by a recipe called Yee Dai Lei Mein / Italian Mein from the cookbook Banquet: Ten Courses to Harmony written by Annette Shun Wah and Greg Aitkin. Banquet is not only a cookbook but also a history book of sorts, containing delightful and often bittersweet stories of early Chinese migrants in Australia. It is one of my earliest favourite cookbooks. Unfortunately, Banquet has been out of print for several years.
The Yee Dai Lei Mein recipe reminds me of the way Moms and home cooks would often modify the local popular dish to suit the ingredients and cooking methods they are already familiar with. Often, they inadvertently create a new family favourite, a fusion dish that even five-star chefs are yet to dream up. My mother was certainly no exception. She had come up with her own versions of sambals, satays, steak and gravy, Southern fried chicken, donuts and curries, just to name a few.
To cook Chinese spaghetti, start by soaking 12 dried Shiitake mushrooms in cold water for at least 30 minutes. Cut the Shiitake into thin slices and reserve the soaking water. Soak 12 black/cloud ear/wood ear mushrooms in cold water for at 15 minutes. Strain them and tear the jelly-like bits into bite-size pieces. Discard the woody parts. Rinse the cloud ear mushrooms at least 3 times to get rid of the dirt. Cook spaghetti according to the packet instructions. Set aside. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil over medium heat in a large pan. Add 4 cloves of minced garlic, 1 diced onion and Shiitake mushrooms. Stir until fragrant. Add 500g minced beef and the cloud ear mushrooms. Stir in 2 tablespoons of soy sauce, ½ teaspoon of sugar, white pepper and iodised salt to taste. Stir until the beef is well-browned. Add 1 cup of the Shiitake soaking water. Simmer for about 15 minutes. Serve the meat and mushroom sauce with the cooked spaghetti with finely sliced spring onion.
The flavour of the meat and mushroom sauce for this Chinese Spaghetti develops with time. So, it will taste even better the next day. There should be enough to eat over 6-7 meals. The more fresh spring onions and mushrooms you serve with this Chinese Spaghetti, the more delicious it is as they cut through the meatiness of the sauce and provide more crunch and bite to the sauce.