Like so many New York restaurants, Nolita’s Noodlelove had to pandemic-pivot. It once catered to the fast-casual crowd: 9-5 workers looking down to slurp down a quick bowl before scurrying back to the office, or busy go-go-go New Yorkers who wanted something delicious and wanted it now. But the coronavirus upended culture in the city as we know it. And although it certainly isn’t dead—have you seen the line at Via Carota these days?—it is different. With bars, movie theaters, and Broadway closed, dinners are no longer the first stop on a long night out. They’re the main affair.
Owner Natalie Camerino decided to embrace this new reality and transform Noodlelove into Umma, a new, full-service restaurant cooking up Asian-Americana comfort food. (And even that descriptor is diminutive: chef Tabitha Yeh takes cues from Italian and French cuisine as well. It’s a reflection of her own global upbringing—she’s cooked everywhere from Shanghai to Copenhagen, and in illustrious kitchens like Per Se and Noma.) There’s cheeseburger dumplings, KFC bao buns, Korean BBQ flank steak, and matzo ball soup with bone broth and scallions, just to name a delicious few. As the weather gets colder and the times remain uncertain, it’s the type of cuisine that both excites and assuages.
Below, Yeh shares her recipe for Seoul alle Vongole. It was inspired by Camerino herself, whose mother is Korean and father is Italian. “The hybrid dish is our Korean fusion take on ‘linguini with clams’,” Yeh explains. “I knew I had perfected the dish when I made it for Natalie. When she took her first bite, she closed her eyes and smiled. I could tell that it brought her back to her childhood. She said it reminded her of being home and I joked, ‘this is you in a bowl.'”
Seoul alle Vongole
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
Total time: 45 minutes
Serving size: 4
2 packs thick wonton noodles (Wonton Specialist Inc recommended)
4 tablespoons sourdough crumble (ingredients below)
6 tablespoons Canola oil
4 tablespoons garlic, finely minced
4 tablespoons Gochugaru (hold some to garnish)
2.5 cups dry white wine
2 pounds Manila clams
5 cups napa cabbage, cut roughly into 1” equal squares
1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced
Kosher salt to taste
Clam Juice Reduction
3 ⅓ cups clam juice
3 tablespoons fish sauce
1.5 tablespoons Gochugaru
¼ loaf high quality sourdough
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1.5 tablespoons kosher salt
Make the clam juice reduction: Set stove to medium high. Add 3 ⅓ cup of clam juice to the 2-quarter pot. Bring to a boil and let the clam juice reduce to increase the intensity of the flavor. Once it’s reduced to 2 ¼ cups, add 3 tablespoons of fish sauce and 1.5 tablespoons of Gochugaru. Let it all steep together for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and reserve
Make the sourdough crumble. Preheat oven to 350F, convection. Cut sourdough into square cubes 1-inch around. In a bowl, toss bread with extra-virgin olive oil and kosher salt to taste. Place on a parchment lined sheet tray. Bake the bread until toasted and golden brown, about 10 minutes.
Once baked, place the bread into a food processor and pulse until you have coarse-looking breadcrumbs. If you do not have a food processor, place the bread into a gallon size ziploc bag, put a kitchen towel over the bag and gently smash it with a rolling pin until you have the same result of coarse looking breadcrumbs.
3.Bring 5 quarts of water to a boil. Add wonton noodles. Gently agitate the noodles with chopsticks to prevent the noodles from sticking together. Boil for 1 minute and 15 seconds.
Strain the noodles and rinse with cold water. Try to shake off the excess water off the noodles in the colander
Place wok or rondeau pan on the stove. Set to medium/high and add oil. When the oil starts to ripple, add minced garlic and quickly let it saute until it’s aromatic (careful not to let it brown). Add 4 tablespoons of Gochugaru, clams and a pinch of salt. Saute for about 20 seconds. Add white wine. Turn fire to the highest setting. Once the first clam starts to open, add clam juice reduction.
Reduce the liquid that’s in the by ¼. Add the napa cabbage and reduce for another minute. The liquid should be reduced by half at this point (If the liquid is not reduced by half, remove the clams from the pan with the slotted spoon and continue to reduce the liquid- add the clams back into the pot once the liquid is at the halfway point). Add the noodles and cook for another minute or so on high heat. The mixture should be saucy, but not soupy. Add in half the scallions. Toss to combine. Taste and season with salt if desired.
Remove from heat. Plate by adding wonton noodles and in clams to a bowl. Garnish with scallions, sprinkle of gochugaru, and sourdough crumble.