This is sand pear season! Sand pear, also known as Chinese pear, is the only pear variety that will grow this far south. Sand pears are hard, gritty, rough-skinned, and more perfumed than sweet. They’re too hard to eat raw but I love cooking and baking with them. Sand pears are almost as bad as zucchini around here… a few farmers were giving bags of them away with every purchase last weekend. I scored a large bag a few weeks ago and it was time to use them up.
The first tip when using sand pears is that they’re usually picked when hard and unripe to keep them from getting chewed on by birds, bugs and wasps. Put the hard fruit in a paper bag and put the bag in the produce drawer in the fridge and leave them alone for 2 weeks. When you pull out the pears they might have a white “bloom” on them. Just wash it off. Sand pears have to be peeled. The peel is rough, coarse and bitter; you don’t want to eat it, even after it’s been cooked. After peeling and coring, immediately submerge in water with a squeeze of lemon to keep them from turning brown.
Sand pears hold up well to cooking and are an excellent local substitute for Granny Smith apples in practically any sweet recipe. I’ve never tried using sand pears before in a savory recipe but when I saw this original recipe I knew I had to try it. I love substituting local ingredients in recipes but sometimes they just don’t work. This turned out absolutely delicious. It’s fiery red but don’t worry- the cold, crunchy, spicy noodles are insanely refreshing.
Sand Pear Spicy-Sweet Noodles
4 ripe sand pears, quartered, peeled and cored
2 cloves fresh garlic
3 fat green onions, chopped
1″ chunk ginger, peeled and sliced
1/2 c cold water
1/4 c soy sauce
1/2 c cane syrup
3 tbl sesame oil
pinch of salt
1 c Korean chile powder, the kind used for kimchi-making
1 cucumber, sliced
3-4 green onions, cut into 2″ pieces
shredded duck confit, or any leftover shredded meat
1 package cha soba or buckwheat soba
Combine 3 of the pears through the chile powder in a blender. Start by pulsing to chop everything up, then blend on high until the sauce is absolutely smooth and thick. Scrape the paste into a bowl and place in the fridge for 15 minutes.
Place a large pot of water to boil. When it’s at a rolling boil, add the noodles. Boil until barely al dente. Add the green onions to the boiling water in the last 30 seconds of cooking. Drain the noodles and onions and run under cold water until chilled. Slice the remaining pear into thin slices. Portion the noodles and green onions into bowls, top with cucumber, shredded duck, and sliced pear. Then add 2-3 big spoons-full of the chile paste. Each person stirs the paste into the noodles themselves.