Dan Dan Noodles/ 擔擔麵 – Part 1

Gochugaru Girl is seeing in the New Year by taking a break from the study room (where I write) and from the living room (where I watch K-Drama) and going back into the kitchen.

Specifically, it is to have a good clear out of the cupboards.

A few months ago I read Marie Kondo’s book* and put the KonMari Method to use on my wardrobe and handbags. That was extremely successful: after going through the psychology, practicalities and pitfalls of tidying, Marie says you just have to ask yourself this one vital question when confronting an item that has its existence hanging on the precipice of the binbag:

Does It Spark Joy?

“If it does, keep it. If not, throw it out…we should be choosing what we want to keep, not what we want to get rid of.”

To soften her approach, I would add that most of these items can be donated to a charity shop. What you mustn’t do is to pass it to anyone in the family lest it become a burden to them.

This is a brilliant book, and one which everyone should read at the beginning of the new year. There is an order to the tidying up: clothes first, followed by books, papers/ stationary, miscellaneous items and then finally sentimental items. The reason is that personal items, like photos, are not so easily subjected to the ‘keep it or bin it’ rule and it will take more time than normal to go through this process. This is why I started with clothes, as suggested.

Is my house perfectly tidy now? Hardly…Marie deals with many single people who have small rooms/ flats and who only have to work on their own clutter. I can apply this method to myself but it is not possible to make the other members of my family do the same. Indeed Marie advises against it, as it causes resentment if you are too dictatorial.

At the beginning of any meeting with a new client, Marie asks what kind of ideal lifestyle they envisage living. This helps the client focus on the tidying up process, and this inevitably leads to a change in the client’s outlook to work and personal relationships.

I don’t have a particular lifestyle I aspire to; I just want to avoid  the frustration of not being able to have a tidy kitchen. Up to five people use this space and I get very aggravated when things are not placed back in the right cupboards.

So I sat down and did a bit of analysis. In fact, digging deeper, the plates, cutlery, cups and pots are always placed back in their right positions. This comes back to what Marie astutely says in her book: you must keep everything of the same type/ category in one place as “people often store the same type of item in more than one place.”

This may not be a problem for most average households but here at Chez Gochugaru, we love cooking, and each one of us takes things out of the store cupboard and then replaces it back randomly. I am possibly the biggest culprit.




When I took out the items by category I was shocked to find that I had six types of oil (olive, sunflower, Argan, rapeseed, hazelnut, sesame) and six types of vinegar (Chinese, balsamic, lemon, apple, red wine, brown rice). This was just the beginning and I won’t go into how many types of tea leaves I had.




Since a cull was not on the cards, I just grouped the items by category and assigned each category a dedicated shelf in the cupboard. Marie says, “The moment you have put everything in its place, you have crossed the finish line…You only have to decide where to put things once.”

At the end of this exercise, I felt I had unblocked a mental hurdle:

Tidying is just a tool, not the final destination.

The final destination, in this instance, was to make this spicy Szechuanese noodle dish which Junior 2 and I love. One day we persuaded ourselves to head to Chinatown to try some there and it was a huge disappointment. It is not a difficult dish to make, but it does require many different ingredients. Happily, the store cupboard is now in order and anyone in our family can make this for themselves. The recipe follows in the next post.




* Marie Kondo: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying: A simple, effective way to banish clutter forever. Published by Vermilion (2014), ISBN 978-0091955106.