Give noodles the nod
Eateries showcasing noodles are popping up all over the country. Economical and tasty, these sometimes not-so-easy-to-eat threads come in numerous shapes, colours and textures and are the basis of many everyday Asian dishes.
In Vietnam, noodles are essential in the traditional soup pho (pronounced `far'). Stock and flavourings are simmered slowly, resulting in a well-flavoured base for rice noodles, beef, bean sprouts, herbs, chillies and vegetables of choice. Rice noodles – including the tennis racquet string-like rice vermicelli – are prepared from rice flour and water and have a bland flavour.
Rice noodles that are similar in width to fettuccine are popular in many Asian dishes, but especially so in Malay recipes. Spices and herbs provide exotic flavours for the noodles to absorb.
Bean thread vermicelli looks similar to rice vermicelli, but is prepared from mung bean flour, tapioca starch and water. It is commonly used in Thai and Vietnamese spring rolls and can also be deep-fried. Mee grob is a popular Thai dish with pork, spices and fried bean thread noodles.
Plump, white, slippery Japanese udon wheat noodles are served hot in winter dishes and chilled in summer salads.
Instant udon noodles are readily available in our supermarkets and need little cooking. They are a tradition in Japanese miso soup, but can also be the foundation of a Japanese curry.
Dried egg noodles (prepared from wheat flour and water but rarely eggs) are usually sold in coils or nests and are part of an overall Asian cuisine. Served tossed with sesame oil and soy sauce, they make an interesting salad or accompaniment. Egg noodles are also great in fritters, soups and stir-fries.
MALAYSIAN FUSION NOODLES
225g wide rice stick noodles
3 Tbsp sweet soy sauce
1 Tbsp each: water, canola oil
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
16 raw prawns, peeled and deveined
1 Tbsp each: chilli paste, diced garlic
227g can sliced water chestnuts, drained
1 green pepper (capsicum), seeded and julienned
Cook the noodles according to the packet instructions.
Combine the soy sauce and water. Set aside.
Heat half the oil in a wok, until shimmering. Add the eggs. Stir-fry until just cooked. Set aside.
Halve the chorizo lengthwise, then thinly slice crosswise.
Heat the remaining oil in the wok. Stir-fry the prawns and chilli paste for 30 seconds. Add the garlic and chorizo. Stir-fry until the prawns are just cooked. Add the soy sauce mixture, noodles, water chestnuts and green pepper. Stir-fry until heated through. Great served with steamed Asian greens and rice. Serves four.
PHO GA – VIETNAMESE CHICKEN NOODLE SOUP
To fast-track the recipe, I've taken stock from a tetrapak and added spices and herbs.
5 cups chicken stock
1 small red onion, halved
1 Tbsp each: grated root ginger, whole coriander seeds, grated palm sugar, fish sauce
2 star anise
2 large sprigs each: coriander, mint
Soup: 120g rice vermicelli
2 skinned and boned chicken breasts
12 sprigs coriander
12 each: basil leaves, mint leaves, sliced
2 limes, quartered
2 cups mung bean sprouts
2 chillies, seeded and diced
Place the stock ingredients in a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Simmer for 20-30 minutes. Strain and return the stock to the saucepan.
Meanwhile, cook the noodles according to the packet instructions. Drain and rinse under cold water.
Slice the chicken into 2cm-wide strips. Add to the strained stock and poach for 2-3 minutes, Add the noodles and heat through.
Using tongs, place the noodles in the base of 4 deep soup bowls. Top with the chicken. Add a few herbs, beansprouts and chilli to each bowl then pour the boiling stock over the top.
Serve with the remaining herbs, lime, sprouts and chilli on a platter so each person can top up their soup as required. Serves four.
UDON, CHICKEN & BOK CHOY
2 x 200g packets udon noodles
1/4 cup light soy sauce
2 Tbsp each: sesame oil, honey, balsamic vinegar
2 tsp cornflour
4 spring onions, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 Tbsp finely grated root ginger
2 bok choy or similar, thickly sliced
1 large skinned and boned chicken breast, sliced
Cook the noodles according to the packet instructions. Drain well.
Combine the soy sauce, 1 Tbsp of the sesame oil, the honey, balsamic vinegar and cornflour. Set aside.
Heat the remaining sesame oil in a non-stick frying pan. Stir-fry the onions, garlic and ginger for 30 seconds.
Add the chicken and stir-fry for 4 minutes.
Stir in the bok choy, until limp. Add the noodles and soy sauce mixture, stirring until thickened and heated through. Serves four.
200g bean thread (or rice) vermicelli
rice bran oil for deep frying
1 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, crushed
200g lean pork mince
2 Tbsp each: fish sauce, soy sauce
3 Tbsp each: rice vinegar, grated palm sugar
250g cooked prawns
1 cup bean sprouts
3 spring onions, sliced
4 sprigs coriander
1 red chilli, seeded and diced
Cut the vermicelli into smaller bundles. Heat the oil in a wok or deep saucepan then fry the noodles in batches for about 30 seconds, until puffed and lightly golden. Remove with tongs or a slotted spoon. Drain on paper towels.
Pour off all but 3 Tbsp of the oil. Stir-fry the onion and garlic then add the pork. Brown lightly.
In a small bowl combine the fish sauce, soy sauce, vinegar and sugar.
Add to the wok with the prawns and simmer on low heat for 2-3 minutes. Add the fried noodles, turning to coat with the sauce – do not overmix.
Pile the bean sprouts and spring onions on the plate and top with noodle mixture, coriander and chilli. Serves four.
Copyright Jan Bilton
The Marlborough Express