Big Cool Noodle Bowl

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound thin dried rice noodles or angel hair pasta
  • 2 cups shredded lettuce or spring salad mix
  • 3 cups shredded roast chicken, or 1/2 pound grilled shrimp
  • 2 cups peeled and sliced cucumber
  • 1 cup small sprigs of fresh mint and fresh cilantro combined
  • 2 cups mung bean sprouts (optional)
  • 1 cup Everyday Pickled Carrots (recipe follows) or shredded carrots (optional)
  • 1/3 cup thinly sliced green onion
  • 3/4 cup chopped roasted and salted peanuts
  • Double recipe Everyday Dipping Sauce (recipe follows)

Preparation

  1. To cook the rice noodles, bring a large saucepan, Dutch oven, or pasta pot of water to a rolling bowl over high heat. Drop in the noodles, remove from the heat, and let stand for 10 minutes, using tongs or a slotted spoon and a fork to separate the noodles and let them cook evenly. When the noodles are tender, drain, rinse in cold water, and drain again. You'll have about 6 cups of cooked noodles. Let stand while you prepare the remaining ingredients.
  2. Set out 4 big Asian-style noodle bowls or pasta plates or soup bowls. Divide the ingredients evenly among the bowls: lettuce first, topped with 1 1/2 cups of noodles in each bowl. Put the roast chicken on one side, and the cucumber, fresh herbs, and any optional ingredients you're using on the other. Sprinkle green onions and peanuts over the chicken, pour 1/4 cup of Everyday Dipping Sauce over each portion of the noodles, and serve at once, inviting your guests to toss everything together as they begin to eat.

Everyday Pickled Carrots

I shred carrots on a box grated or in the food processor if I have time, and I use already shredded carrots from the produce section if I'm in a rush.

Makes about 3 cups of pickled carrots

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 3/4 cup white vinegar
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups shredded carrots (about 3/4 pound), or 1 1/2 cups shredded carrots and 1 1/2 cups shredded daikon

Preparation

  1. Combine the water, vinegar, sugar, and salt in a small saucepan and place over medium heat. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, swirling once or twice, until the sugar and salt dissolve and the sauce is clear and smooth. Transfer to a bowl and cool to room temperature. (Pour the brine into a cake pan, pie pan, or a metal bowl and place it in the freezer briefly if you're in a hurry.)
  2. Add the shredded carrots to the cooled brine, toss well, and set aside for 20 to 30 minutes. Serve at room temperature, or transfer to a jar, cover and refrigerate until serving time. Scoop out carrots from the brine as you need them and store the remainder in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Everyday Dipping Sauce - Nuoc Cham

Makes about 1/2 cup

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili-garlic sauce or finely chopped fresh hot red chilies, or 1 teaspoon dried red chili flakes
  • 3 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice

Preparation

  1. Combine the garlic, sugar, and chili-garlic sauce in the bowl of a mortar and mash to a paste. (Or combine them on your cutting board and mash to a coarse paste with a fork and the back of a spoon.)
  2. Scrape the paste into a small bowl and stir in the fish sauce, water, and lime juice. Stir well to dissolve the sugar. Transfer to small serving bowls for dipping. Or transfer to a jar, cover, and refrigerate for up to 1 week.

TIPS

  • Mung bean sprouts can be found in the produce section of most large supermarkets. They are used most often in Chinese dishes, but fresh raw ones add a nice crunch to salads. Look for ones that are crisp with buds still attached. Freshness is key. Store them in a plastic bag in the refrigerator and use within a day or two. Tinned mung bean sprouts are not a substitute.
  • Daikon is a variety of radish used in Asian and Japanese dishes. Its crisp white flesh is juicy, sweet, and earthy, without the peppery bite of the familiar round red-skinned ones. Look for daikon that is firm and smooth. Store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for about a week. Use fresh in salads and stir-fries or pickle in brine as Nancie suggests and use as a condiment.
  • Try chopped salted almonds instead of peanuts if allergies are a consideration.
  • One favored brand of fish sauce to look for has three crabs on the label. Store it in the refrigerator

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