Sunday, January 18, 2009

Thai Rice Noodles


Do you ever feel like there's not enough time to try new things, and that our days are filled with too much routine? Well, that's the way I feel about cooking and baking. I look at my collection of cookbooks and there are so many things I want to try, and yet I find myself still making the same old stuff. I even did the math once: if I live fifty more years and try one new recipe per week, I'll get through 2600 recipes. While that may sound like alot, it doesn't come close to all of the cookbooks I hope to get through.
This week's new recipe is the Thai Rice Noodles from the Food Network Kitchens Favorite Recipes. I love pad thai and I was hoping that this would be a similar dish. 
Rice Noodle Nerves
I approach using rice noodles with some fear, as I have tried to use them in the past and they have turned out very chewy. Perhaps my soaking method was inadequate. Worried about repeating that mistake, I purchased the thin rice stick noodles rather than the medium-thick ones called for below. That may have been a mistake, but I saw some noodle recipes that call for them and I thought it would be an acceptable substitution. I covered the noodles in hot water and soaked them for about 45 minutes, but even these noodles seemed to have an odd texture (not the smooth texture I was expecting). Does anyone know what I did wrong? Still, they were edible so I continued with the dish.
Don't Fear the Fish Sauce
I had already purchased fish sauce for some Thai curries that I did over the summer, and it contributed a really nice flavor to them. However, the 3 tablespoons of fish sauce in these noodles may have been too much for me. I wasn't able to taste the garlic, jalapeno, and ginger I had also put in, and the noodles seemed to absorb much of that sauce. (Again, do I have a noodle problem?)  Next time, less fish sauce.
The verdict: I went with basil instead of mint, and added some shredded rotisserie chicken. Overall, I thought it was pretty good but was disappointed by the odd texture and unusual flavor and think that these may have been due to "user error". I'd give it 2.5 stars out of five.
Lessons for next time: Part of being a good cook is figuring out what makes a dish succeed or fail. I'm going to try this recipe again with different noodles, less fish sauce, and more vegetables. Trying this new recipe has been instructive and I hope to have more success next time.

Thai Rice Noodles
8 to 10 oz. medium-thick rice noodles (also called rice sticks or jantaboon)
3 T. fish sauce
3 T. sugar
3 T. soy sauce
2 T. peanut oil
4 scallions, thinly sliced (white and green parts)
1 jalapeno, stemmed and finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, smashed peeled, and roughly chopped
1 c. mung bean sprouts
2 handfuls fresh mint or basil leaves (about 1 cup)
1/2 c. cashews or peanuts
1 lime, cut into  wedges

Put rice noodles in bowl with hot w, add a cup or sof of quick -cater to cover. Soak until tender and pliable, about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl whisk together the fish sauce, sugar, and soy sauce; set aside.
Drain the noodles and set aside. heat a large skillet over high heat. Add the oil and when hot, add the scallions, jalapeno, garlic, and bean sprouts. Cook, stirring until the vegetables begin to brown and the garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the sauce mixture; gently swirl around the pan. Ad the drained noodles and toss to coat them with the sauce. Remove the skillet from the heat and coarsely tear the mint into the skillet. Sprinkle in the nuts. Toss a few more times to incorporate the mint and nuts and mound into a large serving bowl. Garnish with lime wedges and serve.
To upgrade the dish, try the following: toss in 1 to 2 cups shredded cooked chicken, extra-firm tofu cubes, thinly sliced cooked pork tenderloin, or 1 lb. ready-to-eat shrimp. Or, add a cup or so of quick-cooking vegetables. You could also add some chopped ginger with the garlic, 1/4 c. canned coconut milk, or sprinkle on some chopped chiles before serving.

2 comments:

Linda said...

I must say that phad thai is one of the more difficult recipes that we do (mostly Paul cooks this one) but one of the secrets is to soak your rice noodles for the right amount of time. Make sure they are fairly tender (not hard in any way) before you drain the hot water off. The hotter the water the less time you have to keep them soaking. The other helpful hint when cooking phad thai is to make extra liquid or sauce because the noodles soak up so much. This dish is best eaten right away and not so good as a left over.
Gosh I really love Thai food!
Good job Cath!
Linda Lou

Linda said...

I must say that phad thai is one of the more difficult recipes that we do (mostly Paul cooks this one) but one of the secrets is to soak your rice noodles for the right amount of time. Make sure they are fairly tender (not hard in any way) before you drain the hot water off. The hotter the water the less time you have to keep them soaking. The other helpful hint when cooking phad thai is to make extra liquid or sauce because the noodles soak up so much. This dish is best eaten right away and not so good as a left over.
Gosh I really love Thai food!
Good job Cath!
Linda Lou