What’s super-hot right now? Rice noodles! They’re a healthy kitchen staple that are easy to produce, last forever in your pantry and are enjoyed all over the world (not just in Asia). According to food industry insiders, the market is set to increase thanks to popular trends like health-consciousness, gluten-freedom and, well, Asian food! Check out 10 recipes for this chewy, satisfying ingredient and you might just discover your favorite new bowl of noodles.
Famous for being a late night drinking dish, Drunken Noodles is a marriage between my Thai and Chinese roots. The sauce seems complicated, but it’s as simple as measuring and dumping in a bowl. Fresh rice noodles are a deli item at most Asian markets. They are made and delivered fresh daily to the markets. It’s best to buy and use them within 48 hours. A way to tell if they are fresh is just to take the pack and fold it like a towel. If you can fold until the ends touch and the middles aren’t cracking, that’s a sign of freshness.
Recipe: Grilled Shrimp Pad Thai
Struck by a wave of nationalism, Siam attempted to modernize itself by changing the name of the nation to Thailand, which literally translates to “land of the free.” This new era for Southeast Asia promoted the export of its unique culture and cuisine to the United States. In the coming decades, Thai dishes would dramatically gain popularity and undergo several American makeovers and hybridizations — in some cases, with disappointing results. In this case, Hong Thaimee provides a recipe, inspired by that original excitement of the Thai people of 1939 who were eager to share their culture, history and exotic flavors with the world, in its original, flavorful form.
Recipe: Classic Mohinga
Unless you’ve been to Myanmar or have a Burmese friend, you’ve probably never heard of mohinga, which is too bad: it’s essentially the national dish, made in nearly every corner of the country. When sister restaurant Burma Love was newly opened, Desmond noticed the mohinga served there wasn’t quite hitting the mark. To troubleshoot, he asked Ma Htay, one of the restaurant’s cooks who had been working on the salad station, to show the other cooks where they were going wrong. She nailed it.
Recipe: Char Kway Teow
Chinese food: We’re talking all provinces, all dishes, for every meal of the day. Whether you’re craving sweet and savory barbecued meats, wok-crisped vegetables, steaming bowls of noodles, fluffy stuffed buns or hard-to-find specialty and holiday dishes, China: The Cookbook is exactly what you need. Tonight, we’re learning how to make char kway teow.
Thin rice noodles tend to clump together when cooked. But Andrea Nguyen, author of Into the Vietnamese Kitchen, developed a cool trick that keeps them from sticking too much: Invert a small bowl in the bottom of the colander for the noodles to drape over as they drain. “We’re scrappy, clever cooks,” says Nguyen. The proof is in this complete meal that stretches the main protein (shrimp) with lettuce, cucumbers, herbs and nuts. The bold flavor comes from nuoc cham, Vietnam’s go-to sauce for dipping and drizzling that’s sweet, sour, salty, hot, and savory all at once.
In the city of Hsinchu, in the northwest of Taiwan, the air is much windier and drier. Many rice-noodle factories are located there, as the climate allows the freshly made noodles to dry quickly. Taiwanese rice noodles are often labeled “Hsinchu rice noodles” on packages found in groceries, even in the U.S., and are exceptionally thin. One of the most famous preparations is a steaming platter of pan-fried rice noodles served at the family table for everyday and special occasions. While delicate, these rice noodles can stand up surprisingly well to a lot of tossing and turning in the pan without breaking or sticking as easily as wheat noodles would.
Ninety percent of the work required to make these summer rolls is in the shopping; the remainder is in feigning exhaustion at having produced such spectacular snacks for your friends. In between, all you need to do is toss vegetables, herbs and noodles in a light seasoning, then roll that salad up with some sliced shrimp into cute little rice-paper burritos!
Recipe: Hearty Chicken Pho Noodle Salad
You would think that Hanoi, the birthplace of Viet culture and pho, would stay close to tradition. But it’s actually a city open to new pho ideas, such as this chicken and rice noodle salad dressed with a tangy-spicy soy sauce and served with a side of hot pho broth. The broth is enjoyed as a chaser to the somewhat intense noodles and chicken.
Recipe: Grilled Pork Rice Noodle Salad
This grilled pork rice noodle salad, courtesy of celebrated chef Kimmy Tang at Beverly Hills French-Vietnamese restaurant 9021PHO, is a simple but exotic dish with tons of flavor. The dressing is great for any salad that could use a bright Asian twist, so make extra and keep it in the fridge for a week in case for salads, marinades, noodles or even a light dipping sauce.
Like the Vietnamese sausage, these meatballs are multipurpose. You can serve them as is, with rice, or as a sandwich filling. I particularly like the meatballs alongside a plate of fresh vermicelli noodles drizzled with scallion oil and served with torn lettuce, cucumber, and flavored fish sauce for dipping. Pickled radish is also a nice addition.