In Pursuit of Rice Noodles

I still remember my mother’s first attempt at cooking rice noodles at home. I was ten.  I remember her excitement on finding rice noodle packages at Anand Store behind New Market in Calcutta. My mother’s introduction to rice noodles was on a trip to Singapore when I was six.

It took my mother a few more years to find rice noodles in Calcutta. When she did manage to find them, she cooked them like she would cook her Chinese noodles:  stir fried with onions, carrots, green bean, chicken, soya sauce and ‘Aginamoto’(MSG). I remember her complaining about the mushy fall apart texture of the noodles once she had stirred them with the meat and vegetables, saying how it resembled nothing like the ones in Singapore. She never gave up until she knew just how to cook them before they would turn soggy. It tasted just as good to me.

2004, in Ottawa with Tony, I was introduced to the world of Thai food. A small restaurant off Dalhousie Street was where I first tasted an authentic plate of Thai food. I thought I had wasted 29 years of my life! From the array of dishes we had ordered ‘Rice Noodles with Coriander Root, Basil and Chicken’ left the greatest impression.

Since then I have been trying my hand at experimenting with rice noodles; I’m still on the hunt for the perfect recipe. Part of me believes there will never be the perfect recipe to bring me back to what I have been trying to recapture. It was 2004, we had just got engaged,  and we were romancing in a little restaurant eating exotic Thai food.  It was more than the food and the taste, it was how we felt!

This dish is quick and easy, hot and spicy, visually and aromatically delightful. Red chili flakes and ginger provide enough heat but still keep the dainty and light-flavored rice noodles as the center of attention.

A spice lover’s comfort food on a rainy day.

Hot and Aromatic Rice Noodles with Chicken

You will need:

  • Flat Rice noodles: 425gm pack. Cooked (follow package directions) Soak in boiling water for 6 mins
  • Chicken: cut into strips 1 and ½ cups
  • Sesame oil: 1 tbsp
  • Veg oil: 3 tbsp
  • Ginger: juiced 2tsp
  • Young Ginger: ½ inch julienned
  • Red chili flakes: 1 tsp + 1 tbsp
  • Red Bell Pepper: ½ cup julienned
  • Onion: 1 cup thick slice
  • Soya sauce: 3 tbsp
  • Oyster sauce: 3 tbsp
  • Brown sugar: 1 tsp
  • Lime juice: 2 tsp
  • Basil: fresh whole leaves 1 bunch, separated from stem, hand torn to wide strips

Directions:

  • Marinate chicken strips in soya sauce, lime juice, brown sugar, ginger juice and 1 tsp red chili for ½ hr.
  • Heat veg oil in wok, stir fry chicken for 4-5 minutes in high heat. Cover and turn down heat to low and let chicken cook till done. Usually takes about 12-15 mins until cooked thoroughly. Stir occasionally.
  • When chicken is cooked, take out of pan leaving oil behind. Reserve chicken. Increase heat  to high and on the same pan with left over oil add red bell pepper, onions and julienned young ginger and stir for 2-3 minutes, add  rest of the chili flakes, sesame oil and oyster sauce and stir fry for 3-4 mins, add chicken back to vegetables and stir until mixed. Toss rice noodles and combine gently. Take off heat, add fresh basil, toss and serve immediately.

Chicken can be easily substituted for Tofu or Paneer. Cook times when using the substitution will vary.

Enjoy!

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