Okay, so we had the miso-glazed eggplant to start my attempt at an elegant Saturday night meal. But what to accompany? I wasn't feeling in a pad thai mood, nor was I really feeling like tofu. Then, I suddenly remembered a recipe I'd made at home several years before. M. wasn't with me on that particular trip, but I remembered loving this particular dish that my mother and I made together. The recipe came out of a Vietnamese-Thai cookbook she received that Christmas, and this was the recipe we tried to break it in. I copied the recipe, but I didn't record the name of the cookbook. So that remains a mystery.
I'm not sure what made me think of this recipe yesterday, but I did. It involves chopping - so much chopping - that I recommend cheating and using pre-shredded carrots and cabbage (as I did) if available. There are many components to the dish but they come together so nicely! M. was very impressed (although very hungry by the time I actually got the dish to the table). This is not a quick weeknight meal but a meal you might make when you really want to enjoy the process of cooking (or at least chopping). Otherwise you'll lose your mind!
Warm Vegetables on Cool Noodles
Serves 4 (We'll be getting at least 6 servings out of this dish)
Notes from author - Of all the vegetarian dishes I have cooked - and there are many- this is my all-time favorite. It's simple and straightforward, but the flavors are intense and lively. Make sure you have all the ingredients preapred before you start to cook. The actual cooking time for this dish is only minutes.
1/2 pound dried rice vermicelli boiled in water for 4-5 minutes, rinsed and drained
2 cups bean sprouts
1/2 small cucumber, seeded and julienned
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, cut in half
3 romaine lettuce leaves shredded
1 cup julienned carrots
2 cups broccoli florets, cut into small thin pieces
2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
1 small yellow onion sliced
6 dried black mushrooms, soaked in hot water for thirty minutes, stemmed and thinly sliced
(I used shiitake)
2 cups shredded Napa cabbage
1 medium bell pepper, julienned
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons chopped roasted peanuts
1 cup cilantro-lime soy sauce (see additional recipe)
After the rice vermicelli have cooled, gently toss with the bean sprouts, cucumber, mint and lettuce until well blended. Set aside.
Bring water to a rolling boil in a medium pot. Using sieve with handle, blanch the carrots and broccoli until colors turn (about 10 seconds). Shock in ice water immediately. Drain, and set aside.
Just before serving, heat the oil in a large wok or skillet over high heat. Wait for pan to get very hot, almost smoking. Carefully add the onion (oil may splatter) and stir until it begins to soften (about 30 seconds). Add the mushrooms and saute for one minute. Add the carrots, broccoli, cabbage and bell pepper and stir-fry for 2-3 more minutes. Vegetables should be very hot and sizzling. Push the vegetables to one side of the pan and add soy sauce to the open area to create a distinctive fragrance. Then continue stirring vegetables for another minute and remove from heat.
To serve, place noodle mixture in individual soup or pasta bowls. Top with stirfried vegetables. Garnish with peanuts. Invite each gues to drizzle 3 tablespoons of cilantro-lime soy sauce on the noodles and toss gently before eating.
Cilantro-Lime Soy Sauce
makes about 2/3 cup
Using soy sauce as the base, the smashed ginger, chilies, garlic and lime juice make this sauce particularly memorable.
1 clove garlic
2 fresh thai bird chilies and/or 1 teaspoon of ground chili paste (I went with the paste, and added 1.5 teaspoons which was possibly a bit much for us)
1 1 inch piece of fresh giner, peeled and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons of finely chopped cilantro
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice with pulp
3 tablespoons of water
2 tablespoons of sugar
Place garlic, chiles, chili paste and ginger in a mortar and pound to a paste. Transfer paste into a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid and add remaining ingredients. Mix well until sugar is dissolved. To serve, pour into small ramekins. Sauce will keep in refridgerator for up to two weeks.
So yes, a meal with a lot of chopping and prep work. Was it as good as I remembered? Yes. Will I make it again tomorrow? No. But will I make it again some other lazy Saturday? Yes.
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