I love noodles! It is also a very most versatile ingredient. With so many types of noodles and so many different ways to cook them, you are bound to have many favourites which I do. If you have ever travelled in Asia, especially China and South-east Asia, you would find noodles everywhere: from humble hawker carts to imperial banquets. This dish is a particular favourite of mine as it combines the textures and aromas of the best of Thai and Chinese cooking. I love its slightly heady spicy and sour taste, the crunch of the bean sprouts and the aromatic coriander. And to top it off, it can all be slurped from a bowl in front of the box if you must.
When cooking rice noodles, a fair amount of oil is needed for them not to stick to the wok or stick together. Do not be put off by the amount used however as a good squeeze of lime juice over will cut through the oil and make it less oily. The lime also enhances the taste dramatically and is an important ingredient for finishing off the dish. I have used Chinese fish cakes and fish balls which should be available from any good Oriental grocery store. If you cannot find any, use a mixture of chicken strips and prawns. Reduce the amount of red curry paste and sambal oelek used if you prefer it less spicy.
THAI-STYLE FRIED RICE NOODLES
3-4 tbsp vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
150g bean sprouts, washed and drained
250g thin flat rice noodles
1 tbsp Thai red curry paste
1 tbsp sambal oelek
1 tbsp Thai fish sauce
50ml (¼ cup) hot water
150g mixture of Chinese fish ball and fish cakes, cut into strips or
a mixture of chicken strips and prawns
80g coriander, roughly chopped
Heat a tablespoon of the oil in a large wok over high heat and when it is smoking hot, add the bean sprouts. Stir-fry for 1-2 minutes until bean sprouts are beginning to cook, but not wilting. They should still be crunchy. Remove and set aside.
Place rice noodles in a large heat-proof basin. Bring a kettle or large pan of water to boil, and pour over to cover the rice noodles. After a couple of minutes, give the noodles a stir to separate all the strands. Check after 4 minutes that noodles are not breaking up, and drain. Do not over-soak the noodles as they would break up and go starchy.
Heat remaining oil in the wok over medium heat, add garlic and fry a minute before adding the red curry paste and samba oelek to the wok. Continue to stir to soften the curry paste and bring out the flavours. Add the fish mixture or chicken and prawns, and fry for another 2-3 minutes. Add the fish sauce to the wok and 50ml of hot water, and allow to simmer for a minute or two.
Increase the heat slightly and add the bean sprouts, coriander and noodles to the wok. Using chopsticks and a spatula or two spatulas, turn the mixture to mix evenly. It would take 4-5 minutes to do so, by which time the noodles and bean sprouts would be thoroughly heated. Squeeze half the lime over the noodles and give it another quick stir. Serve immediately in bowls with the extra lime to squeeze over if desired.