Kinda-Sorta Pad Thai (Chicken and Rice Noodles)
I really wanted to post this Thursday night, but, you know, sometimes other things get in the way. For example, I thought OlderSon and GirlFriend would arrive from Boston, where coincidentally OlderSon was visiting said GirlFriend, and I got busy throwing together a cake so they would have a snack after such a long trip from Boston. But by the time I cleaned up all the dishes and pots from dinner then worked on the cake (the recipe of which will be posted sometime this weekend, I'm through promising exact dates anymore) it was 11:45pm and I was too tired to come up with any witty/snarky remarks.
The two of them tip-toed in at around 3am. See, there was this major traffic jam, followed by yet another traffic jam ...
Several of my loyal readers have asked me over the last couple of days about why certain steps are done in a particular way. For example, do the veggies have to be cut into matchsticks, that sort of thing. So, I will try an experiment and explain everything in greater, more excruciating detail. If everyone comments at the bottom that they like the newer format, then I'll continue it. Otherwise I'll go back to the more boring do-it-my-way style.
I really wanted to make a recipe for spring rolls I found somewhere. But this time, I'm proud to say, I had the important rice paper to wrap the rolls on my shopping list! However, I'm ashamed to say that while at the Try 'n Save, somehow I blipped over said item on the list and didn't purchase it. So at lunchtime yesterday I popped over to the closest supermarket and discovered that rice paper wasn't carried there (why I didn't head over to the local oriental farmer's market is beyond me). But the supermarket did have rice noodles. So I searched The Google and found a recipe at Seasonal Ontario Food that looked intriguing. It reminded me a little of Pad Thai, even tho it didn't have most of the ingredients that Pad Thai usually has such as eggs, chili paste and fish sauce. I replaced these with a few different ingredients so it's a tad closer, but not even close enough to really call it Pad Thai, which is why the title of this post includes the more American name.
Chicken and Rice Noodles
adapted from Seasonal Ontario Food
12-14 oz. package dried rice noodles (flat or broad style)
2-3 cups shredded cabbage, depending upon how much you like cabbage (bagged cole slaw mix is ok)
1 large carrot or 2 medium-sized ones
1 medium-large sized red pepper
1 large onion
1 tsp. chopped garlic (bottled ok)
1 tsp. ground ginger
2 cups shredded leftover chicken
2 Tbl. corn or soy oil
1/4 cup light soy sauce
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
1 tsp. black and/or white sesame seeds (optional)
1/4 cup chopped peanuts, for garnish (optional)
1/4 cup chopped cilantro, for garnish (optional)
Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
When it comes to a rolling boil, turn off heat and add rice noodles. Make sure you really use a large pot, at least 4 quart size. Don't cheat and use your 3 quart as I did, otherwise you'll spend precious minutes poking at the noodles in a futile attempt to get them submerged. Let noodles soak for 8 minutes, then drain and rinse in cold water. Drain well and set aside. Now you might think this last step is kind of silly ... why rinse the noodles in cold water when you are just going to heat them up again in the skillet? But the purpose of the cold water is to stop the cooking process and prevent the noodles from getting mushy and sticking to the bottom of the skillet in a congealed lump. Some will stick to the bottom of the skillet, but some is much better than most.
If you didn't opt for the pre-shred, then now is the time to shred the cabbage.
See all those pretty large outer leaves? They don't taste as good as they look. Tear them off and toss into the compost bin.
Take the remaining tiny baseball-sized head and slice it in half about half-way. The purpose is to make the shredding part easier. Then turn the head (of the cabbage, not yours) 90 degrees, and again slice it about half-way. Looks sort of like the xbox design, doesn't it? :p
Start slicing through everything down to the end of the cuts to create the shreds. I prefer thin shreds, like the ones in the bag you probably bought anyway, but I always seem to slice 'em on the thicker side. No matter, the flavor is the same, and it's going to reduce down anyway in a few minutes.
You should have 2-3 cups of slaw, depending upon the size of the cabbage. If you think you need more, just make another X in the cut side and have another whack at it. If there's any leftover cabbage, store it, loosely wrapped, in the fridge, for another day. Or up to next week. Cabbage can hang around quite a long time.
Now on to the carrots! You can cut the carrots into matchsticks, if you like. I specificed matchsticks in the soup from the other day, but only because that's how it is traditionally served in the soup and because matchsticks will stay crunchier than tiny shreds. But unless you had someone of the Malaysian persuasion at your dinner table (or maybe a gourmet snob) no one will really care. Actually, if you did cut the carrots for the soup into matchsticks, maybe someone in your house will be impressed. No, here neither. :( Anyway, the point I'm making is that in some recipes it really doesn't matter.
To demonstrate, for this recipe I used the veggie peeler to shred up the carrot, which will cook and soften faster due to the paper-thinness of said shreds.
But I left the red pepper as matchsticks, to help keep their crunchiness. First I cut the pepper in half, then removed and discarded (or composted) the seeds and membranes. Then I took each half, flattened it, and cut it into thin slices.
Then I cut the slices in half. Voila, matchsticks! Note the carrot shreds still sitting on the cutting board.
Cut the onion in a similar fashion to the cabbage. Remove the outer brown leaves, cut off the top, then cut through half-way, almost to the root end.
Turn the onion 90 degrees, then cut through again to make a deep X into it.
Then slice off slices as thin as you can.
You should now have a few nice piles of carrot, red pepper and onions.
Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large skillet or wok.
Add the onion and sauté, stirring constantly (to prevent premature browning) until it begins to soften, just 2-3 minutes.
Add garlic, ginger, carrot and pepper. Take a minute to admire how orange-y it made the veggies (actually, it only appears very orange-y because I took the picture without a flash). Stir-fry over medium-high heat, stirring constantly until the carrots soften, another 3-5 minutes, depending upon shred size.
Add chicken and stir-fry another minute or two to heat it up. Move the chicken mixture to a covered dish and keep warm.
Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in the skillet. Add the cooked and cooled rice noodles and soy sauce. Using a spatula, lift and stir to mix well for a minute or two to evenly heat the noodles without burning, then add the chicken mixture back in.
Top with cabbage. Stir for another 2 minutes until the cabbage has wilted and reduced down.
Mix in sesame oil, and top with sesame seeds, if using. Forget to turn on the flash again and take a picture. :p
Plate chicken and noodles. Top with chopped peanuts and cilantro, if desired (I omitted the peanuts and missed them. They will be added next time).
Try to ignore dog waiting for some food to drop on the floor.