Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Singapore Rice Noodles

What a wonderful weekend!  We went down to Vancouver for a family wedding.  It was great to catch up with my cousins and their children on my father's side!  The last time I saw them all, it was at my cousin Stan's wedding, which was before my girls were born.  My mother took the children for the evening and we were able to enjoy the wedding.

The next day, we caught up with my mother's family for dinner at a Chinese restaurant.  Again, it was so much fun to see my aunts, uncles and cousins.  We ordered a bunch of family favourite dishes and had a great time catching up.  

Singapore rice noodles is a classic Cantonese dish that our family orders from Chinese restaurants or at the food courts in the Asian malls.  It is a common dish that probably no one really makes at home as it is so readily available in casual Chinese restaurants.  I wanted to make a less greasier, cleaner version at home.  I used a base recipe from my 10 year-old cookbook, WeightWatchers Take-Out Tonight! 

This dish is comprised of stir-fried rice noodles with prawns, barbecue pork or chicken, and veggies. It's distinct yellow hue is from turmeric and curry powder.  Depending on the cook, it can be very spicy.   Like a lot of stir-fry Asian recipes, this dish can be customized to your liking with your favourite meat and vegetables.  The kids and I can't handle things too hot, so I tone it down. 

The key to making rice noodles:  do not overcook. Overcooked noodles are mushy and they break apart into tiny little bits.  I have seen so many different recipes on how to prepare/cook rice noodles and I find that soaking them in hot water for 5-6 minutes gives great results.    

Dried rice noodles come in 14oz or almost 1lb package.  Each package has about 2-3 pieces.  Since food does not last long in our house, I normally double the recipe and use the whole package of noodles. 

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and remove it from the heat.  Soak 1-2 pieces of rice noodles into a pot of hot water for 5-6 minutes until softened. 

After 5-6 minutes, the noodles will be softened but still be undercooked. 

Place the noodles onto a large dinner plate to air dry, so the noodles will retain its shape when the curry sauce is added. 

Heat 1 tablespoon canola oil in a large pot or wok on medium-high heat.  Stir-fry onion for 1-2 minutes until soft but do not let them go brown. I prefer to use canola oil for this dish as extra virgin olive oil gets too smoky at high temperatures.

Add the red peppers and stir-fry for another 1-2 minutes until crisp-tender.  Remove the onions and red peppers from the wok.   

Scrambled eggs are optional in this dish. I have seen some restaurants use it and I like to sneak in extra protein and veggies with noodles.  Add another tablespoon of canola oil at medium-high heat and then add 2 scrambled eggs to the wok.  

When the eggs are half-cooked, dump in the cooked onions and red pepper.  Using a spatula, break up the eggs and stir-fry until the eggs are cooked.

Then add 1/2 cup chicken broth.   I took extra pictures to show that the cooked egg looks ugly and messy.  Bear with me, it does get better!

Add the meat (I use barbecue pork), curry powder, turmeric, sugar and salt.  Simmer for 1 minute.  Make sure to take the wok off heat and then add the green onion.  The curry powder gives the dish its distinct flavour and turmeric gives the noodles its classic yellow colour.  Without turmeric, the noodles will not be as vibrant as the ones made in the restaurant. 

At this point, the ingredients in the wok do not look appetizing.  It looks like a yucky mess with the egg all broken up!  Don't worry!  It will look yummy when the noodles are added.  Again, the scrambled egg is optional.   

Next, add the prepared rice noodles. The noodles will be cold and clumped together.  Let the noodles soak up the chicken broth for a few seconds. With chopsticks or a fork, wiggle the noodles around.  The noodles will loosen up as it soaks the liquid.  Toss the noodles with the rest of the ingredients, like a salad.   

Done!  Add more salt and pepper to taste.  I only use 1/4 teaspoon tumeric but if you like a more vibrant yellow hue, you can add a bit more.  I notice as the dish sits longer (overnight), the noodles do get more yellow the next day.

Singapore Rice Noodles

5- 6oz dried rice noodles
big pot of boiling water

2 Tbsp canola oil
1 cup sliced onion
1 cup red pepper, sliced in strips
2 eggs, beaten (optional)
2 green onions, 1 inch long, slivered pieces
1 cup barbecued pork, cooked chicken or firm tofu, sliced
3/4 cup broth, chicken or vegetable
2-3 tsp curry powder, if you like spicy (I use 1.5 tsp)
1/4-1/2 tsp turmeric powder (I use 1/4 tsp)
1/4 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp kosher salt, plus more to taste 

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Remove from heat; add the dried rice noodles and soak until softened, 5-6 minutes.  Drain and set aside on a large plate.

Heat 1 Tbsp canola oil over medium-high heat.  Add the onion and stir-fry for 2 minutes until softened. Add the bell pepper and stir-fry until crisp-tender, about 1-2 minutes.  

If using eggs:  remove the onions and red pepper and set aside on a plate.  Heat 1 Tbsp canola oil over medium-high heat.  Add the eggs and cook for 1 minute.  When half-done, add the onions and red pepper back to the eggs and break it all up with a spoon or spatula. 

Add the chicken broth, curry powder, tumeric, sugar and salt.  Then add the cooked meat (pork chicken or tofu).  Simmer 1 minute.  Add green onion. Take off heat.

Add the noodles and toss ingredients together until heated through, about 2 minutes.  

- Adapted from the cookbook: WeightWatchers Take-Out Tonight!

 The next day, the leftover noodles appeared even more yellow and intense.  The kids really enjoy these noodles, so I am hoping that they will make this on their own with these instructions.  Although Chinese cooking is pretty simple, there are a lot of little tips, tricks and vague nuances that each cook has.  Even with the same recipe, my dishes will never taste like my grandma's no matter how hard I try!  Hopefully, my kids can capture a bit of their childhood when they try to recreate this dish. 

PS:  Here is a souvenir we got from the wedding.  They had a really neat photo booth with a bunch of props, hats, wigs, sunglasses, etc.  Can you tell we have fun wherever we go?


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