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Hot & Healthy November: Thai Herbal Noodles

Hello Big Green readers! This month I decided to try out some Asian-fusion and make Thai Herbal Noodles. I figured everyone would be heading home to your momma’s cooking pretty soon, so there was no point in competing with that.

So before Turkey Day, let’s head out east! And if you’re Asian, well, sorry. There has to be some good recipes for turkey and stuffing out there somewhere.

As you read, you will realize that not only am I a fairly inexperienced cook, but I don’t know anything about food. I have my main food groups down and that’s about it. So I would like to save all you other cooking virgins from the same trials I experienced.

In case anyone didn’t know, spring onions have about 50 different aliases. The most common names are scallions, or green onions. This is helpful to know when you’re wandering around the produce section feverishly looking for an onion that looks spring-like.

Also, green chili peppers are not just labeled “GREEN CHILIS.” There are a ton of different kinds of peppers, and when you’re staring at an array of them, it can get confusing. I went with a poblano pepper because that’s what Google on my phone told me to do.

Finally, do not just go into any supermarket and expect to find fish sauce.  Even though Meijer has an array of Asian sauces, fish sauce is not one of them. So, I improvised. Google came through again with a suggestion: mix soy sauce and anchovies and get a fish sauce equivalent.

So I wandered Meijer a little more to find anchovies and found a magical little substance called anchovy paste. It’s a brownish-tannish goo that comes in what looks like a toothpaste container, but you have to trust me on this one. Mixed with soy sauce, it makes the dish.

So after that mini-rant, here are the ingredients:

  • 7-8 ounces wheat or egg noodles (serves two)
  • 3-4 tbsp. oil for stir frying
  • ¼ cup dry roasted unsalted peanuts. You need to grind these or chop them to bits.
  • Shrimp, chicken, tofu, or none of the above. For my test run, I choose chicken
  • 2 eggs
  • 2-3 tbsp. chicken or vegetable broth or white wine
  • 3 spring onions (ahem, green onions/scallions), chopped
  • Fresh basil (optional)
  • 1 lime (optional)

For the paste:

  • 1 green or red chili (I use a poblano. Deseed it if you want less spice)
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger (or one thumb-sized piece of ginger, grated, if you want to get fancy)
  • 2 tbsp. fish sauce (2 tbsp. soy sauce mixed with 1 tsp. anchovy paste)

To all the cooking virgins out there like me, I want to tell you that this dish is not going to be a walk in the park. It takes a little time, but it’s worth it.

So to start out, boil the noodles until they’re cooked or nearly cooked, and set them aside.

Then start on the paste. If you have a food processor, throw those puppies in there. I didn’t so I just chopped everything into extremely tiny pieces, or as they call it in the cooking world, “mincing.” Technique for mincing is key—mostly I wouldn’t recommend chopping it tomahawk-style. Food flies everywhere.

Once that’s done, heat up your frying pan for 1 minute. Then add the oil and swirl it around a bit.

If you’re not adding meat, don’t pay attention to this part. If you are, listen up. Add your meat to the frying pan, along with roughly half of the paste and 2 tbsp. of the wine or broth. Stir-fry that bad boy until the meat is done.

Once that’s cooked, push everything to the side of the pan. You’re clearing the stage for the eggs. Break the eggs into the pan and stir it with the spatula until it’s cooked, like scrambled eggs.

Then you’re going to add one more tablespoon of oil to the pan, and then add the pasta. Also, you might want to make sure you have a big enough frying pan before this part, because there can be major pasta overflow. I had some men go overboard, but our loss just turned into a taste test.

Speaking of taste tests… do a taste test now! If it’s not salty or flavorful enough, just add more fish sauce. I ended up adding 4 more tablespoons because I really, really liked the fish sauce.

It’s almost done! Put everything into a bowl and toss it with the green onions, peanuts, and basil. Add a wedge of lime on the side and you’re good to go.

For a cooking virgin, this took a while, but it tastes amazing. Add a lot of fish sauce if you want it to be really flavorful. Don’t expect it to taste authentic, but it’s a healthy dish that makes for a great Asian-inspired meal.

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