Thai Curry Noodles, Quick ‘n E-zee
December 13, 2011 § 7 Comments
Some days are built around creating expansive dinners….Carefully selecting ingredients in the morning, chopping and dicing them while listening to public radio in the afternoon, cooking at a leisurely pace into the evening. Those are very special days (and most of them are in my past, before motherhood). I’ve always believed that the meals I cook reflect the mood that I am in when I cook cook them – relaxed and mellow days result in dinners that come together effortlessly and taste great. This doesn’t bode well for most of my family’s evening meals.
Lately, I spend my days in relative leisure. Nonetheless, the hours between when I pick my kids up from school and the e.t.a. for dinner can get ugly. The time that I imagine I will spend crafting a home-cooked meal of splendor ends up being spent teaching my 6 year-old the ins and outs of the remote (when is she going to lean this invaluable skill, Dear God?!?) and making snacks and more snacks for my famished 8 year-old. More than once I’ve asked myself what I am trying to prove. Clearly, generations of women have been able to put three squares, homemade, from scratch, on their family’s table each day. But maybe that skill has been bred out of us. I was raised on Stouffer’s and I turned out just great. Still, I persevere. Even though my family would probably be better off with a quickie dinner followed by conversation instead of marathon dishwashing, I persevere. Once in a blue moon I come across a meal that is both delicious and quick and satisfies that end-o-the day big time hunger. The blue moon shone on me this week, and I have a new favorite weeknight go-to dish.
This recipe is for Kha Soi – a Thai dish of noodles in a curry gravy. It’s based on a recipe from Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid’s fantastic book ‘Hot Sour Salty Sweet’. I can’t decide if this is a soupy noodle dish or a noodle-heavy soup. But it does not matter. The important thing is it is delicious and quick and hearty and it will make your tummy very very happy. My favorite part is the garnish – a nest of fried noodles that are almost effortless to make but look real fancy and add a fantastic texture to the kha soi. If you live in South Seattle, try Mekong on Rainier for one-stop shopping. And pick up a six-pack of Beer Lao while you’re there – I took a chance on it and it is wunderbar.
Weeknight Thai Curry Noodles
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp+ salt
1 Tblsp red curry paste (I recommend Maesri – look for a small flat red round tin)
1 Tblsp canola oil
2.5 C coconut milk, with 1/2 C of the thickest milk from the top of the can set aside
1/2 lb boneless beef, chicken or firm tofu
1 Tblsp sugar
1.5 C chicken stock, vegetable stock or water
3 Tblsp fish sauce
1 Tblsp lime juice Canola oil for frying noodle garnish
1 lb fresh Chinese egg noodles (bamee) – look for these in the refrigerated section of the store
1/2 C minced scallions
1 lime, cut into wedges
1. Start a pot of water boiling for the noodles.
2. If you have a mortar & pestle, smash garlic with a pinch of salt and the turmeric into paste. Or, mix the minced garlic with the turmeric and a pinch of salt. Stir in the curry paste and set aside.
3. Heat the tablespoon of oil in a heavy pot over high heat. When it’s hot add the garlic-curry mixture and stir for 30 sec. Add the 1/2 C of thick curry milk and lower the heat a smidge. Add the meat or tofu and and sugar and cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes, until the meat has changed color all over. Add the remaining 2 C of coconut milk, stock, fish sauce, 1 tsp of salt and bring to a boil. Then, reduce the heat to medium and cook at a strong simmer for 10 minutes.
4. To make the noodle garnish: Line a plate with paper towels for the finished noodles. Place a small heavy skillet or pot over high heat. Add canola oil until there is about 1/2 inch in the pot. The oil is hot enough when you drop a single noodle in the oil and sizzles a bit as it falls to the bottom of the pot, then puffs and rises back to the surface. When the oil is ready, add a small handful of noodles to the pot and watch in amazement as they immediately puff up. You may need to flip the nest over with a spatula so that both sides get to sizzle in the oil. Put the crisped noodles on the plate, and repeat. Two batches should be enough.
5. To serve: Boil the fresh noodles until tender, but not mushy (about 5 minutes). Drain the noodles, and divide them between 4 bowls. Remove the soup from heat and stir in the tablespoon of lime juice. Taste for seasoning and add more fish sauce or salt. Ladle the hot soup over the boiled noodles. Top with the crispy noodles and a smattering of scallions. Folks can add a squeeze of lime at the table if they’d like to.