The following recipe for crisp-fried egg noodles with assorted meats and vegetables is an elegant dish the Vietnamese like to serve for special occasions.
Nicole Routhier, author of "The Foods of Vietnam" (Stewart, Tabor & Chang, $35), says the egg noodles can be parboiled and fried early in the day and kept covered on a tray until they are needed. Reheat them in the oven while stir-frying.
Crisp-fried egg noodles with meats and vegetables
Makes 6 to 8 servings.
nuoc cham, see recipe
1 pound fresh thin egg noodles
12 ounces raw medium shrimp, shelled and deveined
12 ounces rump or flank steak
1 chicken breast, halved and boned
4 tablespoons nuoc mam (Vietnamese fish sauce)
1 tablespoon grated gingerroot
6 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons arrowroot or cornstarch
freshly ground black pepper
12 dried Chinese mushrooms
1 tablespoon dried tree ear mushrooms
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup dry red wine, optional
1/4 cup oyster sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 large onion, cut into slivers
1/2 Chinese white cabbage or Chinese kale, cut into 2-inch pieces
1 cup fresh snow peas, trimmed
1 large carrot, halved lengthwise and sliced 1/4 -inch thick
1 can (15 ounces) baby corn, drained
1 can (15 ounces) straw mushrooms, drained
coriander sprigs, for garnish
Prepare the nuoc cham and set aside.
Drop the egg noodles into a pot of boiling water; boil for 1 minute. Rinse the noodles under cold water; drain well. Toss the noodles with a little peanut oil to prevent sticking. Line a large baking sheet with a double layer of paper towels and spread the noodles out to dry.
Halve the shrimp lengthwise and set aside. Cut the steak across the grain into thin 2-by-2-inch pieces. Set aside. Cut the chicken breast lengthwise into 1/4 -inch strips, about 3 inches long and set aside.
In a small bowl, combine 3 tablespoons of the fish sauce, the ginger, half the garlic, 2 tablespoons of the arrowroot and 1/2 teaspoon of the black pepper. Stir to blend. Coat the shrimp, beef and chicken separately with the marinade. Let marinate in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
Soak the Chinese and tree ear mushrooms in hot water for 30 minutes. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the soaking liquid. Remove and discard the stems; cut the caps in half if they are large.
In a bowl, combine the chicken broth, reserved mushroom liquid, red wine, oyster sauce and soy sauce. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of the fish sauce and the remaining 2 tablespoons of the arrowroot; mix well. Set the sauce aside.
Heat 1/2 -inch of the oil in a wok or skillet to 365 degrees. Add one-fourth of the noodles, spreading out the strands to form a flat cake. Fry until puffed and golden, about 1 minute. Turn and cook the other side for 1 minute longer. Remove the noodles from the oil with a slotted spatula to drain on paper towels; place on a large serving platter and keep warm in a 200-degree oven. Continue frying until all the noodles are used.
Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a clean wok or skillet. When the oil is hot, fry the remaining garlic until fragrant. Add the shrimp and chicken and toss over high heat until the chicken turns white and the shrimp is opaque. Transfer to a large plate.
Heat 1 tablespoon more oil; stir fry the beef for 1 minute. Transfer to the plate with the shrimp and chicken.
Heat 2 tablespoons more oil. Add the onion and fry until translucent. Add the Chinese cabbage, snow peas, carrot, baby corn and all the mushrooms, stir-frying for 30 seconds after each addition. Stir in the sauce and cook, stirring, until slightly thickened and the vegetables are crisp tender. Return the shrimp, chicken and beef to the wok; mix well. Remove from the heat.
Pour the stir-fried mixture over the crispy noodles. Sprinkle with black pepper and garnish with coriander sprigs. Serve with nuoc cham.
Makes 1 1/2 cups.
2 small garlic cloves, crushed
1 small red chili pepper, seeded, deveined and minced
2 tablespoons white sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lime or lemon juice
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup nuoc mam (Vietnamese fish sauce)
1/4 cup water
Combine the garlic, chili and sugar in a large mortar. Pound with a pestle until it becomes a fine paste. Add the lime juice, vinegar, fish sauce and water. Stir to blend. Or combine all the ingredients in a blender and process for 30 seconds or until the sugar dissolves.
Note: Some people like to garnish this sauce with shredded carrot and daikon (a kind of radish). Merely toss 1 small shredded carrot and 1 small shredded daikon with 1 teaspoon sugar; let stand 15 minutes. Add the nuoc cham to the softened vegetables and stir.