Preparing Rice Sticks

Last Wednesday week, I had to go to a meeting – or at least I thought I did – turns out only two of us turned up, ‘cos it had been postponed for a week because it was Mayday – hey ho, that’ll teach me to read my emails all the way through 😉
Anyway, before I left the house I got out the last portion of Yau Nam from the freezer – (I’ll post the recipe for the vegan version soon, and the meat version when I make it next winter, because I usually only make it once or twice a year)and put some rice noodles to soak in cold water.

Anyone who regularly cooks food from South East Asia can probably skip the rest of this post, but there is a vast array of different types of noodles, and they all get prepared slightly differently – all v.v.v. easy but if you treat them like Italian pasta, you might spoil your dinner.

So, this is how to prepare the dried rice noodles that look like ribbons or tagliatelle (Chinese-Ho Fun, Thai-Pad Thai, Vietnamese-Banh Pho). They come in different widths but they are all the same thing.

In a large bowl, cover the noodles with cold water for 30 minutes – nothing bad will happen to them if you leave them for longer at this stage, but they do need 30 minutes. Drain, rinse and drain again thoroughly. They will be greatly softened, but still feel quite unpromising…
To stir fry :- you can now stir fry them – just a little oil and maybe a glug of soya sauce – as if by magic, the heat, the oil and the sauce will transform them into supple, slippery coils of pleasure after about 3-4 minutes – taste before serving to make sure they are evenly cooked – they should feel smooth, elastic and slightly bouncy in your mouth.
To prepare for noodle soup Preheat your soup broth, and have your bowls ready. Bring a separate pan of water to the boil – if you’re only making dinner for one or two people, it’s probably most economical to boil a kettle…dunk the noodles in the boiling water for 15-20 seconds and swizzle around with chopsticks to make sure they are separated and pliable. Drain immediately, place in individual bowls, add soup and consume.
It is very worth waiting until everybody is actually sat down at the table before you do this, because if they sit around in the soup for even 5 or 10 minutes, they start absorbing the soup, lose their joyful bouncyness and generally go too soft.

You can often buy fresh Ho Fun in Chinese and Vietnamese stores in London – these are superdelish – you can stir fry or dunk in hot water straight from the pack – they also freeze well, but the dry ones are great for the store cupboard.

On the way home from my non-meeting, I passed the back of the Troxy, which is an old art deco ex-cinema that’s now used for functions. On top of the piles of rubbish out the back was half a sack of onions, an iceburg lettuce still in it’s plastic wrapper and an unopened bottle of French’s mustard – the kind they use in Mickie D’s, so it wasn’t a completely wasted jaunt 😉