Friday, 24 December 2010

not christmas dinner - vietnamese style spicy rice noodles

It's Christmas Eve, and I'm cooking the Christmas meal today. So last night the last thing I wanted was anything heavy. I'd had a luxurious day, fretting about last minute presents and going to the theatre. 

Actually I went to two theatres, at the Barbican I saw Flyboy is alone again this Christmas, a delightfully dark series of tales, performed with a rich musical accompaniment. I was with my own delightful troupe, beautiful daughters of mine, three beautiful daughters of others and handsome husband. Daughter three got over her worries of abandonment, provided the artiste with sweets and won a glow-in-the-dark badge, competitive and Christmas spirit intact and endorsed at the age of 15. The show enchanted all of us - if your'e interested there's info about Flyboy's creator here.

At the Cambridge Theatre I snuck around the back and got some illicit wares from a man wearing much more alluring make up than me. Definitely the better woman. Emerging from Covent Garden tube into Christmas mayhem had made my head spin, but once I had carrier bag accompaniment it all made sense, especially carrying something wonderful from Denise and Dudley.

Back to food. I find chopping calms me down. I was just catering for two, as all the daughters had dispersed. A glass of wine at hand and I set to. 

I love the lightness of Vietnamese cooking. I think I may have become addicted to lime juice. The most complicated thing about this recipe is the chopping, and the result is filling and still light. I used prawn and chicken, but you can use any combination of meat, just don't use too much. I substituted white cabbage for bean sprouts, both because it was what I had at hand and I like cabbage. I didn't have any spring onions, so I did without... but they would have been good, so I've left them in the recipe.

Chicken and Prawn Spicy Rice Noodles

Two nests wide rice noodles
1 chicken breast
10 large prawns
1/3 small white cabbage
1 medium carrot
handful of raw peanuts
3 spring onions
3 spoonfuls chopped coriander 
1 lime
4 cloves garlic
2 tbsp grated ginger
2 tbsps fish sauce
2 tsps sugar

corn or peanut oil

  • Soak the noodles in boiling water while you chop the meat and veg.
  • Prepare the ingredients as follows, setting each one aside, ready for last minute assembly:
  • Finely slice the chicken breast.
  • Devein prawns if necessary - I use frozen raw prawns that have been deveined, so I just make sure they are thawed, otherwise they add too much liquid to the dish.
  • Finely slice cabbage.
  • Peel the carrot and grate on the coarsest bit of the grater.
  • Get the coriander ready - chopped as fine as you fancy.
  • Peel and chop the garlic, peel and grate the ginger.
  • Squeeze the lime and mix the lime juice with the fish sauce and sugar. 
  • Chop up the peanuts a bit.
  • Drain the noodles, which should be soft, but not pappy. 
  • Heat a wok or large frying pan, when it's hot add a few swirls of oil.
  • Quickly cook the chicken and prawns, for about a minute. They should colour up.
  • Add garlic, ginger and lime juice mixture to the pan and cook for another minute.
  • Add all the other ingredients and cook for two minutes, stirring to mix up, but not breaking up the noodles.
Sprinkle with spring onion and serve. Delicious

If you don't have fish sauce you can use soy sauce, or an anchovy fillet mixed up with the lime juice and a spoonful of water.
You can make a veggie version, using tofu or just substituting the meat with more sliced veg, and adding more peanuts.
If you don't have penauts to hand, use a spoonful of peanut butter, but make sure it breaks up in the cooking, coming across lumps is just unpleasant.

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