Noodles with Lemongrass Chicken

4 Apr

This recipe is the nearest I can get to my favourite dish at the Vietnamese canteen, in London, where noodles are served at room temperature with a layer of salad, a spicy dressing and a hot topping. It is pure poetry when you get the balance between the crisp salad ingredients, the soft noodles, fried topping and the hot, sweet and sour sauce just right. You can prepare the sauce, noodles and salad in advance and at serving time, all you have to do is fry the topping which literally takes a few minutes.

Serves 4
For the salad
The salad can be made up of any crisp raw vegetables depending on what is in season; mungbean sprouts, endive, lettuce, cucumber, baby corn, radish, carrot, Chinese cabbage, pak choi, mangetout peas, spring onions etc. Whatever vegetables you choose they should be shredded or cut into match stick pieces and mixed with some aromatic herbs leaves such as; mint, Chinese chives, coriander or basil.

For the noodles
8 oz. dried rice vermicelli
Rice vermicelli is normally ‘cooked’ by soaking in water. Follow the directions on the packet or simply soak the noodles in hot water for 3 minutes or cold water for 5-10 minutes until they are soft. Let the noodles drain in the colander for 30 minutes. Season the noodles with a little of the sauce and some of the fresh herbs. The noodles can then be set aside for up to 2 hours, ready to use.

For the Sauce (Nuoc Cham)
2 clove garlic, minced
2 dried or fresh red Thai chillis, de-seeded, and minced
100ml (8 tbsp) hot water
4 tsp sugar
4 tbsp fish sauce
Juice of 1 lime
In a mortar and pestle, pound the garlic and fresh chilies to a paste. (Or mince them together with a knife.) Mix together the garlic, chilli, hot water, sugar, fish sauce and lime juice. Leave to sit for at least 15 minutes before using.
NB this sauce can be kept in the fridge for about a month.

Hot Lemongrass chicken topping
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2-4 spring onions, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1-2 chicken breasts sliced thinly
3-4 stalks lemons grass (outer leaves and end third removed) minced
2 tsp fish sauce
1 tsp sugar
In a wok, or large pan, heat the oil over a high heat. Add the shallots and garlic, quickly stirring until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the chicken and lemongrass; stir-fry for about 2 min. Sprinkle with fish sauce and sugar. Stir-fry until the chicken is cooked, another 2 to 3 min. Remove from the heat and serve.

To assemble the dish
Put a handful of salad in each bowl, then divide the seasoned rice noodles between the bowls and finally top with a portion of the fried chicken. Garnish with a few sprigs of fresh herbs and some crushed peanuts if you like or pumpkin seeds. Serve with a bowl of the sauce and some chilli oil (optional) so that each person can add more to their own taste.

Variation This dish can also be made with prawns and is absolutely delicious, make the dish in exactly the same way but juts use prawns instead of chicken.
5/4/2007:

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