Posts Tagged 'noodles'

Noodles, Noodles, Noodles

Wandering aimlessly all over a brand new city tends to end in one of two ways. One, you get hopelessly lost in a neighborhood that looks a little seedy and wish you’d thought to bring a map. Or, two, you discover a vibrant neighborhood teeming with charming cafes and noodle shops. Fortunately for us, we ended up with scenario two!

We spotted a small open store front, filled with low tables and plastic stools, absolutely packed with locals eating noodles. The sign indicated that the restaurant served only one thing: bun cha. We ordered two bowls (for 18,000 dong each – that’s just over a dollar), and this is what appeared before us:

A pile of cooked noodles, and a large bowl of shiso leaves and butter lettuce. AND…img_6191

A bowl of faintly sweet broth filled with little charcoal-grilled ground meat patties.
Basically the theory is you dip the lettuce and noodles into the broth with chopsticks, eating them with little bites of meat.

A little while later, we found ourselves in a different neighborhood, with different noodles.


I thought we were getting traditional pho, but this slightly red broth was more sour/salty, and had noodles, green onions, and a big pile of cooked meat on top. Like the bun cha, it was served with a pile of fresh greens.


Another noodle soup we recently sampled came with a big slab of liver on top; large, thin slices of heart of palm, and some chunks of meat with the skin still on. It looked a little like chicken meat, but tasted gamier, and I have no idea what it was.
I know what the liver’s function in the body is, and I know this makes it a less than ideal choice for consumption, but when I saw the little boy sitting next to us dipping the liver into a small bowl of chilis, garlic, and fish sauce, I wanted to give it a try. It was fantastic! I love the smooth texture of liver a lot more than the flavor, and the sauce made it nice and salty-hot.

Coconut Curry Noodle Soup

This is my kind of comfort food! It combines some traditional Thai flavors with somen noodles and tofu for protein.  I cook the tofu in a frying pan to crisp it up a little, and it contrasts really nicely with the soft wheat noodles.  Udon noodles, which are a little thicker, would work as well.  Although rice sticks would be more authentic, I like the heartiness of the wheat noodles.

I scaled down the spiciness considerably – I only used 1 tsp of red curry paste, and it was pretty mild – but if you like spicy food, use a full tablespoon.  I used Thai Kitchen brand, and I’m not sure how that compares with other brands in terms of spiciness.
(adapted from Super Natural Cooking by Heidi Swanson)
9.5 oz somen noodles
1 tbsp peanut oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tbsp chopped garlic
1 tbsp chopped ginger
3 cups broth (vegetable or chicken – your choice)
1 tbsp turmeric
1 1/2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp red curry paste
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tbsp lime juice
20 ounces extra firm tofu, drained and cut into 1 cm cubes
1 can (13.5 oz) light coconut milk
1/3 cup roughly chopped cilantro
3 tbsp chopped roasted peanuts
2 tbsp thinly sliced shallot
Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil and cook somen noodles according to package directions.  Set aside.
Heat the peanut oil in a large saucepan or soup pot, until you can clearly smell the peanut aroma (that’s how you’ll know it’s hot!)
Add the onion, garlic, and ginger, and cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes.
Add the broth, turmeric, soy sauce, curry paste, sugar, salt, and lime juice, and whisk to combine.  
Turn heat to low and allow broth mixture to simmer.
Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high.  Add tofu and cook, shaking pan and flipping the tofu cubes until they are golden and slightly crisp on the outside.
Put the tofu into a large serving bowl or soup tureen.
Add the noodles and coconut milk to the broth mixture and cook for a few minutes.  The noodles may be stuck together, but just give them a nice stir.  When the soup is heated through, pour over the tofu and stir well.
Top with cilantro, peanuts, and shallots to serve.

Bean Thread Salad

I found a huge package of bean threads for ridiculously cheap at a market in San Francisco, and knew there would be many of these salads in my future.  Tonight I found everything I needed to create this recipe already in my refrigerator, so this was easy to throw together.  It’s a beautiful mix of colors and has the quintessential Thai flavors I love so much: fish sauce, lime, mint, cilantro, and peanuts.  YUM!

4 oz bean threads
1 small carrot
1 red bell pepper
a few handfuls of lettuce, cut into thin strips
1 tbsp thinly sliced green onions
1 tbsp chopped cilantro
2 tsp chopped fresh mint
2 tbsp chopped peanuts
4 tbsp lime juice
2 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp sugar
Drop the bean threads into boiling water for about 40 seconds, then drain and rinse with cold water.
Cut the bell pepper into thin strips and put into a serving bowl with the lettuce.
Using a vegetable peeler, create 2″ long curls of carrot, and put these in the serving bowl as well.
Stir together the lime juice, fish sauce, and sugar.  
Put the bean threads in their own bowl and add about half the lime juice mixture.  Toss well.
Put the noodles on top of the vegetables and sprinkle the green onions, mint, cilantro, and peanuts over them.  Add a little more dressing and toss well.  Taste, and add the rest of the dressing if desired.  

NOTE: Bean threads look like thin white noodles.  Here is an example of what they look like:
photo from


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