Why It Works
- Home cooks can control flavor by adjusting the amount of white pepper, black vinegar, and soy sauce.
- If desired, this dish can be made vegetarian by omitting pork and substituting vegetable stock.
Perfect for feeding a crowd or a solo meal on the fly, this simple noodle recipe is a standard of home-style Taiwanese fare. It can be made with everyday pantry items and a few slivered vegetables, but for more heartiness, I sometimes add a small amount of thinly sliced pork. While these components might be similar to pan-fried rice noodle dishes of Southeast Asian cuisines (such as pad thai), Taiwan's rice noodles are distinct in several ways.
The first noteworthy distinction is the noodles themselves. Extremely thin yet pliable, Taiwanese rice noodles are featured in myriad preparations of noodle soup. But they also hold up well to a lot of tossing in the pan without breaking. Many rice-noodle factories are found in Taiwan's northwest region of Hsinchu, where the air is drier and windy, making it apt for drying rice noodles quickly before packaging. Therefore, should you find a package of rice noodles in an Asian grocery called "Hsinchu rice noodles," this is the stuff to buy. If not, just look for the thinnest type of rice noodles you can find as a substitute. Beware bean-starch or mung-bean noodles, which may appear similar when dried; these noodles become translucent and jelly-like once cooked, not suitable for pan-frying at all.
Another distinction of Taiwanese pan-fried rice noodles is the heavy use of white pepper and black vinegar as seasonings. What might have been an utterly bland-tasting tangle of noodles becomes nuanced and memorable with these unique ingredients. Ground white pepper is sprinkled throughout the noodles while tossing them, invisibly adding nose-tingling flavor throughout. Black vinegar (an aged rice vinegar that's less acidic and slightly sweeter than clear varieties) is doused liberally on the noodles once they're off the heat, as the vinegar flavor will weaken if cooked. Soy sauce and salt are added also, and cooks can add more or less of any of these seasonings to their taste.
Finally, this dish differs from other pan-fried rice noodles because it's not crispy or browned in parts, nor is it overly greasy from lots of oil to coat the pan. Instead, it's moist and a little brothy, because stock is poured into the pan. Most of it is absorbed by the noodles, but it makes for slippery, slurp-worthy, incredibly flavorful bites. The good news is you can keep shoveling these noodles into your mouth, and you'll be spared that greasy-lips syndrome typical of other types of pan-fried noodles. Try it yourself, and feel free to make it your own by adding other types of sliced vegetables and meats.
1/2 pound boneless pork shoulder, cut into thin 2-inch strips
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
1/4 cup plus 1 teaspoon soy sauce (or more to taste)
1 teaspoon sesame oil
6 to 8 dried shiitake mushrooms
1/2 pound very thin dried rice noodles (see notes)
3 tablespoons vegetable or peanut oil
1 large carrot, julienned (about 1 cup)
1 cup bamboo shoots from one (15-ounce) can, rinsed and julienned
2 cups pork stock (or substitute with chicken or vegetable stock or low-sodium broth), warmed
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper (or more to taste)
2 tablespoons black vinegar (or more to taste; see notes)
2 to 3 scallions, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
Combine pork, cornstarch, 1 teaspoon soy sauce, and sesame oil in a medium bowl and mix thoroughly. Cover and chill for at least 20 minutes, or up to overnight.
Meanwhile, cover dried shiitake mushrooms with warm water and let stand until soft throughout, about 20 minutes. Squeeze excess water out of mushrooms and trim off their stems. Slice thinly and set aside. (The soaking liquid may be reserved for making soups, stocks, or braises.)
Cook rice noodles according to the instructions on the package. Drain and set aside.
Add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil to a large wok or skillet and heat over high heat until shimmering. Add pork and cook, stirring, until no longer pink, about 2 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside.
Add remaining 2 tablespoons oil to same wok or skillet and heat over high heat until shimmering. Add mushrooms, carrots, and bamboo shoots, along with a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 1 minute. Return pork to the pan.
Pour in warm stock and remaining 1/4 cup of soy sauce and bring to a boil. Add rice noodles and stir to combine. Stir in white pepper, season with salt, and cook, stirring frequently, until stock is mostly absorbed, about 2 minutes. If desired, add extra soy sauce, salt, or white pepper to taste. Remove from heat and sprinkle in black vinegar; toss to combine. Garnish with scallions and serve immediately.
Large skillet or wok
Look for black vinegar and Taiwanese rice noodles, often labeled "Hsinchu rice noodles," in Asian groceries. Otherwise, use the thinnest type of dried Asian rice noodle you can find.
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Servings: 4 to 6|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 11g||14%|
|Saturated Fat 2g||12%|
|Total Carbohydrate 36g||13%|
|Dietary Fiber 2g||8%|
|Total Sugars 2g|
|Vitamin C 3mg||14%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|