I cook a whole lot of noodles in my kitchen, but the dishes I prepare are almost exclusively Italian. The Mediterranean flavor profile is just more familiar to me, so it's what a gravitate towards. But the moment I stumbled on this recipe at Gourmet.com, I knew I had to cook it. It promised a harmonious blend of curry powder and fish sauce, a spicy and pungent combination that would gloriously coat the noodles and ground pork. I stashed it in the to-cook pile and waited patiently for the grocery store to stock cilantro (it's not very common in this part of the world).
The result was bold and flavorful, the noodles silky, the pepper slightly crunchy, all with an herbaceous freshness from the basil and cilantro. I deviated from the recipe by adding extra fish sauce (you'd never guess from its odious smell, but it adds a complex saltiness) and next time I'd throw in a fresh chili for more heat. I already have plans to make Pad Thai from the leftover rice noodles. Any other great rice noodle dishes I should try?
- 7 to 8 ounces dried thin rice noodles
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
- 1 pound ground pork
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 small fresh chili, deseeded and minced
- 1/2 cup chopped onion
- 1 large red bell pepper, cut into strips
- 2 tablespoons Madras or other curry powder
- 3 tablespoons Asian fish sauce
- 3/4 cup coarsely chopped cilantro
- 3/4 cup coarsely chopped basil
Cover the rice noodles in boiling water and soak until soft but not mushy, 7 to 10 minutes. Reserve 1/4 cup of the soaking water, drain, and transfer to a bowl.
In the meantime, cook the pork, garlic, and chili in 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium-high heat in a wok or large skillet, breaking up any chunks, until just cooked through (a little pink is okay as it will cook through later). Remove with a slotted spoon to a small bowl.
Add the remaining oil in the skillet or wok over medium-high heat and add the pepper strips. Cook for 1 minute, then add the onion. Continue cooking until the pepper is almost tender but with a little crunch and the onion is golden, an additional 2 to 3 minutes.
Add the reserved pork along with the curry powder. Cook, stirring often, for 1 minute then stir in the reserve noodle-soaking water. Add the drained noodles along with the fish sauce and herbs. Toss well to combine and serve with more fish sauce, if desired.