Saigon Noodles

Whenever we get bored with rice, we switch to pasta or Chinese-style noodles. With the available variety of pasta and noodles and what you can do with each kind, well, you can have pasta and noodles every day for a month without repeating a single recipe.

When we first bought flat rice noodles, we used them for a soup inspired by something we tried at a Vietnamese restaurant (check the archives for the recipe). When I saw the quality and texture of the noodles, I knew they would be equally good in a stir-fried recipe. So I came up with Saigon Noodles. Why Saigon? I don’t know. The result looked and tasted Vietnamese to me–light in color, texture, and taste.

Just a few notes before we go to the recipe. First, in addition to flaked chicken meat, I used a variety of “balls” in this dish–pork balls, chicken balls, and squid balls. You can buy them frozen in groceries or oriental food stores. They are tasty, easy to use, and easy to store apart from the interesting look they give to the cooked dish.

Second, the cooking directions in the package of the rice noodles said to cook in briskly boiling water for two minutes. I cooked them for only a minute then later cooked them again in the sauce together with the rest of the ingredients. That way, they absorbed more flavor.

Third, as I have said in the past, don’t scrimp when buying oyster sauce. It is a little expensive, but a tablespoon of oyster sauce goes a long, long way when it comes to flavor. The cheaper kind, called “oyster-flavored sauce” tastes like monosodium glutamate. Honest. I tried it once and never again. I threw out the bottle, still three-quarters full, after using it that one time. Check the label. The ingredients are enumerated there. If it doesn’t say real oysters, don’t buy it.

Fourth, use good stock. When you boil meat, poultry, or fish, add a whole onion, a whole garlic, some leeks, carrots, peppercorns, and ginger. Keep whatever you won’t use in the fridge or the freezer. Don’t use commercial broth cubes. Well, unless nothing else is available.

Lastly, don’t feel limited by what a recipe says. If a recipe says a teaspoon of salt but you find the dish too bland or too salty, then make the necessary adjustment. It is you and your family who will eat what you cook, not the author of the recipe. So follow your taste and preferences; the measurements given are just guides. That’s the key to becoming a successful cook. An adventurous spirit is a real gem in the kitchen.