Spicy Thai-style fried noodles with pork and sweet basil

More noodles–and the first stir-fried noodle dish on this blog! These are spicy noodles perfumed with basil, improvised by Leela at SheSimmers.

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Leela writes that she cooked up this dish on the fly, calling it kuay tiao phat niraman, or nameless (anonymous) fried noodles. It’s a little bit like phat kee mao and a bit like phat see ew, with rich salty-sweet soybean flavours and pleasantly springy noodles, tender pork, plus a good hit of chilli and gorgeous basil.

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As stir-fried noodles go, these are pretty easy and very satisfying. Usually with multi-part stir-fry dishes I stagger out of the kitchen, winded, greasy, vowing never to bother with it again. But this? This was easy. I mean, I probably wouldn’t do it after a full day of work, but I could see myself doing it for a nice weekend lunch in less than an hour, which is exactly what happened today.

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Fortunately you don’t need to skilfully set hundreds of ingredients on fire to suffuse everything with wok hei. You put it together in a relatively gentle manner in the belly of a skillet or saute pan. You still need to put some brief effort into mixing and tossing, and then it’s done and you gratefully, greedily eat it. We two actually ate enough for four people last time. I’ve scaled it down to two servings as there’s much less noodle wrangling that way, though.

As with all stir-fries, I highly recommend you set everything up close to the stove, laid out in the order you’ll add them to the pan. It’s also a good idea to have plates ready to receive the finished stir-fry. Anything that speeds the journey between making and eating is excellent, and you’ll be particularly glad when you get to eat these noodles.

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SPICY THAI-STYLE FRIED NOODLES WITH PORK AND SWEET BASIL
Adapted from Thai-style noodles with no name by Leela on Shesimmers.
For 2 people. Best eaten immediately. (This recipe can easily be doubled–make sure your pan can take it all.)

This is usually served on a plate and eaten with a fork and spoon, but if you like eating with chopsticks (I dunno, man, they’re your noodles), serve in dishes or bowls.

You can of course use absolutely any type of protein you want. For a vegetarian version, replace the meat with more vegetables and/or plain or baked tofu, replacing the fish sauce with 1/4 tsp salt (or vegetarian fish sauce), and oyster sauce with mushroom sauce.

If you’ve not marinaded your meat with bicarbonate soda before, it can seem a little spooky to do it this way, particularly when your meat fizzes gently. But it’s fine: you don’t need to rinse it and you don’t taste the soda. It just makes everything particularly smooth and tender. If you don’t have soda, try using 1 teaspoon cornflour and/or some egg white instead.

ingredients

150g/5 oz dried thin rice sticks (mai sin or sen lek, as for pad Thai)
Approximately 225g/half a pound of pork tenderloin or any other fairly lean cut, thinly sliced across the grain
1 tsp thick soy sauce
1 tsp Golden Mountain seasoning sauce (alternatively, use light soy sauce)
3/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
Dash of ground white pepper
1 – 5 bird’s eye chilies, de-stemmed (2 is gently warm for me)
3 fat cloves garlic, peeled
1 small-medium onion, peeled and sliced into 1 cm (1/4 inch) thick half-moons
125g broccoli, cauliflower, or sturdy leafy vegetables such as spring greens, cut into bite-size pieces or small strips

for the noodle sauce:
1 tbsp salted/salted soybean paste
1 tbsp oyster sauce
1/2 tbsp fish sauce
1/2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp water (plus extra for later)

to finish:
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 big handful Thai or Italian sweet basil leaves
Ground pepper, chilli flakes, nam pla prik etc to season at the table

instructions

Despite what packet instructions say, start by soaking the rice noodles in plenty of room temperature water while you get on with everything else (hot water + rice noodles = sticky starch). Soaking times vary: 1 – 2 mm noodles will take 20 – 35 minutes, wider noodles even longer. Check on them now and again, draining when easily pliable (soaked noodles can sit for a little bit, covered).

In a medium bowl, combine pork slices with soy sauce(s) and bicarbonate soda, mixing thoroughly. Let it marinade as you arrange the rest of the ingredients.

Pound the garlic and chilli into a paste (or place in chopper, or mince together finely on board). Scoop the fragrant paste onto a board or plate by the stove for easy use during cooking. Arrange the sliced onion and vegetables by the stove, too.

In a small bowl, mix together the fermented soybean paste, oyster sauce, fish sauce, sugar, and water, placing this bowl by the stove as well. If the noodles are ready, drain them and have them nearby.

With everything laid out, start cooking. Set a large saute pan or skillet over high heat. Once at heat, swirl in the vegetable oil, then add marinaded pork, separating the pieces of meat using the tip of your spatula. Brown the pork well on each side, leaving them alone for a good few minutes and turning once.

Add the garlic-chili paste to the pan, stirring to coat the meat. Just when the garlic is fragrant, add the onion slices, stirring for a couple of minutes until they’re slightly translucent.

Add the sliced vegetables, drained noodles, and pre-mixed sauce, tossing to cook and distribute everything thoroughly (you may need 2 spatulas to help if cooking a larger batch). Cautiously splash in a little more water if necessary to cook the noodles: you want them pleasantly springy, not chalky in the middle. You may need to reduce heat slightly.

Remove from heat, then add sweet basil leaves just to wilt and release the fragrance. Divide among plates and serve immediately, seasoning at the table if you wish and devouring as quickly as possible.

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