Light noo­dles, deep flavour

While there are many ac­com­pa­ni­ments to rice noo­dles, it is bet­ter to choose the tech­nique you like best when cook­ing ver­mi­celli, writes David Ta­nis

New Straits Times - - Pulse -

IN Viet­nam, the break­fast choice for many is a steam­ing bowl of brothy pur­chased from early-morn­ing ven­dors who dis­pense the beloved spicy noo­dle soup un­til their sup­ply is sold out, then close up shop for the day. For lunch, it may well be noo­dles again, pre­pared in a dif­fer­ent way. A bowl of room-tem­per­a­ture rice ver­mi­celli, called

may be served with var­i­ous cookedto-or­der top­pings and bright add-ons for a sat­is­fy­ing, sim­ple meal.

Festooned with le­mon­grass-scented shrimp, beef or chicken, the noo­dles are flavoured with (the clas­sic sweet-and-spicy dip­ping sauce), pick­led veg­eta­bles and crushed peanuts.

The vi­tal ac­com­pa­ni­ment to this rice noo­dle bowl, and many other Viet­namese dishes, is a plat­ter of let­tuce leaves and ten­der, fra­grant fresh herbs.

The herb mix­ture usu­ally in­cludes Thai basil, mint, cilantro, saw­tooth or cu­lantro, Viet­namese co­rian­der, fish herb, red per­illa and dill, among other lemony, pep­pery, freshly picked and highly aro­matic leaves.

The let­tuce leaves are of­ten used as wrap­pers: One may fill a leaf with herbs, noo­dles and a bit of meat, roll it into a tight bun­dle and give it a quick dip in be­fore con­vey­ing it mouth­ward.

A less for­mal al­ter­na­tive is to in­cor­po­rate the let­tuce and herbs from the be­gin­ning.

For ex­am­ple, start with a pile of torn let­tuce leaves and herbs in the bot­tom of each bowl. Add the room-tem­per­a­ture noo­dles and top­pings, then let guests give it a toss with their chop­sticks. This gives it a bit more of a salad-like feel.

As far as the cook­ing of the rice noo­dles is con­cerned, choose the tech­nique you like best.

I pre­fer let­ting them steep in a pot of boil­ing-hot wa­ter for five to eight min­utes, un­til just done. Oth­ers rec­om­mend soak­ing them in hot tap wa­ter, which works too but takes a lit­tle longer.

And then there are the cooks who pre­fer to boil them like pasta. In any case, for best re­sults, they must be rinsed in cold wa­ter once drained to keep them from be­com­ing mushy or sticky.

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