I tested this recipe about 4 times although I liked it right away–I just tweaked and added, took away until I thought it was just right. And what happens when I write and test recipes is that James and I have to eat the recipe around 6-8 times–one time for every test at dinner and then for lunch the next day because we make a lot of dinner so that lunch (leftovers) makes itself. It means that by the last trial, which will be the best due to process, we’ll enjoy the recipe but not want to go anywhere near it again for months. It’s rare that I’m not a little sick of a recipe by the time I’m sharing it, and this is one of those times. This is one of those dishes, and it has everything to do with these noodles.
If you’ve never had mung bean noodles, or don’t think you have, they’re wormy looking, glassy/transparent noodles that you might have seen at a Korean food counter or maybe a Chinese restaurant. They’re called cellophane vermicelli, bean thread noodles or glass noodles, and dried, they look exactly like rice vermicelli–pure, opaque white and delicate as can be. You make them the same way, which is to say you rehydrate them in very hot water for about 5 minutes, drain and rinse them. At that point, they are no longer delicate, in fact, they are pliable and completely soft but there is this little crunch to them as you eat them. I think it’s this little crunch that makes them so pleasing, at least to me. I eat huge bowls of them (and you’ll eye this dish skeptically–nervously–when you see how much this recipe makes, thinking you’ll never, ever finish a serving, but trust me, you will) and at the end of each bowl I find myself craving another addictive, crunchy mouthful when I should be registering that I’m full. There’s the puffy, flavour-absorbing fried tofu, the nuts and herbs to enjoy between mouths of noodles but you will miss the noodles most when they’re done. Good thing this is super-easy to make so you can eat too much of it within a month too.
Spicy Glass Noodles with Puffed Tofu
*If you’re using chili garlic sauce instead of chili paste, you may want to omit the garlic. Or not.
3/4 c raw or roasted (unsalted) shelled peanuts
1/4 c chili paste (or chili garlic sauce, or even sambol oelek)
2 tbs Chinese red vinegar
1 tbs maple syrup (or honey)
1/4 tsp Kosher salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
300 g dry mung bean noodles (cellophane vermicelli)
2 tbs peanut oil, separated
1 tsp sesame oil
180 g pkg fried tofu puffs, pieces quartered
4 scallions, trimmed, white and pale part cut into 2-inch lengths and then sliced lengthwise, dark green part sliced thinly crosswise
2 cl garlic, minced*
1-inch piece of ginger, minced
2 red bird chilies, trimmed, deseeded and sliced thinly (optional)
2 c packed bean sprouts
1/4 c coriander leaves, roughly chopped
1 lime, cut into wedges
In a small bowl, mix the peanuts with the sambol olek, vinegar, maple syrup, salt and pepper. Coat the peanuts well and set aside to marinate while you proceed.
Pour boiling water over the mung bean noodles to cover in a heat-proof bowl and let soak for 5 minutes. Drain, rinse under cold water for 30 seconds, drain again thoroughly and set aside.
Heat 1 tablespoon of the peanut oil in a hot wok, add the tofu and stir-fry over medium-high heat until the pieces start to turn golden, about 2 minutes. Transfer tofu to a plate and return wok to heat. Add remaining tablespoon of peanut oil and the sesame oil to the wok and heat over medium-high heat. Add the scallions, garlic, ginger, chillies and bean sprouts and stir fry until starting to soften. Add the peanuts and sauce and stir fry for a minute. Add the noodles and tofu and stir-fry mixing well until all of noodles are coloured and heated through. Serve topped with coriander leaves, scallions and a a wedge of lime–definitely squeeze over top before enjoying. Serve hot, at room temperature or even slightly chilled as a noodle salad.