I pride myself on figuring out how to make all of the foods I like to eat at home. That said, I maintain a short list of items that I have deemed too difficult to produce at home, and these are the things I order when eating out.
- French Fries (I don’t have a deep fryer)
- Really good steak (I don’t have a hanger to age my meat in)
- BBQ (I don’t have a smoker or time to slow smoke)
- South East Asian dishes involving wide rice noodles (Dry wide rice noodles turn out mushy or cook into one inedible lump)
Number four has just been removed from my list! A few months ago, my friend Bethany came back to NYC from a trip home to Texas, bearing gifts for me from her mother. Bethany’s mother had taught her how to make rice noodles from scratch during their visit and she had sent Bethany home with packages of Tapioca and Rice flours, so that she could teach me how to do it too!
I have spent so much time with Bethany over the last many years that she really feels like family. The fact that Bethany’s mom wanted Bethany to teach me how to make these noodles solidifies this feeling even farther. When I first met Bethany 10 (!?) year’s ago, she was still a teenager. She was working backstage on a show that we had brought from NYC to perform at The Hip Pocket Theater in Fort Worth, Texas. Bethany’s mom offered to make the cast a delicious Laotian meal. If your teenage daughter starts to hang out with a bunch of rowdy puppeteers from New York while they do their puppet show in your town, you should totally offer to make them a delicious Laotian meal. Bethany’s mother fed us the most wonderful meal, and told us amazing stories about her family and childhood in Laos and Thailand. She also had the chance to check us out and make sure that we were good people.
BETHANY’S MOM’S FRESH RICE NOODLES
makes 8 servings
If you can get yourself to a South East Asian grocery store, I recommend buying your flours there. For one thing, it will be cheaper, and for another the rice flour in particular is ground much finer than the white rice flour from the health food store.
- 14 oz tapioca flour (also known as tapioca starch)
- 16 oz very fine white rice flour (not glutinous rice flour, not mochi flour, not sweet rice flour, not coursly ground rice flour)
- 4 or 5 cups boiling water (it must be boiling!)
- Extra tapioca flour for rolling out
- Combine the flours in a large bowl.
- Add 2 cups of the boiling water to the flours and gradually add more a cup at a time until the dough is pliable and easy to work with. You can stir it with a tool of some kind (Bethany’s mom uses chopsticks) until it cools down enough to knead with your hands. It is important that you work with it while it is still hot. Bethany and I noticed that in order to make nice thin noodles you needed to add a little more water once it reaches that perfect easy to work with smooth elastic feel. It should be just a tad sticky. Divide the dough into four lumps.
- Generously dust a large surface with tapioca starch. Roll the dough out with a rolling-pin, bottle or pestle that has been dusted with tapioca starch. Get it as thin as you can. It should be translucent.
- Slice the noodles as thin as you like with a sharp knife. Repeat the process with the remaining lumps of dough.
- The noodles can be cooked right away or portioned out into clean, dry containers and stored in the fridge until you are ready to cook them up.
- To cook, bring water or soup stock to a rolling boil. Drop the noodles in, one at a time, and cook them just until they float. If you are making them into healthy ramen, keep them raw until you have cooked the other ingredients (see directions below).
MY MOM’S HEALTHY RAMEN BROTH
- home-made economical experimental vegetable broth or homemade chicken broth or stock (3 cups for each serving of noodles)
- fresh shredded ginger (to taste)
- sesame oil (to taste)
- chili paste (to taste)
- tamari or fish sauce (to taste)
- a bit of sugar or honey
- a tiny splash of rice vinegar (optional)
- Thaw the stock if it is frozen.
- Add the ginger and bring the stock to a near boil. Simmer the stock until it takes on a nice ginger flavour.
- Season the broth with sesame oil, chili paste, tamari or fish sauce, sugar and vinegar.
ADDITIONS AND TOPPINGS
Use any or all of the following.
- 1 egg per serving
- carrots, sliced on a diagonal
- asparagus cut into 1 inch pieces
- snow peas or sugar snap peas
- shredded Napa cabbage
- Furikaki (Japanese seasoning salt with sesame and nori. Look for a brand with no MSG)
- snipped scallions or chives
- Bring the broth to a boil. Crack the eggs into the boiling broth. When they set, take them out of the broth with a ladle and put one in each bowl. It is good if there is a bit of hot broth in the bowl so that the egg continues to cook.
- Drop the carrots, peas, asparagus and or cabbage into the boiling broth.
- When the broth comes back to a boil, drop in the noodles.
- When the noodles float, ladle the broth, noodles and vegetables into the bowls.
- Garnish with chives and furikake and serve.
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