Sometimes when I'm in the mood to cook Asian food, I'm really in the mood for noodles. Maybe udon with mushrooms and oyster sauce, a spicy aromatic soup or pad thai. I flip past recipes of baked fish, chopped salads and rice dishes going through the motions. But the whole time I know the only thing that will be truly satisfying is a noodle dish.
This was the situation last weekend, when we decided we hadn't cooked Asian in a while. Mike wanted to do the cooking, and along with Mexican, Asian food has really turned out to be his forté. We wanted to venture beyond pad thai (and I was in the mood for something with more heat), so we settled on this. It's the same idea as pad thai, but more heat than that sweet and sour flavor that characterizes pad thai.
According to Christina Arokiasamy, it's the type of lightning-quick noodle stir fry you would typically find at markets (or maybe food courts) in Kuala Lumpur where she grew up. We adapted her recipe in The Spice Merchant's Daughter, with our own twists like a few handfuls of spinach and a bit of molasses instead of sweet soy sauce, which we couldn't find (Arokiasamy suggested that they have a similar flavor). To make it a substantial meal, we added fresh chorizo in lieu of the Chinese sausage, which is often included in this type of dish.
The result was addictively delicious. I like this dish easily as much as pad thai--and that's saying something! Adding the extra veggies was nice, and I don't think chorizo has ever spoiled a dish. Just get all your ingredients ready first; the cooking is quick. Of course, you can add as much or as little heat as you want. We didn't have any hot fresh chiles, but crushed red pepper did the job nicely.
Malaysian Market Noodles (char kway teow)
Adapted from The Spice Merchant's Daughter by Christina Arokiasamy
Rice noodles are often cooked by soaking in hot water, but I prefer boiling them in salted water just like spaghetti. Cooking time depends on the noodles you're using, but it usually takes about 5 minutes. Taste and cook until al dente.
Serves 3 to 4
8 oz. rice noodles (sometimes called pad thai noodles)
2 fresh chorizo sausages, sliced
1 Tbs. canola oil
2 large shallots, sliced
8 oz. large shrimp, peeled and deveined
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1 Tbs. molasses
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste
2 large eggs, beaten
1 cup bean sprouts
2 cups spinach leaves
chopped fresh chives for garnish
Cook rice noodles according to package directions or boil until al dente. Drain, rinse and set aside. Cook chorizo in a large skillet on medium heat. Transfer to a paper towel to drain and leave about 1 tablespoon of fat in the skillet. Add the canola oil and shallots; Cook until soft. Add the shrimp and garlic and cook until shrimp is opaque; season with salt and pepper. Reduce heat to medium low.
Whisk together the soy sauce, molasses and crushed red pepper. Add the noodles and soy mixture and toss well. Add the eggs and toss vigorously with noodles until eggs are cooked, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the beans sprouts and spinach and toss well. Taste for seasoning and serve immediately, garnished with chives.