When I first encountered banh pho dried rice noodles -- the noodles often sold as pad Thai noodles, or rice vermicelli -- I thought they were, well... astonishing. After a brief soak in a bowl of warm water, these brittle, opaque noodles got tossed directly into a wok -- no boiling, can you imagine? -- where the heat softened them to chewy perfection in just a minute or two. Wow. Everything, sauce and noodles, cooked in the same pot, and that made a believer out of me. The noodles have no real flavor of their own, and happily soak up any sauce and spices that surround them. This recipe is a template for all kinds of rice noodle stir-fry dishes. Swap turkey, chicken or pork for the beef; add snow peas or bok choy, or any vegetables you have on hand. Banh pho keeps in the pantry cupboard for a year or more, and offers a easy, inexpensive, gluten-free alternative to wheat noodles.
Spicy rice noodle stir-fry
3/4 lb rice vermicelli or banh pho noodles
1 Tbsp rice bran, vegetable or peanut oil
1 lb extra-lean ground beef (or ground turkey)
3 scallions, chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1/2 lb mushrooms (any type), chopped
1 tsp to 1 Tbsp chili paste with garlic, to taste
2 tsp oyster sauce
3 tsp reduced-sodium soy sauce
In a large bowl, soak the rice noodles in warm (not hot) water for 20 minutes, until they are pliable. Leave them in the water until you are ready to cook. Do not discard the soaking water.
Preheat a wok (or large frying pan) over medium-high heat. Add the ground beef (or turkey), and stir-fry until no longer pink. Break up any clumps with your spatula.
Add the scallions, bell pepper and mushrooms, and continue to stir until the vegetables are just softened. Stir in the chili paste, and cook for 20 seconds.
Pour the oyster sauce and soy sauce into the pan, along with 2 cups of the noodle soaking water. Let the sauce in the pot come up to a simmer. Then, lift the rice noodles out of the soaking bowl, and add them directly to the wok. Begin to stir the noodles into the liquid in the wok, gently pulling the meat mixture from the bottom of the pan up and over the noodles. The heat of the mixture in the pan will cook the noodles in 2-3 minutes and the liquid will absorb quickly, so be sure to get everything well combined. Stir constantly; the noodles will tend to stick to the bottom of the pan as the starchy liquid evaporates. If needed, add a bit more of the soaking liquid from the bowl into the wok, until the noodles are cooked through but still have some "bite".
Other recipes that use these pantry ingredients:
Fiery hot noodles with bell peppers, from Love Food Eat
Singapore fried rice noodles, from Rasa Malaysia
Shrimp teriyaki over rice noodles, from Julia's Album
Easy char kway teow, from My Cooking Hut
Avocado rice noodles, from Grubarazzi
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