My son could eat pasta four or five times a week but I have a limited tolerance for pasta as a main food group. There are times in the summer where it makes a perfect dinner with a big salad but, most times, I find pasta as a meal, incomplete and unsatisfying. However, Asian-style noodles are another matter entirely – if I didn’t think there was something completely self-indulgent and non-adult about eating too many noodles, I could happily eat them every day. Compared to pasta, the variety of noodles is almost infinite; not only can they be made from different grains and pulses – rice, buckwheat, mung bean, wheat – but they seem much more sympathetic to a variety of vegetarian treatments and different forms of protein, than pasta ever can be.
Singapore noodles may not rate very highly in the top ten noodle dishes of the world but I have a secret passion for them. There’s something about this Cantonese/Indian/British Raj/Hong Kong-nese fusion noodle dish that I find irresistible. I don’t use curry powder that much (except once in a blue moon when I’m making retro deviled eggs) but it’s the defiantly down market taste and bright yellow tumeric color of the curry powder that is half the fun of Singapore noodles. Generally, Singapore noodles are made with a combination of barbecued pork and prawns but for this vegetarian version, I use tofu, as well as the addition of peanut butter in the final stir fry sauce for an extra boost of flavour. I also like a fairly high ratio of vegetable to noodle but my son likes these noodles without the extra ‘bibs and bobs’, as he says, and I generally make his noodles separately with a higher noodle-to-vegetable ratio. This recipe makes enough for two people and I have found if you are making any kind of noodles it’s best to make them in smaller quantities. Although I have a gas stove, I don’t have a wok burner so I can’t really get the heat necessary to get, singed edges or ‘breath of the wok‘ of a truly authentic stir fry and, if I overload my wok, I end up with a completely soggy mess. As for the vegetables, I generally use a mixture of whatever I have in the fridge, sliced finely to cook quickly and evenly. If you are using peas, add them at the last minute – you want them still bright and fresh looking and not a depressing khaki green. Because you can use what ever vegetables you have at hand, these Singapore noodles makes a very good store cupboard standby for a quick Sunday night supper or mid-week dinner.
Whatever you do, you don’t want your noodles to be too soggy or your curry powder scorched from overcooking. I solve the curry powder problem by mixing it with a bit of water, then adding it to the stir fry sauce. As for the soggy noodles, if they are the very fine rice vermicelli, I find it best to soak them in cold water for ten minutes so they are softened but not soft. If your rice vermicelli is thicker and sturdier, you may have to either soak them in warm water or soak them a bit longer in cold water.
Vegetarian Singapore noodles
Adapted from Felicity Cloake’s Word of Mouth Blog
- 125 grams (4½ ounces) fine rice vermicelli
- 2½ teaspoons of curry powder
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons rice wine or dry sherry
- 1 teaspoon of sugar
- 2 teaspoons of peanut butter
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 tablespoon of peeled, finely grated ginger root
- 1 birds eye chilli with or without seeds (finely sliced)
- 1 small onion cut into half and into thin half-moons
- 100 grams of firm tofu cut into small cubes
- 1 cup of sliced vegetables (cabbage, capsicum, carrot, shitake mushrooms or snow peas)
- 1 handful of baby corn sliced on the diagonal in half (optional)
- 1 egg beaten, with a pinch of salt and sesame oil
- 2 tablespoons peanut or other neutral oil
- For garnish – a handful of chopped coriander and or finely chopped green onion to serve
- Put vermicelli in a bowl, cover with cold water and soak for 10 minutes. Drain and cut noodles into shorter strips (about 10 – 12 cm) with scissors or knife and set aside.
- Mix together curry powder with one tablespoon of water a small bowl, then whisk this together with peanut butter, soy sauce, dry sherry or rice wine, sugar, garlic and ginger and set aside.
- Put all ingredients near your stove and heat oil in wok, until smoking. Stir fry onion, tofu cubes and sliced chilli until they start to become golden. Add veggies and baby corn and stir fry until just cooked.
- Push everything to the side of the pan then add beaten egg to the empty side. Let the egg set for a minute until just starting to firm, then toss through the rest of your stir fry.
- Now add softened noodles to vegetables and then curry powder and soy sauce mixture, and toss through the noodles. If noodles are still a bit firm, add some extra water a tablespoon at a time until they have softened to taste.
- Remove from heat, place noodles in serving bowls and garnish with coriander and spring onion, if available.