I'm sure you have a few weeknight, quick-and-easy, spur-of-the-moment meals that you can throw together on a whim. We have a few of those too, this being one of them that has the bonus advantage of also doubling as one of our "clean out the fridge" meals. Which leads me to the sad news that our time here at our Western Headquarters is coming to a close. Sniff. We're heading back home this week which also means that I'm on a mission over the next few days to use up the contents of the fridge. A daunting task, as it turns out, seeing as how I collect groceries the way others might collect other things that don't take up fridge space and spoil in 3 days.
We're highly partial to these veg-laden noodles, and I seriously make some version of it almost every week. Once you've done it a couple of times, you can pretty much make it in your sleep, which I've also actually tried, without success. I don't know about you, but I would very much rather not have to refer to a recipe when cooking. It's a bit of a nuisance to go back and forth to my phone which keeps going dark at all the wrong moments, forcing me to try and re-awaken it with sticky fingers which then causes all kinds of distress for my home button. So yes, no-recipe meals are my friend. And for this particular one, I offer a template as opposed to a recipe, which means that after you've made it a couple of times, you will have it in your head and be able to impress friends and family by your no-recipe cooking prowess. "Oh yeah, I just threw it together." Not only does it look nice at the table, it tastes awesome. So instead of a "recipe", here's our basic template...
Your ingredients (which are totally customizable and subject to your mood and whim)...
Rice noodles - 8 oz feeds 4 peeps. I prefer Annie Chun's because they're not cut. The most common rice noodles in most stores are the Thai Kitchen variety but they're cut short and that bugs me. If you don't have rice noodles, linguini or even spaghetti are decent stand-ins.
Veg - 4-5 cups of cooked veggies will do for 4 peeps. No need to measure, just grab what you've got, steam or boil briefly to get them mostly cooked through. I like to use broccoli, snap peas, carrots, zucchini, snow peas, red peppers and the like. Leftover cooked veggies are awesome here.
Protein - You don't have to add a protein if you not inclined to do so. But shrimp, salmon, tofu, beef and chicken all work well here. 3/4 lb will do for 4, but add more or less as you please. Cut your chicken, salmon or tofu into 1-inch chunks. Medium shrimp are fine.
Sauce - I always keep a jar of my basic Asian Sauce in the fridge for these moments, It comes in handy for grilled meats and makes a great dipping sauce too. But you could also use a store-bought sauce if you prefer.
Condiments - I usually chop a couple of green onions and some cilantro to sprinkle over the top for serving, along with some chopped peanuts. Again, quite optional
Once you've got your ingredients at the ready, you're only 15 minutes away from dinner.
1. If you have the time, place your chicken, salmon or tofu in some of the Asian Sauce to marinate for a bit before you begin. It's totally fine if you skip this.
2. Fill a large bowl with very hot water and submerge your rice noodles in there. Soak them for 8 minutes, then drain and rinse them. Unlike regular pasta, they can sit in your strainer for 30 minutes without getting all sticky.
3. While your noodles soak, heat a 10 or 12-inch saute pan over medium-high heat and add 2-3 tablespoons of veg oil (I use grapeseed oil) to the pan. Add your meat, if using, sprinkle well with salt and pepper if you didn't marinate it, and saute until cooked through. This usually only takes about 5-6 minutes and even less for shrimp. Once cooked, remove said meat from the pan, place in a bowl or plate and set aside.
4. Add another tablespoon or so of oil to the pan and quickly saute your veggies for a couple of minutes and then throw in your noodles and enough sauce to coat them nicely. Add your meat or tofu back in and mix everything together really well, adding a little more sauce if needed. Top with chopped peanuts, cilantro and/or chopped scallions if you like.
So that's pretty much it. If you're so inclined to keep rice noodles in the pantry and Asian Sauce in the fridge, you're halfway there, and can have this on the table, ready to feed the hungry hoards in way less than 30 minutes. After you've made this a couple of times, you can ditch the "recipe" and just throw it together whenever your heart desires. I'm fairly certain that will be often.