Going Gluten-Free: Rice noodles offer lots of possibilities
There are plenty of gluten-free options in the Asian noodle aisle, where a whole world of rice noodles is avaialble — wide and thick, thin and fine, dried inspaghetti-like sticks, folded into ribbons, bunched into bird-nest bundles.
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It’s not often that I have time to peruse the aisles when grocery shopping. Most of the time I’m there on a Sunday, scrambling to gather ingredients for the meals I prepare ahead of the work week. So it’s a treat, especially when I’m at Don Quijote in Waipahu, to have some time to stroll the aisles. The store has a wide array of ethnic ingredients — dried chilies and chili pastes, dried and fermented tofu, dried fish and fish sauces, coconut products and much more.
So when considering what to explore for this column, I knew I had to start with a visit to Don Quijote. It didn’t take long to take notice of the Asian noodle aisle, where a whole world of rice noodles was on display — wide and thick, thin and fine, dried in spaghetti-like sticks, folded into ribbons, bunched into bird-nest bundles. After much examination, I settled on three types: pho, Hsinchu and vermicelli.
The big takeaway in cooking them was their resilience. I had assumed any noodle made of rice would be fragile and starchy. But with the proper preparation and timing, these noodles remain hardy.
Pho and Hsinchu noodles require a simple soak in hot water, making them especially good for a quick weeknight meal. The vermicelli needs to be boiled.
>> Lan Vang rice vermicelli ($1.99)
This 14-ounce bag of vermicelli sticks, with noodles resembling angel-hair pasta, required a seven-minute boil to fully cook, plus about half a minute off the heat before draining and rinsing to cool. Be sure not to overcook. My batch retained a decent chew and firmness. I served this one cold, topped with fresh veggies and light dressing, not unlike a somen salad
>> King Products pho noodles ($2.79)
A 16-ounce bag of pho noodles, narrow ribbons made with rice flour and water, needed soaking for 3-1/2 minutes. These can tend toward stickiness, but a quick toss with a little oil averts the problem, and the noodles can be kept refrigerated for several days with little compromise to consistency. Serve topped with Thai curry as an alternative to pho.
>> Tiger Brand Hsinchu noodles ($3.98)
These fine, long strands are made in the Hsinchu region of Taiwan, famed for its chewy rice noodle. These stay springy thanks to the addition of cornstarch. A 14-ounce bundle required just 1 minute of soaking — with no stickiness and no oil required. See recipe .
THE SPRINGINESS of the Hsinchu noodles brought to mind spicy Singapore rice noodles, a personal favorite. This recipe is based on that lively dish.
To flavor the noodles, I use shiitake liquid (the liquid left after soaking the dried mushrooms), chicken broth and fish sauce in addition to curry powder. Then I finish the noodles with generous drizzles of spicy sesame oil.
If you don’t like heat, use plain sesame oil and cut back or eliminate the curry powder. Top with whatever veggies you like. I also like to add shredded rotisserie chicken.
By Joleen Oshiro
- 1 (14-ounce) package Hsinchu rice noodles
- 4 teaspoons olive oil, divided
- 1 onion, sliced
- 4 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 small carrot, julienned
- 1 small bunch choi sum or other Asian greens, chopped, stems separated from leaves
- 1/2 red bell pepper or other type bell pepper, sliced into 1/2-by- 1-1/2-inch pieces
- 1 cup Chinese peas
- 1/2 cup hydrated wood-ear fungus, sliced into strips
- 6 shiitake mushrooms, soaked in water and sliced into strips, stems discarded and liquid reserved
- 3 teaspoons curry powder, or to taste, divided
- 3 teaspoons salt, or to taste, divided
- 1/2 cup shiitake liquid, or to taste
- 1/2 cup chicken broth, or more as necessary
- 2 teaspoons fish sauce, or to taste (optional)
- 2 drizzles spicy sesame oil
Bring a pot of water to a boil. Pour water into big bowl and soak noodles 1 minute. Drain, fluff and set aside.
In wok or pan on medium-high, heat 1 teaspoon oil. Add onion; cook halfway, then add garlic. Add vegetables, starting with items that require the longest cooking time and ending with mushrooms, 1 teaspoon curry powder and 1 teaspoon salt. Stir-fry but don’t overcook. Remove from pan; set aside.
Add remaining oil to wok or pan. Working in 2 batches if necessary, add noodles, shiitake liquid, broth, fish sauce, remaining curry powder and remaining salt. Toss well.
Taste and adjust seasonings. Drizzle with sesame oil, toss well again. Remove to large bowl, add vegetables and toss. Serves 8 to 10.
Nutritional information unavailable.
“Going Gluten-Free” helps meet the cooking and dining challenges faced by those on wheat-free diets. It runs on the first Wednesday of each month. Send questions to Joleen Oshiro, email@example.com.