Two Years Ago: Summer Harvest Quiche
There are two ways you can go at this recipe. You can treat it as an adventure and an excuse to visit your local Asian market, or you can use the ingredients you have on hand or can find at your regular grocery store. I was particularly intrigued by the casual mention at the very end of the recipe about serving the chile oil and chile oil solids on the side at the table. Chile oil solids? Not in any brand I've ever purchased at my local grocery store. Happily, we have wonderful and extensive Asian markets in Phoenix so I took a trip and found not only the specific chile oil the recipe calls for, but even the Sichuan preserved vegetables (they're actually pickled mustard greens).
I asked the guy at the checkout counter if he'd ever had the chile oil because it looks like it could be fiery. He just nodded and smiled and as I left he said, "be careful with that one". Ohkaaaay. I took that advice seriously and only added a little chile oil at the table (with said solids) and it was plenty for me. But it wasn't as explosively hot as I expected.
If you want to go the other route, skip the preserved vegetables (truth be told, I couldn't really taste them anyway) and use a chile oil from the Asian aisle of your local grocery store. You could even use Sriracha or another hot sauce to give it some spice if you don't want to buy chile oil at all.
This is a very easy recipe to prepare and can be served hot or at room temperature. The important part, however, is to make sure the pork mixture becomes browned and crispy because the texture is very appealing with the noodles, herbs, radishes and peanuts. I debated long and hard whether to substitute ground turkey for the ground pork, which I would normally do to cut down on fat and calories, but decided for the sake of authenticity to go with the pork. Although the pork was very good, I think you could substitute ground turkey or chicken without too much change in flavor as long as you make sure to brown the meat until it's crisp.
Spicy Pork and Noodles with Herbs
1 pound thin, round rice noodles (or other thin noodles)
2 teaspoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon black vinegar
1 tablespoon chile oil (like Lao Gan Ma brand)
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon canola or other neutral oil
½ pound ground pork
1 teaspoon salt
2 garlic cloves, sliced
1 1-inch piece ginger, chopped
2 scallions, light parts chopped, green parts reserved for garnish
1 tablespoon yacai (Sichuan preserved vegetables, optional)
Handful of herbs like mint, basil and cilantro leaves, washed
¼ cup salted, roasted peanuts, chopped
4 radishes, sliced
Bring a large pot of water to boil, and cook noodles according to instructions. Drain noodles while running under cold water, until they are cool to the touch. Toss with sesame oil to avoid sticking. Set aside. Mix dressing by whisking rice vinegar, soy sauce, black vinegar, chile oil and sugar until sugar dissolves. Set aside.
Cook the pork topping: Heat oil in saucepan over medium heat, and add ground pork and salt. Pan-fry, breaking meat into small pieces with a wooden spoon, until no pink parts and no liquid remain in the pan, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, ginger and scallion whites, and stir occasionally until the raw smell has disappeared and the meat is starting to brown in places, about 5 minutes. Add the vegetables, if using, along with a tablespoon of water, and cook for 2 or 3 minutes more, or until mixture is darkened and thick. (The pork should be browned and crispy.)
Divide noodles between four individual bowls, and top each with a tablespoon of vinegar dressing followed by a pile of ground pork, herbs, peanuts and radishes. Serve with additional chile oil and chile-oil solids, on the side.