Noodles the Healthy Way

vietnamese noodle bowlThin, clear rice noodles … a bed of mixed greens, lots of fresh raw vegetables, tofu, maybe some sliced meat, peanuts, fresh herbs and a very light oil-free dressing. Ahhh … a meal from Vietnam-heaven made for warm summer nights!

We have nothing like Vietnamese cuisine in Helena — unless we prepare it at home. I wish wish wish we had a place to grab a bowl of pho or one of these scrumptious noodle bowls. The first time I had pho was in Portland when I was visiting our son, Gabe. Subsequent visits to Portland then had to include either a noodle bowl or pho. Recently I visited some friends in Missoula who like preparing Vietnamese meals and they inspired me to try some at home.

I bought a bunch of amazing herbs, veggies and other greens from our friends’ garden and from the River Farmer’s Market Hmong farmers. All I had was a vague idea of what goes into the sauce for a noodle bowl, so I looked around for recipes, found a few that I tweaked and combined to suit what I had on hand, and came up with one of the most delicious dinners I’ve ever had. Totally worth trying. Totally easy. The most time consuming part is cutting up the veggies.

Vietnamese Noodle Bowl with Chicken and Tofu

Here’s the recipe I came up with:

Vietnamese Noodle Bowl with Chicken and Tofu

INGREDIENTS

  • lots and lots of mixed greens (mustard greens, different lettuces, arugula, spinach, beet greens, mizuna)
  • rice noodles, softened with boiling water (as per directions on package)
  • 1 cup extra firm tofu, cut into small cubes
  • 2 T. peanut or canola oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 T soy sauce
  • 1/2 chicken breast
  • 1 T green curry paste
  • 1/2 white or yellow onion
  • 2 green onions
  • 1 inch ginger root, sliced
  • 1 sprig each: fresh mint, basil and cilantro (for the broth)
  • 1 carrot, sliced thinly or julienned
  • 1/2 cup green beans, very lightly cooked (al denté)
  • 1 cup mung bean sprouts
  • 1/4 cup each red and yellow bell peppers, julienned
  • 1/2 cup crunchy cucumber, sliced
  • roasted unsalted peanuts
  • lots more fresh mint, basil and cilantro (for the top of the noodle bowls)

Sauce Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup broth from cooking the chicken
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1T. fish sauce
  • 1T soy sauce
  • 2 T sugar
  • juice of 1 or 2 limes (cut two wedges for garnishing the noodle bowls and use the rest for the sauce)
  • 1T rice vinegar
  • sweet chili sauce to taste

PREPARATION

Prepare the meat: simmer chicken breast covered with water and seasonings (fish sauce, soy sauce, green curry paste, ginger root, a sprig each of the fresh mint, basil and cilantro, white or yellow onion, 2 whole green onions.) About 20 minutes. Remove the meat when it is tender and cooked through. Strain the broth and discard all the herbs and onion. Reserve the broth.

Prepare the rice noodles: bring water to boiling, remove from stove and add rice noodles. Cover and let sit until barely tender (do not oversoak or the noodles will be slimy and limp.) Strain and rinse noodles with cold water. Strain again and set aside.

Prepare the tofu: after cutting the tofu into small cubes, sauté in hot peanut oil with garlic until browned and crispy on the outside.

Prepare the sauces: mix all sauce ingredients in a food processor or blender until the sugar is dissolved.

Prepare the veggies: do all veggies in separate small bowls, so you can make the noodle bowls beautiful when you put them together. Marinate the carrots, cucumbers and whole green beans in the light vinegar sauce while the meat is cooking.  Slice the remaining green onions really thin. Get your bowl of mixed greens rinsed, spun out and chopped. Slice the bell peppers. Put those in a bowl. Put your mung sprouts in a bowl.

Assemble the noodle bowls: I used large Asian bowls since the noodle bowl was our entire meal and we like lots of fresh greens for dinner. First put in a very large amount of chopped fresh greens. I seasoned the greens with a little of the sauce. Then put in a big handful of cold rice noodles, pouring a little more sauce over the noodles. Next comes the fun part.

Arrange all the different veggies, tofu and meat over the greens and noodles. (You can let people put their own veggies, etc, on according to their tastes) Pour the remaining sauce over all. Then garnish with roasted peanuts, cilantro, basil, mint, slivered green onions, and a wedge of lime. Serve with chopstick and/or a fork. Enjoy.

Yummo!

NOTES:

  •  Thanks to these three sites for the recipe inspiration: Flourishing Foodie; Omnivorous; and Low Fat Vegan Chef.
  • You can make this with meat or without. If you are vegetarian poached eggs are delicious protein with the noodle bowl. If you are vegan, skip the fish sauce too.
  • I loved using a mixture of lots of different greens, but if you want just spinach or lettuce, that’s delicious too.

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