This is a pretty involved recipe, but the results are well worth it. The cookbook we used for this had each part of the recipe in a different area of the book, so flipping back and forth probably made it seem more difficult than it really was. I’ve combined it all into one place to make it easier for you!
The dish has a delicious, earthy flavor, mainly due to the shiitake mushrooms. I wouldn’t recommend substituting any other mushrooms in their place, as this flavor is so distinct and so delicious. I’m sure either dried or fresh ones would work just fine! We used the dried, which honestly are amazing, how they just come back to life in minutes.
Vermicelli rice noodles are one of the hardest things to cook. This was really the first time we did it right. The key, we think, is not to overcook them at all. Even leave them undercooked if you need to. It’s better than the goopy, sticky mess they become when cooked to long.
Complicated or not, if you’re up for it, this dish is well worth it! The photo does not do the flavor justice.
Stir Fry Veggies and Noodles with Soy Lime Dipping Sauce
Makes 4 servings. Recipe from Pleasures of the Vietnamese Table.
2/3 lb. small dried rice vermicelli
2 cups shredded red- or green-leaf lettuce
1 1/2 cups bean sprouts
1/3 cucumber, seeded and cut into matchsticks
1/3 cup fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped
1/3 cup Asian basil leaves, roughly chopped
6 ounces tofu
1 carrot, peeled and cut into matchsticks
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 yellow onion, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
8 dried Chinese black (shiitake) mushrooms, soaked in warm water for 30 minutes, then drained, stemmed, and sliced.
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoon sugar
3 tablespoons unsweetened coconut milk
1/2 cup chopped roasted peanuts
1 clove garlic
2 fresh Thai bird chilies
2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1/3 cup soy sauce
2 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice with pulp
1/4 cup water, or to taste
Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Add the vermicelli and stir gently to loosen them. Cook until the noodles are whit and soft but still slightly resilient, about 4 minutes. Do not overcook! Drain and rinse under cold running water. Gently fluff the noodles and set them aside for at least 30 minutes. Noodles should be dry before servings.
Gently toss together lettuce, bean sprouts, cucumbers, mint, and basil. Divide the salad mixture among 4 bowls. Top each with 1/4 of the rice noodles.
Cut the tofu slab into 3 or 4 manageable pieces and press with a dish towel to remove excess water. Heat 2-3 tablespoons oil in a nonstick pan over moderate heat. Add tofu in one layer and cook, turning once, until golden, about 5 minutes. Drain on paper towels, and then cut into 1/4 inch thick strips.
Blanch carrots in boiling water for 1 minute. Rinse and set aside.
Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large pan over high heat. Add the onion and garlic and stir for 30 seconds. Add the mushrooms, soy sauce, sugar, and coconut milk. Stir, then reduce the heat slightly and cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Add the tofu and carrot and cook until all the ingredients are hot, 2-3 minutes. Add a little water if the pan gets too dry.
To make dipping sauce, place garlic, chilies, and sugar in a mortar and pound into a paste. Alternatively, you may chop the garlic and chilies by hand as finely as possible. Transfer to a small bowl and add the soy sauce, lime juice, and water. Stir until well blended.
Divide the vegetable topping among the 4 bowls of noodles. Garnish each with chopped peanuts and drizzle with soy-lime dipping sauce.