Rice Noodle Salad Redux

Tomorrow is my company’s holiday potluck and I volunteered, as usual, to bring a salad. So last night I went to Wegmans and wandered around until inspiration struck. I decided to go with a rice noodle salad, so I bought a few things and then tonight whipped up a sauce to pull them all together. I knew I had posted a rice noodle salad here a few months ago, but I didn’t realize until now that what I made was almost identical. Nonetheless, I took a bunch of pictures of it, so I’m posting it anyway!

Rice Noodle Salad…again

1 package rice noodles
about 3″ of a wide daikon, shredded, julienned, or cut on spiralizer
2 carrots, shredded, julienned, or cut on spiralizer
a few leaves of savoy or Napa cabbage, shredded
1 red bell pepper, thinly julienned
1 cup bean sprouts
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 Tbsp sesame paste
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp grated ginger
1 Tbsp tamarind paste
1 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
1 Tbsp lime juice
sriracha to taste

Prepare the noodles. Begin by soaking them in cold-to-room-temperature water for 10 minutes (this prevents them from sticking to each other later), then heat the water to a near boil and cook just until al dente. Drain, rinse with cold water, and toss with a bit of sesame oil to prevent sticking. Set aside.

Prepare each of the vegetables by julienning, shredding, or cutting on a spiralizer. Here is my daikon:

And here is my cabbage:

Put each of the vegetables in a bowl as you prep them.

Chop the cilantro, then place in the bowl with the vegetables. Set aside.

Put the rest of the ingredients in a small bowl. Adjust the ratio of each to suit your taste; I just estimated above what I used. I adore this little Fire King bowl for making small amounts of sauce.

Whisk. This sauce would also be good as a dipping sauce for summer rolls. In fact, it ended up kind of watered down in the salad, but was good enough to show off, so I might have to make it again soon for dipping.

Put the noodles into a large bowl or pot, then thoroughly mix in the sauce.

Add the vegetables and toss until everything is combined.

I’m thinking this will be a good potluck dish because it doesn’t need to be warmed before serving and in fact can just sit on my desk for a couple of hours in the morning instead of taking up space in the refrigerator.

The bundle of cilantro I bought was HUGE! Help me out: what are your favorite cilantro-centric recipes?

In other news, I had some Tofutti ricotta left over from my taste test last week, so I thought I’d sprinkle some on a butternut squash before baking. Mistake. The Tofutti ricotta did okay in the pasta bake I made for my review, but it did not fare as well baked “in the open” instead of mixed in a casserole and covered. I put a bunch of the ricotta in the hole left by the seeds, and a thin layer on the rest of the squash. The ricotta in the hole melted to a very thin, watery, tasteless liquid, and the remainder of it turned…kinda brown and crusty. Looks like cat food, non?

That whole brown part was hollow and crispy and slid right off the squash. The ricotta added absolutely no taste to the squash; it was like water. (The brown part was like crispy water, I guess.) I should have just poured it off and sprinkled some of my normal brown sugar on the squash; it would have been much better. I definitely won’t be buying that stuff again. I gave the rest of it to Gomez, who likes it far better than I do, though I can’t imagine why.

What’s that you say? You miss the raccoons? Well, that’s understandable!

Scrumpy was found alone near a school a few weeks ago. As you may expect, young raccoons like toys similar to those you would give your cat or dog. They are so dexterous and curious, however, that they also enjoy toys made for human children, with buttons they can push and parts they can yank on. They get into as much trouble than a toddler, that’s for sure!

Renata is much larger than Scrumpy and in fact her siblings were released months ago, but she wasn’t ready to go. She’s adopted Scrumpy and will over-winter with us to take care of him, which works out well because raccoons like company and also learn from each other as they grow. Renata kept pushing her face into the camera when I was trying to take Scrumpy’s picture. Does your cat or dog walk towards you whenever you try to take a picture? Raccoons are like that too, except I think usually their motive is more to steal your camera than to say hi.

Comments (2)

Rice Noodle Salad

Summer is waning, I’m sorry to say. Instead of a blast of already-100-degree heat on my face when I leave for work in the mornings, it’s pleasant, even cool sometimes. It’s a bittersweet time of year because although it’s nice to have a relief from the oppressive heat, I hate to see summer end. Fortunately (or not), it’s usually still quite warm to hot during the day, especially when you are cleaning raccoon enclosures. So last night’s dinner was still a welcome almost-no-cook treat.

Rice Noodle Salad

1 package rice noodles – I used wide ones, but thinner ones would work too
1 huge or 3 smaller carrots, cut on a spiralizer or julienned
1 small daikon, cut on a spiralizer or julienned
1 cucumber, cut on a spiralizer or julienned
2 cups bean sprouts
1/2 small head Savoy (or about 2 cups Napa) cabbage, shredded
2-3 scallions, thinly sliced on the diagonal
1/2 cup peanuts, crushed

For the dressing
3 Tbsp rice vinegar
3 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp brown sugar
juice of 1 lime
1 red chili pepper, minced

If you really don’t want to cook anything, soak the noodles in very hot water. I’m too impatient to do that and always boil mine for a couple of minutes. When they are al dente, drain them, rinse under cold water, and toss with some toasted sesame oil. Set aside.

Meanwhile, prep all of the vegetables. Whisk together all of the sauce ingredients. Then toss everything together except the peanuts and scallions. I used my hands to mix everything together before realizing that was a really stupid move considering I used a jolokia pepper in the sauce, but for some reason, it didn’t burn. (I’m not convinced what this farmer is selling to Whole Foods as jolokia peppers are really jolokias; they’re not that hot.)

Top with crushed peanuts and scallions. Serve with sriracha.

I also served tofu puffs with a sweet chili-vinegar dipping sauce. Super H sells these tofu puffs, which Mark loves:

I cut them in half and toast them in the toaster oven for one to two toast cycles to warm them up and make them slightly crispy outside:

I make a dipping sauce for them based on a recipe I got off the internet many, many years ago, back when I actually owned one of those evil appliances called a printer and used to print out recipes and store them in a huge, untamed notebook. I think I lost the printout so I can’t tell you where I got the recipe (I think a Thai recipe site) or if I’m even still making it as directed.

Sweet Chili-Vinegar Dipping Sauce

3 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp chili-garlic sauce
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
pinch of salt

Whisk everything together.

Serve with the warmed tofu puffs.

Now, about those raccoons. They’re often asleep when I arrive to clean their enclosure.

You learn very quickly to NEVER put ANYTHING you don’t want mutilated within reach of a raccoon. They are extremely devious! Here is one on its back destroying a paper towel I made the mistake of putting down for half a second.

But seriously, how could you possibly be mad at this face?

Or this one?

Answer: you can’t.

Comments (6)

Bun Rieu, or Vietnamese “Crab” Noodle Soup, and vegan “shrimp” paste

The other day I was making the unprecedented move of checking the comments automatically marked as spam on this here ole blog, and I came across a single one that I wasn’t entirely sure was really spam. Someone identifying himself as “San Antonio personal injury lawyer” had left a comment on my Spicy Vermicelli Soup post saying my soup sounded a lot like the Vietnamese dish Bun Rieu. I looked up Bun Rieu to see if it really did sound similar to my recipe, figuring if it did, the comment was legit enough for me. It did seem a little similar – in that it’s a soup and it involves rice vermicelli – so I approved the comment, but I found myself interested in this Bun Rieu as a byproduct. It did sound delicious…but decidedly unvegan: full of crab and shrimp and fish sauce. If you know me at all by now, though, you’ll recognize that I immediately viewed this as a challenge. I shall make vegan Bun Rieu!

I need to be clear though: I’ve never had Bun Rieu, or even heard of it before being left a possible spam comment on my blog a couple of days ago. All I know about it is a few recipes I was able to scrounge up on the internet (this one was probably the most helpful). I couldn’t tell you if what I ended up with was anything remotely like Bun Rieu. I can tell you that it was pretty darn good, though, and I’m glad I got that comment, spam or not. This is me in my element: challenged to veganize some crazy Asian dish I’ve never actually had. Especially a soup. (Have you noticed I sort of love soup?)

Now, first of all, I want you to know that I have not become a spokeswoman for Nature’s Soy, although I just did a post on one of their products earlier today and I’m using two of their products in this meal. In fact, it wasn’t until just a couple of weeks ago that I even realized that several of the tofu and seitan products I’ve been buying at Super H and other Asian grocery stores are from the same company, Like the tofu puffs I use in this recipe: I used to buy them all the time to make a recipe that Mark loves (I’ll do a post on it soon), but I had no idea they were made by the same people who make the “chicken” seitan I use in my “tuna” salad until tonight when I looked more closely at the packaging. Rather than looking at brand names, I usually just immediately flip everything over and stare at the ingredients list. Conditioning is a funny thing.

Anyway, on with my Bun Rieu experience. Bun Rieu is not just full of crab meat; it also contains shrimp and/or shrimp paste (as well as, often, fish sauce), all of which may seem like pretty big deterrents for veganization. I had already decided that if I could get away with using that chicken-style seitan as tuna, I could use it for crab, but what to do about shrimp paste? My first thought was actually to use some Thai green curry paste. A lot of Thai curries contain shrimp paste, so I guess I associate the two in my head, and I figured the curry paste – a vegan version of which I have on hand – is pungent and salty like I assume shrimp paste is. I’ve never had shrimp paste so this is a guess. But I wanted to see if I could concoct something, maybe something that those of you who don’t have access to ready-made vegan Thai curry paste might be able to make. So first, I’ll show you how I made vegan “shrimp” paste, then I’ll show you my Bun Rieu using it.

“Shrimp” Paste

1 large or 2 small shallots, minced
1 clove garlic, minced, pressed, or smashed
1 cube vegan vegetable bouillon
1/4 tsp salt (I used pink Himalayan, mostly because of the four different kinds of salt I keep out in salt pigs, it’s used the least often and I figured it deserved some glory today)
1 tsp miso (optional – it tasted good even before I mixed this in)
1 1/2 tsp powdered kelp
1/4 tsp ground dry lemongrass (this is a bit esoteric and therefore optional; you could use a bit of fresh lemongrass if you have it on hand)
1 tsp black vinegar, optional

Mince the shallot(s).

Put the shallots, garlic, salt, lemongrass, kelp, and crumbled bouillon cube into a mortar …

… and crush to a paste with the pestle. Add the black vinegar if you have it, although I tasted it before adding and it was good without it, so don’t go out of your way to buy black vinegar just for this.

Looks delicious, no? I ended up with just about a quarter cup.

Moving on…

Bun Rieu, or Veitnamese “Crab” Noodle Soup

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4-6 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • 1 red hot chili pepper, sliced
  • 2-4 tomatoes, quartered OR 1 can diced or whole tomatoes OR 1/2 can diced or whole tomatoes + 1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved (I used the latter because that’s what I had on hand)
  • 6 oz tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup vegan “shrimp” paste (see recipe above)
  • 4 cups vegan “chicken” or vegetable stock
  • 1 package Nature’s Soy chicken-style seitan OR 16 oz tofu, chopped OR 1 large can young green jackfruit, shredded
  • 3 scallions, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp rice vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp tamarind paste
  • 1 Tbsp vegan “fish’ sauce OR soy sauce
  • rice vermicelli

For garnish

  • bean sprouts
  • mint leaves
  • tia to (perilla) leaves
  • scallions
  • fried tofu puffs (optionally chopped into bite-sized pieces)
  • sriracha

Don’t not make this because you can’t find this style of seitan. While most homemade seitan is too dense and chewy to provide the right texture, tofu would have been very good in this. It may not have been anything like crab meat, but it would have been very good.

Do your mise en place: chop the onions, scallions, and tomatoes, mince or press the garlic, slice the chili pepper, chop the tofu puffs, pull apart the seitan or chop the tofu.

In a heavy soup pot, heat some oil, then add the onions and cook until soft, then add the garlic and cook another minute.

Add the chili peppers, fresh or canned tomatoes, and tomato paste and cook a minute or two.

Add the stock and bring to a boil.

Add the rest of the ingredients, except vermicelli (and garnishes), reduce heat, and simmer for five minutes.

Add the rice vermicelli. I wanted to show you how much I added, so here it is. That mole on my hand looks like an eye and it looks like my hand is eating the vermicelli, does it not?

Cook until the vermicelli is done. This will vary depending on brand and how thick it was; this brand took longer to cook than the stuff I used for my previous soup. (It was also unsettlingly spaghetti-like.)

Here’s the finished product:

To assemble, ladle some of the soup into a large bowl.

Garnish with as many or as few of the garnishes as you’d like, keeping in mind that I personally find lime pretty important: squeeze it all over the soup and mix in. Obviously sriracha’s a given for me too.

And that’s it! It looks harder than it really is; I’ve called for a lot of ingredients, but most of them get tossed in at the same time, so this is a fairly fast meal. I thought it was really good; I was pretty impressed with myself. I have no idea if it tastes or even looks like true Bun Rieu, but I’ll make this again.

Comments (19)

Make Mark Feel Better Spicy Rice Noodle Soup

Mark and I returned from a simply wonderful trip to Disney World, where we celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary, earlier this week. Mark ran around like an exuberant child the entire time. He looked like this, constantly:

Unfortunately, he developed a bad cold or virus as soon as we got home Tuesday night. Considering the number of coughing children we encountered in Disney, I guess that’s not too surprising. He’s feeling better now, but he’s still quite stuffy, so I wanted to make him something sinus-clearing for dinner tonight. I can’t rightfully call what I made pho – it’s even less authentic than the last time I made it – but it’s “pho-inspired” and it was really quick and easy. It’s so quick and easy even the somewhat ill could make it for themselves. It’s also really good and you don’t have to be sick to appreciate it. I’m not sick and I thought it was great, too!

Spicy Rice Noodle Soup

6 oz rice noodles (linguine-shaped)
3 large shallots (or 1/2 onion), thinly sliced
4 cups vegan “beef” broth
2 star anise
1 small stick cinnamon
1 1/2″ chunk of ginger, grated
1/2 tsp MSG (optional)*
1/2 jalapeno, sliced
8 oz seitan, thinly sliced, or firm tofu, cubed
1 carrot, julienned
2 cups baby spinach
1 cup bean sprouts
cilantro, to taste
4 scallions, chopped
lime wedges
sriracha, to taste (optional)

Cook or soak the rice noodles according to the package directions, drain, and rinse with cold water to stop cooking. Set aside.

Heat some oil in a soup pot, add the shallots or onion, and saute for about 5 minutes or until soft.

Add the broth, star anise, cinnamon, ginger (I just grated it right into the pot), MSG (if using), and jalapenos.

I used a small can of “chili chick’n” braised gluten for the seitan. You can find similar products in Chinese grocery stores. This particular kind comes in chunks that are comprised of several thin layers of seitan that I pulled apart and shredded with my fingers as I put them in the pot.

You can also use thinly-sliced homemade seitan, or cubed tofu. In either case, place in the pot and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes.

Add the carrots and simmer for an additional 3 minutes, then add the spinach and cilantro and cook for another minute. (I didn’t have fresh cilantro and instead used two cubes frozen cilantro from Trader Joe’s.)

To assemble, place some of the rice noodles in each bowl …

… then ladle some of the broth over them, top with bean sprouts and scallions, squirt with sriracha to taste, and squeeze the lime wedge over it all before mixing it all up. Top with additional fresh jalapeno slices if so desired.

As you can see, this is really fast to make, and Mark reports that it was “really, really, really good”. In fact, he was quite disappointed to find there were no leftover rice noodles for a second helping, so he found some leftover rice and ladled the rest of the broth over that for his second bowlful. And he sounded less stuffy afterwards!

* About the MSG: I know some of you will find my use of MSG appalling, but I don’t have a problem with it. I keep it on hand for just a few different recipes, but tonight I really felt like upping the umami in my broth (with as little work as possible) and felt it gave it a little extra something. If you have it on hand, add it if you want to. If you are among those who revile MSG, just pretend you didn’t even see it in the recipe. As long as you use a good broth, it will have plenty of flavor anyway.

Back to our trip to Disney: it was relatively easy for us to eat there. Most of the restaurants are extremely accomodating, but we managed to find enough stuff that we didn’t need to have special dishes created for us. I did take a supply of energy bars everywhere we went in case of emergency, however, and we ate most of them. The best meal we had ended up being the Seared Marinated Tofu with Mango Glaze at the Sci-Fi Diner in Hollywood Studios – I need to recreate it because it was delicious. We got sushi for our anniversary dinner. Here’s what happens every time Mark uses chopsticks:

The resort somehow knew it was our anniversary and gave us a free upgrade to a really nice room with a balcony and a view of the water. We also got “Happy Anniversary” buttons that earned us anniversary greetings from just about every “cast member” we passed (as well as a few patrons), as well as free champagne at one dinner and free cake at another. Here we are in Epcot on our anniversary:

Because our anniversary is on Halloween, Mark let me wear my chicken hat that day. Ordinarily he hates the chicken hat, although I don’t know why because it brings joy to everyone who sees it. I also took Pig everywhere.

In the spirit of Halloween, Mark even wore the chicken hat for a while:

Then the sun started to go down:

… and eventually Epcot put on a light show for our anniversary. It was called Illuminations: Reflections of Earth or something that sounded a wee bit silly. It was cool, though.

Mark commented that I was obsessed with taking pictures of Cinderella’s castle. I guess it’s sort of compelling. I also like castles. We were married in a castle!

In my next post, I’ll have to tell you about the greenhouse tour we took at Epcot, because that was really interesting and actually food related!

And finally, I’ll leave you with an obligatory Mickey shot from a random Magic Kingdom parade. Boy, they sure love parades and fireworks in Disney World, let me tell you.

Comments (13)

Faux Pho

Many of my commutes home from work – which despite living a mere ten miles from my office take up to an hour – are spent contemplating what to make for dinner. Tonight on my way home (via Trader Joe’s), I was thinking that I’ve been so wrapped up in my nerdy database project (now I’m inputting years of records from book journals to track my reading habits) that I’ve been really slacking off in the cooking department, which was fine because I was sick anyway, but bad as far as maintaining a food blog is concerned. It dawned on me suddenly in the midst of my musing that what I wanted for dinner was pho. I think I saw a post about it on another, non-vegan, blog today, or maybe I was just driving by one of the many pho places around here. Pho – perfect! It’s quick, it’s easy, it’s healthy…and I’ve never featured it here! So I grabbed a few things I needed from Trader Joe’s (namely, bean sprouts which I never just “have on hand” and fresh basil) and, feeling very pleased with myself, came up with a probably-extremely-unoriginal title, and here we are.

Faux Pho

8 oz wide rice noodles
6 cups vegan “beef” broth
2 Tbsp Maggi seasoning or soy sauce
2 star anise
1 stick cinnamon
2″ piece of ginger, grated
1 chili, sliced
1 carrot, julienned or grated
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
6-8 oz seitan, shredded or very thinly sliced
several fist-fulls bean sprouts
something green, such as pea shoots (which I grabbed at Trader Joe’s because they looked good) or spinach, etc.
2 fist-fulls basil
1 fist-full cilantro (I couldn’t find any fresh so I used 2 frozen cubes from Trader Joe’s)
3 scallions, chopped

Soak the noodles in very hot water. I like to bring a pot of water to a boil, remove it from the heat, add the noodles, cover, and let them soak for about half an hour. If I need to speed the process up, I turn the heat back on for a couple of minutes.

Grate the ginger. There is no need to peel!

You should end up with, I don’t know, a tablespoon or two?

Gather the star anise and cinnamon stick. I’m fascinated with star anise. I don’t know what to use it in other than pho, so I get really excited every time I make pho and get to break out the star anise.

Meanwhile, bring the broth to a boil, add the ginger, star anise, cinnamon stick, and Maggi seasoning or soy sauce, and simmer for about 20 minutes so the flavors blend.

Prepare everything else while the noodles are softening and the broth is simmering. Julienne or grate the carrot, …

… thinly slice the chili, …

… and thinly slice the onion.

Shred or thinly slice the seitan.

Add the chili pepper to the broth …

… and the onion, carrot, and seitan. Continue simmering for the remainder of the 20 minutes (or longer).

Check the noodles – the best way to to taste one. They should be soft, but not too soft.

When they are done, drain.

When the broth is ready, remove the star anise and the cinnamon stick.

To assemble your bowl of pho, place some of the noodles in a bowl.

Top with the green stuff …

… and the bean sprouts and basil.

Ladle the broth over the noodles and veggies and top with scallions. Garnish with a lime half. (And when I say “garnish”, I intend for you to actually USE the lime! Squirt it over everything to taste – it really boosts the flavor!)

This was really, really good, I thought. It tastes so fresh, it’s so quick and easy, and it was a great way to use up some leftover seitan I had that wasn’t enough to be the basis of an entire meal. I wish I’d thought to make pho when I was sick: it’d have been perfect.

And here is a James Joyce finger pupper/magnet that Mark gave me today!

Isn’t it adorable? James Joyce plays an amusing role in the Story of How Mark and Renae Met, so I find it especially cute.

Comments (12)