I love cooking with rice noodles because they're so darn easy: just soak 'em in hot water, and they're ready to go. Here, the transparent noodles are the star attraction in a slightly sweet simple stir-fry that takes less than 20 minutes to toss together -- perfect for those nights when you're running from one activity to another.
For a vegetarian dish, simply omit the meat and double the amount of veggies. Be sure not to oversoak the noodles or you'll end up with a soupy mess; they should be softened but still firm and a little undercooked in the middle (al dente).
- 1 pound fettucine-style rice noodles
- 3 tablespoons grapeseed, corn or other light oil, divided
- 1 pound minced or ground boneless pork or chicken
- 1 yellow or red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and minced
- 1 eggplant (about 1/2 pound), cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 12- to 14-ounce can (about 1 to 1 1/2 cups) unsweetened coconut milk
- Nam pla (fish sauce), soy sauce or salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Minced cilantro
Soak noodles in very hot water to cover until you're ready to add them to the stir-fry.
Meanwhile, pour 1 tablespoon oil into a large skillet or wok, turn the heat to high, and heat for 1 minute. Add meat and cook, stirring occasionally, until it browns and loses its raw look, about 5 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.
Add another 1 tablespoon oil to skillet, followed by the bell pepper and eggplant. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until pepper and eggplant are browned and tender, about 10 minutes. Remove with slotted spoon and combine with the meat.
Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil, followed immediately by the garlic, and cook for about 30 seconds. Add coconut milk. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring and scraping with a wooden spoon, for about 1 minute. Drain noodles and add along with meat and vegetables. Cook until noodles absorb most of the coconut milk, about 3 minutes.
Season liberally with nam pla, soy sauce or salt to taste, then add plenty of black pepper. Garnish with cilantro and serve.
Makes 4 to 6 servings.
-- "Mark Bittman: The Mini Minimalist: Simple Recipes for Satisfying Meals" (Clarkson Potter, Oct. 16, 2012, $19.95)