Some love affairs just seem to last forever. Like mine with Thailand. It’s been almost eight years now since I returned from there, and yet I still experience waves of nostalgia from time to time. Not purely for Thailand, but for Asia in general, as there were a couple of trips to the north as well. Take last weekend, while out shopping for strollers, and overhearing a couple of ladies having a conversation in Mandarin, I became a bit weepy and teary-eyed.
Nostalgic. For living amongst a culture not my own. Nostalgic. For daily hearing a language not my own. Nostalgic. For hot, salty, spicy meals bought at a roadside stall for one dollar a bowl. Nostalgic. For my moto and being allowed to ride wearing flip flops. Nostalgic. For sounds, sights and smells now only a memory. Nostalgic. For a life and lifestyle that was perfect for a while, free and easy, where food was cheap and English not widely spoken.
In honour of good times in the ‘Land of Smiles’, I’ve made a dish that I love but rarely eat. These fragrant noodles are salty and herby, with a little sugar and spice to round things out. Spiked heavily with fish sauce, this dish is not for the faint of heart. If you prefer a milder flavour, may I suggest substituting some of the fish sauce with lime juice; it will help balance out the saltiness. Alternatively, customise to taste with sugar, vinegar and/or chilli flakes.
How about you? What triggers nostalgia for you? Is it a song, a smell, a conversation…?
Fragrant Chicken Noodles
Vermicelli noodles here soak up the flavours of red curry and fish sauce, and are garnished with lashings of fresh coriander and strips of stir-fried chicken.
2 teaspoons oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
250-300g rice vermicelli (I used Chinese vermicelli or glass noodles)
1 ½ cups fresh coriander, chopped roughly
500g chicken thigh fillets, thinly sliced (use breast fillets if you prefer)
2 teaspoons red curry paste
1/3 cup fish sauce
2 tablespoons soft brown sugar
4 spring onions, sliced (green scallions)
Mix fish sauce with sugar in a small bowl. Set aside. Soak rice noodles as per directions on packet (do not boil). When soft, drain well in a colander.
Add 1 teaspoon oil to wok and fry garlic and curry paste for 1 minute or until fragrant. Add chicken and stir-fry until brown, adding more oil as required.
Finally, add the noodles, coriander, spring onions and fish sauce mix to pan. Stir and toss; warming all ingredients through before serving.
*Serve with a squeeze of fresh lime juice to help balance the flavours. Or, if you prefer, customise to taste with a sprinkle of caster sugar, a drizzle of white vinegar and/or a pinch of dried chilli flakes.