Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Use Your Cellophane Noodles

If you want to add an air of authenticity along with excitement to your home cooked Chinese meals throw in some cellophane noodles. They're a fun way of amping up any dish along with helping to buffer  the sometimes strong flavors of Szechuan or Cantonese cuisine. Another plus is that they're an easy cook, perfect for adventurous novice home chefs.

Cellophane noodles are really thin white vermicelli , made clear from their mostly starch composition. They are made primarily from mung beans a, green pea grown in India however they can also be made from yams,potatoes and cassava, a yam type vegetable and canna starch, derived from a tropical Vietnamese lily.Most  cellophane  noodles sold in the States are made from mung beans, having been imported from China. The noodles are generally round and come in different lengths. There is a flat , thick sheet version, not widely sold here or used in cooking. The noodles are sometimes called crystal or glass noodles or bean thread noodles. They originated in northeastern China in the town in Zhangxing in the Zhaoyuan , Shandong province however they are also made in the southern part of the country too. Uncooked cellophane noodles come in nests that slowly unwind when placed in boiling water. They are usually used in spring rolls, stir fries and soups. Some Northern Chinese employ them as the main ingredient in salads where they're first cooked then cooled. You can buy them here in the States, in packs of three in the Asian food section of any supermarket.

Cellophane noodles are as easy as any pasta to make.It's just adding them to boiling water and letting cook for twenty minutes or until the color changes. They will go from white and brittle to clear  and pliable.  They're excellent with a simple stir fry, definitely adding to the dish's texture and taste. Their flavor is mild, not unlike pasta which makes them a perfect foil for the peppery, gingery tastes of Chinese cooking. My mother has been making them since the late Seventies when the wok craze hit the US(we were the only family on the block with a wok,but that's another story) and this recipe is one of her best. The main dish is stir frying  a bag of soy beef crumbles (for non vegans, you can use a mix of ground beef and pork) and sauteing in olive or peanut oil.  I prefer the first, because it imparts a richer smoother flavor and fries up well. Diced scallions and minced garlic are also added for flavor along with three to four tablespoons of Kikoman soy sauce. Again like the olive oil, this is the best to use because of its' rich  intense flavor. I added  two cups of snow peas which give color and crunch, but peas or even shredded cabbage. Mix in the noodles when they're cooked, and serve. It;s a wonderful and simple dinner that's just downright yummy. Usually two nests will satisfy a family of four and you can use  the uncooked ones as fresh cooked noodles when you reheat  the leftovers.

Cellophane noodles are a great and authentic addition to any home made stir fry. Their uniqueness livens up simple ingredients like meat and veggies They are fun to cook and fun to eat.

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