26 September 2023

Oodles of Noodles

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By Christine Salins.


Noodles are exceptionally versatile: they don’t belong to just one cuisine, nor even one type of dish. They can take centre stage in a dish, or just be a sidekick. They can be served in soup, in sauce, fried, boiled or crispy.

They can be served in simple dishes or complex ones. They can be extra-long, short, fat, thin, crunchy, curly, soft, transparent, even different colours and/or made from different ingredients.

It’s a fascinating world when you start thinking about all the different ways that noodles are used in restaurants, homes and street vendor carts around the world.

Now here’s a book that will take you straight to the kitchen to start playing around with noodles, perhaps combining them with veggies in a wok, creating a delicious broth, even getting the courage to make your own noodles by hand (it’s really not difficult, as the author, Brendan Pang, shows).

This Is A Book About Noodles (Page Street Publishing, RRP $36.99) is the second book from Pang, who appeared on two seasons of MasterChef Australia. Pang runs a dumpling kitchen in Perth called Bumplings (the dumplings are sold out of an Airstream trailer in a Fremantle food hall). His first book was titled, not unexpectedly, This Is A Book About Dumplings.

Pang grew up in a large Mauritian family and his childhood was filled with delicious food experiences including frequent family dinners at a local Dim Sum house. Some of the recipes are those he grew up on, including his mum’s Crispy Pork Wontons and his grandmother’s Chicken Vermicelli.

They join a very eclectic selection of dishes with Malay, Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese and other influences. You’ll find, for example, Shanghai-style Sticky Pork Belly Noodles, Vietnamese Crab Broth with Thick Rice Noodles, Spicy Prawn Char Kway Teow, Korean Beef Japchae, Mauritian Family Fried Noodles, and even the special Crossing-the-Bridge Noodle Soup that I enjoyed in Yunnan.

The Thai dish here, a classic from northern Thailand, is richly flavoured with turmeric, cumin and coriander. Pang loves how traditional khao soi doubles down on noodles. “Some fried egg noodles sprinkled on top are a MUST to contrast with the soft egg noodles in the curried soup base,” he says.

There are some interesting fusion recipes in the book, like Asian Green Pesto Noodles and Cacio E Pepe Udon Noodles, and some modern takes on old favourites, like Spicy Chicken Tan Tan Ramen, and Peanut Rice Noodle Rolls.

There are also recipes for sauces, condiments, and step-by-step guides for shaping a variety of homemade noodles from dough. There are even a few ‘Slurp ‘n’ Snack’ recipes that don’t contain noodles at all.

Whether you need a dish for a special occasion or a quiet night at home, the answer just might be noodles.

Chicken Khao Soi Noodles

Serves 4

Khao Soi Paste

2 Thai red chiles

2 medium-sized shallots, roughly chopped

4 cloves garlic

2 tbsp diced fresh ginger

2 tbsp diced fresh turmeric

Small handful of fresh cilantro stems and root

2 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp ground cardamom

1 tsp curry powder

2 tbsp shrimp paste


2 tbsp vegetable oil

1 lb (450 g) boneless chicken thighs

2 tbsp red curry paste

4¼ cups (1 L) chicken stock

2 tsp palm sugar

1 x 400-ml can coconut milk

3 tbsp Asian fish sauce

Salt (optional)

400 g thin-cut Egg Noodles

Scant 50g thin-cut Egg Noodles, deep-fried

2 shallots, thinly sliced

2 limes, cut into wedges

100g pickled mustard greens, chopped

Fresh coriander, for serving

Mung bean sprouts, for serving

Make the khao soi paste: In a food processor, combine all the paste ingredients and blitz until smooth. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside until required.

Make the soup: In a wok over high heat, heat the vegetable oil. Once hot, add the chicken and stir-fry until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Remove the chicken and set aside. Add the khao soi paste to the wok and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes. Add the red curry paste, chicken stock and palm sugar, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and add the coconut milk and fish sauce. Add back the chicken and let simmer for another 5 to 10 minutes. Taste and season with salt, if required.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the noodles for about 3 minutes, or until just cooked through. Drain, then divide among four serving bowls. Ladle the hot khao soi soup and chicken over the cooked noodles. Top with the deep-fried noodles, sliced shallots, lime wedges, pickled mustard greens, coriander and mung bean sprouts. Serve immediately.

Recipe and image from This is a Book About Noodles, published by Page Street Publishing, RRP $36.99, photography by Thomas Davidson.

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