Crispy, Baked Rice Noodles, Vinegar Kale & Sweet Chinese Sausage with Sichuan Pepper
This evening I went a little crazy in the kitchen I guess... thank goodness! That's when I come up with the really cool ideas that make all the experimentation I do so worthwhile!
This is the kind of meal I would watch other people eating (if it were to actually exist elsewhere, that is) and then NOT order, because there would be a lot of frying and oil involved- you know how I am! But made THIS WAY, it a yummy and delicious revelation that is too good not to share!
Crispy noodles are a crazy idea in themselves and tugging them apart a tricky and sometimes messy affair- but tasty and fun I know! But I couldn't help but think to myself that a high, dry heat and a fraction of the oil would work to the same effect as deep frying... and this evening was the time that I put my theory into practice! And as you can see... hurray! It works just great!
So my dinner consisted of 1 small head of kale, 2 sweet Chinese sausages that somehow just happened to be sitting around in my freezer, 1 portion of brown rice noodles, 1 shallot, a little fresh ginger, some Sichuan pepper and some salted peanuts for an added, savory, extra crunch!
One thing I have learned about rice vermicelli, the really thin ones, is that it is really adequate to soak them in cold water before frying or cooking... boiling them will tend to overcook them very quickly indeed! So that is what I did- I let them soak in cold water for 15 minutes.
I wanted to keep the flavors nice and pure and opted for Sichuan pepper only as an accent... freshly ground of course!
Once the noodles were soft, I drained them well and then seasoned them with some Thai fish sauce (nam pla) and gave them a good drizzle of sesame oil... that still means no more than 1 tablespoon- that's plenty! Stir them together well so that they are all nicely seasoned and nicely coated in oil and then put them into a non-stick pan. Fry them without stirring for 3-4 minutes, then transfer them to the oven and pop them under the broiler at maximum heat, also for 3-4 minutes, until they are crispy and golden brown. You will see that they come out every bit as golden and crispy and wonderful as when they are fried! The trick I use when putting my plastic-handled pans into the oven is to cover the handle with aluminum foil- as long as they are not in there for hours you will be fine!
The sausage went into another non-stick pan with no oil- it has plenty of fat of its own! I fried it with the shallot for 4-5 minutes until it was crispy and golden, popped it into the oven to keep warm with the noodles- and used the fat in the frying pan to fry the kale in... obviously! Why add more?
In went the grated ginger first- about a teaspoonful and as soon as it began to brown, I added the kale leaves, which I had plucked from the tough stems into bite-sized pieces.
I tossed it with a good splash of soy sauce until it began to wilt down and once it had changed color, added a good splash of malt vinegar, then kept stirring until it began to slightly turn brown at the edges... at which point it was ready to serve everything up!
First of course, that crispy nest of golden noodles!
Then the kale- which tastes too incredible to be believed... if you love salt 'n' vinegar crisps- this is for you!
Some chopped, salted peanuts for an extra blast of seasoning, crunch and general deliciousness...
... and then that juicy, sweet Chinese sausage and the golden shallots- topped with a sprinkle of Sichuan pepper- an absolute feast! And such a nice change from the same old thing all the time!