I really like using rice noodles for a quick weeknight meal. They're super-easy to work with and super-fast to cook. Those two qualities can give you a lot of confidence when you know you need to get dinner on the table. It had been a while since I used them and I was just thinking I should use them more.
Rice noodles come in various sizes, from wide and flat to thread-like thin. You can get them dried or fresh. I get the dried because they're easy to stash in the pantry, at the ready when you need super-fast and super-easy to assist you in your dinner-making. If you've had pad thai, then you've had these noodles. When you are ready to use them, you just put the dried noodles in a big bowl and pour boiling water over them. With the really thin ones, you can even just use super-hot tap water. Let them rehydrate for 10 minutes or so and then you can stir-fry them or toss them in soup. The thin noodles are great for adding to salads.
The sauce for this is really basic and uses pantry staples. The one thing you may not have in your pantry is Shaoxing wine. It's a Chinese rice wine that is a common ingredient in many Chinese dishes. If you ever find yourself in an Asian market, pick up a bottle and stash it in your pantry. If you don't have it, throw in a splash of white wine or just omit it all together. I don't usually measure the liquids but I'll give approximate amounts in the recipe below. Just taste as you go and remember that once you put the noodles, beef, and broccoli into the sauce, the flavor will be less intense. So, make sure the sauce tastes a bit more seasoned than what you think is just right.
I also wanted to mention a quick tip about fresh ginger. When I buy a big hand of ginger, I cut it up into chunks and throw it in a sealable plastic bag and keep it in the freezer. When you're ready to use it just take it out and let it thaw for a few minutes. You should be able to use a knife an trim the peel and dried-up outer parts easily after just a few minutes of thawing. Then, grate the ginger with a microplane grater. I love the way the frozen ginger get shaved super-fine. It then thaws instantly.
If you have another sauce that you like to make, by all means, substitute it here. If you prefer chicken or pork, use that. If you hate broccoli but love bok choy, go for it! The main point of this dish for me is the rice noodle. I like it because it's faster than making rice and you don't really even "cook" it.
RICE NOODLE STIR-FRY WITH BEEF AND BROCCOLI
Ingredients: 1 package (8 oz?) rice noodles, 1 small head of broccoli, 1 lb of strip steak, 1 small diced onion, 2 cloves minced garlic, 2 tsp grated ginger, 1/4 cup Shaoxing wine, 4 TB soy sauce, 2 Tb honey, 1 TB dark sesame oil, salt, black pepper, 2 TB vegetable oil, sliced green onions for garnish
- In a kettle or pot, bring enough water to boil to cover your noodles in a large bowl.
- Place the dried noodles in a large bowl and pour the boiling water over them. Allow them to sit and rehydrate until you are ready to use them.
- In a wok or saute pan with lid, heat 1 inch of water.
- Cut the broccoli into florets and slice the stems thinly. You may need to peel the outer skin of the stem but, in my opinion, the stems are tastier than the florets.
- Slice the steak into thin strips and toss with 1 TB of soy sauce. Set aside.
- When the water comes to a boil, drop in the broccoli and season with salt. Close the lid and let it steam for a few minutes until just about tender. Remove and set aside.
- Dump the water from your pan and wipe out. Return the pan to the heat and add 1 TB of oil and get it hot until the oil just begins to smoke.
- Add in the beef and give it a quick stir. Season with pepper. Then leave it alone so you can develop some brown on the meat. You're not going to get it all brown. After a couple of minutes, give the beef a stir and cook until you see just a bit of pink. Remove and set aside.
- Add another TB of oil and add the onions and saute until they are translucent and starting to brown.
- Add the garlic and ginger. Saute for another minute.
- Deglaze the pan with the wine and cook for a couple more minutes.
- Add the soy sauce, honey and sesame oil and cook for another couple of minutes.
- Add the noodles and combine well with the sauce. Cook for another minute or so to allow the noodles to absorb the sauce and finish cooking.
- Add the reserved beef and broccoli and combine thoroughly.
- Taste it to see if you need a bit more soy.
- Garnish with green onions, if you'd like.
NOTE: If you like it spicy, you can add minced chile in the beginning with the onions. Or you can add chili paste or sambal to the sauce right before you add the noodles.