Coconut Noodles with Shrimp and Peas

I’m back and ever so happy to return to my kitchen!  I’ve spent the last week working in Denver – land of beef and lamb and duck.  I ate a lot of meat, but I ate a lot of fish tacos too.  Not sure why there are so many fish tacos there, but I love them so I ordered them a bunch.  Anyway, my last full day there a colleague mentioned how happy she would be to blow off the last big dinner and just have a bowl of noodles.  I’ve been thinking about noodle bowls ever since.  Happily my new Cooking Light was waiting for me when I returned and there’s a very intriguing noodle recipe there.  So coconut noodles it is.

This turned out to be much more complex than I anticipated.  Involving much more counter space and many more dishes to create than I would normally undertake on a week night.  Bear that in mind if you decide to make it.  Reading through the recipe I knew there would be some substitutions.  I didn’t have any shrimp paste so I substituted shrimp stock for that and for the chicken stock.  I used 2 cups total because I freeze my shrimp stock in 2 cup portions.  You’ll want to add additional salt as well if you make a similar substitution.  Oh, that makes more sense if you know that I also substituted shrimp for the scallops.  I like scallops fine, but really only in their seared form.  I just couldn’t embrace the idea of scallops with noodles.  Too much soft and mushy texture for me.  Don’t substitute any other cabbage.  The texture, taste and smell would be overwhelming.  Napa cabbage has  nice feathery texture and mild taste.  I used a small handful of jalapeno peppers instead of the Thai chiles.  Thai chiles frighten me a touch and I had a bunch of jalapenos on hand that are on the wane.  Finally, the original recipe calls for pea tendrils.  I’ve never seen a pea tendril that wasn’t in a garden so I had no idea what to do with that.  I bought mache (one of the recommended substitutions), but I didn’t end up using it.  Maybe for lunch tomorrow.  I’ll let you know.

P.S.  I did reheat a bowl of noodles for lunch today and added some mache after the reheat.  So, so good.  The mache adds a really nice texture and a little nutty taste that’s great with the peas.  Baby spinach would probably be okay, but I think the mache is better.  Enjoy!

This is a recipe that really makes you understand mis en place.  That’s a fancy way to say, “Do all your chopping, measuring, gathering of tools and pots before you start anything on the stove.”  It’s what makes making complex recipes possible for those of us without huge gourmet kitchens and/or staff at our disposal.  You’ll need a food processor; a couple of pots; and a colander to start.  See what I mean?  It could get out of hand pretty quickly.

All that said, this is a really good noodle bowl.  I love the sweet of the coconut milk with the tart of the lemongrass and the salty of the soy.  The peas add a nice texture and the shrimp stand up well.  I used twice as much stock as the recipe calls for because I wanted something soupy.  If I make this again I probably will get the shrimp paste.  It would add yet another dimension to the flavor.  It makes 8 servings so be sure you’re feeding a group.  It will reheat well, but rice noodles get mushy if you freeze and thaw them.  The good news is that a serving is only 250 calories thanks to the light coconut milk so feel free to eat a little extra.

Good? Yes, very.  Complex flavors and textures that add up to yummy.
Easy? No, not really.  A lot of ingredients and a lot of steps. No advanced tools or skills required though.
Good for company? Eh. Only really good friends. It’s hard to eat a noodle bowl and look like anyone more sophisticated than a toddler in a first spaghetti encounter.
Special shopping? Yes. My pantry is very well stocked. I almost always have coconut milk and homemade shrimp stock, but I don’t keep lemongrass or shrimp paste on hand. And good luck on the hunt for pea tendrils.

The recipe below reflects my adjustments.  Click on the recipe title to see the original recipe (Coconut Noodles with Scallops and Pea Tendrils) from Cooking Light.

Coconut Noodles with Shrimp

Ingredients

  • 1  (6.75-ounce) package uncooked rice sticks (rice-flour noodles)
  • 1/2  cup  chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/3  cup  coarsely chopped peeled fresh lemongrass (about 2 stalks)
  • 1  tablespoon  grated peeled fresh ginger
  • 2  teaspoons  shrimp stock
  • 5-6 jalapenos, halved and seeded
  • 3  garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2  shallots, peeled
  • 1  tablespoon  dark sesame oil
  • 2  cups  shrimp broth
  • 2  tablespoons  brown sugar
  • 3 1/2  tablespoons  lower-sodium soy sauce
  • 1/4  teaspoon  salt
  • 1  (14-ounce) can light coconut milk
  • 4  cups  thinly sliced napa (Chinese) cabbage (1 small head)
  • 1 1/2  cups  thinly sliced green onions, divided
  • 1  cup  fresh or frozen green peas
  • 1  pound  shrimp, peeled and deveined

Preparation

1. Cook noodles in boiling water 1 1/2 minutes; drain. Rinse under cold water; drain and place in a large bowl.

2. Combine cilantro and next 6 ingredients (through shallots) in a food processor; process until a paste forms. Heat a Dutch oven over medium-high heat; add oil to pan, swirling to coat. Add cilantro mixture to pan; sauté 5 minutes. Stir in broth, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Stir in sugar, soy sauce, salt, and milk. Add cabbage and 1 1/4 cups onions to pan; cook 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in peas and scallops; cook 3 minutes or until scallops are done. Remove pan from heat; stir in noodles. Spoon 1 1/4 cups noodle mixture into each of 8 bowls; top each serving with 1 1/2 teaspoons remaining onions and 1/2 cup pea tendrils.

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