Looking for a quick mid-week meal that’s versatile and delicious? If you are, then you can’t go past this easy stir-fried noodle dish. The ingredients below can be swapped or left out entirely and you will still have a meal that leaves you wishing you’d made more. I’ve used chicken breast in this recipe, but you can easily use chicken thigh meat, pork fillet or leave meat out altogether. (Without meat the dish won’t actually be vegetarian due to the fish and oyster sauces, but there are some great vegetarian alternatives out there that could be substituted.) The cabbage can be replaced with choy sum or baby Asian greens, bean sprouts, celery or regular white or savoy cabbage. The noodles can be swapped for the hokkien variety or even spaghetti. There are really only two key ingredients: the garlic and oyster sauce!
The most important method to learn in this recipe is how to cook your noodles. Contrary to popular belief, the noodles are always cooked in the hot pan – not prior to adding them to the rest of the ingredients. If dried, rice vermicelli should always be soaked in cold water before being added to the pan. This softens the noodles but does not fully cook them. (If the noodles were to be cooked before being added to the pan then you would end up with a soggy mess of broken noodles that no one wants to eat.) The liquid that has been released from the vegetables is what finishes the cooking of the noodles. The noodles absorb the liquid (and thus the favour), creating a dry dish that can then start to fry in the pan.
375g dried rice vermicelli
6 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 tbsp vegetable oil (or other flavourless oil – not olive oil!)
1 chicken breast, thinly sliced
1/2 wombok (Chinese cabbage)
1 large carrot, peeled and sliced into long matchsticks
2 tbsp fish sauce
1-2 tbsp oyster sauce
1. Place the noodles in cold water so that they are entirely covered.
2. Heat the oil and garlic in a large wok or saucepan on a high heat.
3. Stir the garlic in the oil and wait for it to turn a golden brown. Don’t walk away because the garlic will likely burn. This is an important step as this will give the dish a lot of flavour.
4. Add the chicken and stir fry. Once the chicken is sealed and opaque, add the stems of the cabbage (these will take longer to cook). Stir fry the cabbage and chicken for 2 minutes. If your pan has a lid you can use this this to speed up cooking time.
5. Add the leaves of the cabbage and the carrot, stirring to coat in the oil and juices. Add the fish sauce and replace the lid. Cook for another 2 minutes. Add the oyster sauce. You should have some liquid that has come out of the vegetables. Depending on what vegetables you have used, you may need to add some water or take away some liquid. You will need about a cup of liquid in total.
6. Drain the noodles and add to the pan, moving them around to enable them to soak up the liquid. Try to lift and push them rather than using a chopping action – you want to try and avoid breaking them. By peeking at the bottom of the pan you should be able to tell when all the liquid has been absorbed. If it has you will then start to hear sizzling noises as the noodles start to fry. Fry the noodles for another 2 minutes. This is a good point to taste the dish and adjust any seasonings.
I like to serve the noodles with a chilli accompaniment (fresh, Mum’s homemade sauce, pickled green chillis, dried chillis and garlic in oil) but that’s because I think every dish benefits from some heat!