- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 24, 2004

As a pasta lover, I never pass up an opportunity to try a new noodle product. Most recently, I’ve been inspired by the Asian aisle of my supermarket, where, thanks to the popularity of Thai restaurants, I’m finding more noodles to love.

Asian noodles are divided into two major categories based on their ingredients: wheat and rice.

Like the wheat pastas of Italy, Asian wheat noodles are usually made from flour, salt and water, and occasionally eggs. Supermarkets stock dried wheat noodles, although a trip to an Asian neighborhood can offer up fresh noodles. Wheat noodles come in a variety of widths.

To prepare, cook wheat noodles until they are tender but slightly firm at the center. Unlike a pasta that’s immediately topped with sauce, Asian wheat noodles are usually added to a stir-fry or soup, so it’s important to not overcook them.

Rice noodles are made from fine rice flour. They are white and translucent, like thin strips of cellophane. For most preparations, soak rice noodles to soften them, then add to a stir-fry.

But if you really want to have fun, try deep-frying rice noodles. Heat about 2 inches of vegetable oil in a large pot. Add the noodles a few strands at a time. When the noodles hit the oil, they puff up into fat white stands and curl into spirals. You can’t duplicate this with wheat pasta.

The crunchy fried noodles are a great base for an entree salad. Or you can turn them into a fried snack with a light sprinkling of salt. Don’t make more than you’d eat in one batch, though, because the noodles soon become stale and tough.

Pork and snow pea salad over fried rice noodles

1 12-ounce pork tenderloin

Salt and pepper

Vegetable oil for deep-frying

2 cups stir-fry rice noodles, broken into 2- to 3-inch lengths (see note)

1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger root

1 small garlic clove, minced

2 cups snow peas

Honey vinaigrette dressing (recipe follows)

1/4 cup finely chopped scallions

Place pork tenderloin on rack of shallow roasting pan. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Roast in preheated 400-degree oven for 25 minutes or until a meat thermometer inserted in the center of the tenderloin, not touching the pan, registers 160 degrees. Remove from oven and set aside.

While pork is roasting, fill a wok or Dutch oven with 2 inches of vegetable oil and heat to 375 degrees. To test, drop a rice noodle into the hot oil. It should curl and puff up in about 30 seconds.

Separate noodles into individual threads, and drop a few at a time into hot oil. When the noodles puff into fat white strands, remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Place noodles in a large salad bowl.

Drain off all but 2 tablespoons oil from wok.

Heat oil again, if cooled. Add ginger root, garlic and snow peas. Stir-fry 2 to 3 minutes, or until the snow peas are crisp-tender. Remove snow peas, ginger root and garlic; combine with noodles. Cut pork into 1-inch pieces and add to noodles. Spoon honey vinaigrette dressing over noodles. Sprinkle with scallions. Toss gently but well.

Serve immediately to 2.

Note: I used Thai Kitchen stir-fry rice noodles for this recipe.

HONEY VINAIGRETTE DRESSING:

1 tablespoon honey

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

3 tablespoons white wine vinegar

2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon soy sauce

Combine honey, oil, vinegar and soy sauce in a small bowl. Mix well.

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