There are nights when, just home from working and starving, nothing in the pantry or the fridge looks promising enough to make a meal. Until I remember that I have a killer condiment in a little jar at the back of my fridge that is so rich and deep in flavor it elevates anything it touches to something close to the divine. Within minutes, I’ve got a stir-fried noodle dish brimming with enticement sitting in front of me, and I am thoroughly sated when, a short while later, the bottom of the bowl stares up at me, with only a little residual sauce to show for my efforts.
All it took was a little advance planning. Having Thai Rice Stick on hand in your pantry is always a good idea, especially if you love noodles and are trying to stay away from too much gluten. Any veggies at all can be added for nutrition’s sake, as well as contributing color and texture. If you want to add a protein, just chop it small so it will cook quickly. And make sure you soak your noodles as you’re prepping the rest so they are reasonably soft when you throw them into your wok or frying pan.
But all the advance planning in the world doesn’t guarantee good flavor. It’s the sauce that makes it. I know plenty of people who would put a dish together like this with a little soy sauce and some other bottle of Asian stuff. It simply isn’t as good as this. Not even close. And the best part is that when you sit down to making this sauce, it will keep in a jar in your fridge for 3 – 4 months.
Here’s what you do:
Fry 8 sliced shallots and 6 cloves of garlic (also sliced) in 2 cups of vegetable oil until they are golden brown. (you can use any neutral-flavor oil like canola or rice bran). Remove them from the oil with a slotted spoon and reserve. Then, in the same oil, fry 1/2 cup dried Thai red bird chilis and 1 cup of dried shrimp (available in Asian markets). Once they are also golden brown, remove them and add them to the garlic/shallot mixture. Pour the oil into a bowl and cool. Then, place the fried ingredients and the cooled oil in a blender, add in 1/2 tsp salt, 1 TBSP sugar and 1-1/2 TBSP Tamarind concentrate (also available at Asian markets) and puree until you have a fine textured sauce, which usually takes 3 – 4 minutes.
And that’s all it takes. A perfectly balanced condiment that you can add to soups, dab on grilled meat or tofu, serve as a side sauce or use to make the best stir-fried noodles you’ve ever had. You’ll love it. I promise. Now what are you waiting for? Get out and do it!