Vegetarian mung bean vermicelli noodles, Filipino style. I had an urgent request from a family member for a couple of Filipino recipes to be cooked in the hinterlands of the U.S., served to a hundred people, most of whom have NEVER even heard of Filipino food. It had to be easy to do, in volume, have a vegetarian option, and probably eschew pork (both of dietary and frankly, overly lean American pork issues). So I suggested some Chicken adobo, finished off in the oven to brown/crisp slightly, with the sauce served on the side. Shrimp sinigang (using those dreaded tamarind packs) and a vegetarian sotanghon. Because American cooks would be helping with the preparation and cooking, I had to write out clear instructions, with minimal opportunity for disaster. And to make sure, I made the recipes as written… only to have the first version of sotanghon end up a total disaster!
I was pretty sure the problem was the noodle used, and was later proved correct, but let’s just say the crew looked at me like I was a martian in the kitchen, since they had never seen such gloopy pancit. Off to Binondo we went and got the RIGHT or favorite vermicelli noodle and I repeated the recipe, to great results… so I sent some 4 kilos of the right noodle off in someone’s luggage to be brought to the relative hosting the meal…
First I sliced and sauteed the veggies. For this version, I think I had one or two medium white onions, sliced, some minced garlic, two carrots julienned, some shredded cabbage and napa cabbage, some snow peas cut on the diagonal, bean sprouts, red bell peppers, green beans, etc. Into a large saute pan, I added vegetable oil, and sauteed the onions and garlic, followed by the other veggies from the longest cooking to the shortest. Season with salt and pepper. Do not overcook and remove from the heat when they are softened and glistening.
Return the saute pan to the heat, add roughly 7 cups of really good vegetable stock (I didn’t have any homemade, so I bought organic store-bought stock), say 5 tablespoons of kikkoman and bring to a simmer. Add about 500 grams of good sotanghon noodles and agitate them to break up the coils of noodles and watch them absorb the liquid like a sponge. I know some folks like to pre-soak their noodles, and I sometimes do, but I wanted this recipe to be as simple as possible. Add a touch more water or broth if necessary. Once the noodles are tender to the bite, add the vegetables back in, add several tablespoons of kalamsi juice or lime juice and serve hot. The noodles shouldn’t have any liquid at the bottom of the pan, nor should they be too dry. They will dry further the longer you wait before serving them.
These were surprisingly tasty, light and refreshing. You could easily add shredded chicken or pork or shrimp to this if you just can’t hack the vegetarian version. But I really liked the vegetarian version. My reputation at the stove now recovered as the crew nodded their heads in approval, they then proceeded to do what I can only describe as a uniquely Filipino way to eat their noodles, they sandwiched them in hot pan de sal or salted bread. Hmmm, I couldn’t get myself to do it and eat it that way, but I won’t knock it, either. :) Next up, how a bag of noodles can spell the difference between triumph and disaster!