During college, my favorite Vietnamese restaurant was Cafe Nhu-Hoa on Argyle Street in Chicago's Little Vietnam. (I refuse to call the neighborhood New Chinatown. Grrrr!)
The owner, a friendly Vietnamese-Laotian woman made some of the best Laotian curries I've ever had. Actually, those were the only Laotian curries I've ever had. :P She also pan-fried wide rice noodles until they were crispy and then stir-fried them with a gravy-laden sauce. It was the best of both worlds -- crispy noodles with lots of flavor. I almost always ordered the noodles whenever I dined there.
I once dated a guy whose family used to own a business in the neighborhood. Since he knew almost everyone, he asked me which restaurants I liked. Of course, I had to mention Nhu-Hoa and their crispy pan-fried noodles. Finished off with some Chanh Muoi (Vietnamese Salty Lemonade).
One morning, the boy and I were talking on the phone. My roommate hadn't come home the night before (Unbeknownst to me, her boyfriend had received a job offer and they had celebrated late into the night.), but we were supposed to go out for brunch that day. The boy and I continued to chat while I waited and waited. He asked me what my plans were for the day.
Well, I was supposed to go out with the roommate but it was past lunch time and now I was huuuungry! I guess I better get off the phone, shower, eat, and study, I said and then proceeded to do so.
Right after I got out of the shower, someone knocked on my door.
There he was with a take-out container of my favorite noodles and a cup of salty lemonade.
He was just going to drop off the food and then go home. He would've brought his books to study with me, but he didn't want to be presumptuous.
No. No. Stay!
Unfortunately, because I know you'd ask, the boy cheated; the restaurant closed down.
But the crispy, pan-fried noodles? Mmm. Those noodles were indelible.
Hu Tieu/Banh Pho Don Xao Bo (Vietnamese Crispy Rice Noodle Beef Stir-Fry)
For 2 to 4 servings, you'll need:
1 lb package banh pho/ho fun (Vietnamese/Chinese rice noodle sheets)
1/2 lb beef, thinly sliced
1 tblsp corn starch
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp Nuoc Mam (Vietnamese Fish Sauce)
2 tsp Chinese black bean or hoisin sauce
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1 bunch chives, cut into 2-inch sections
Optional: I kept this simple with just onions and chives, but feel free to add any other julienned vegetables of your choice. Carrots, bell peppers, the more color the better. Substitute chicken for the beef if you like.
Slice the beef and add 1 tblsp corn starch, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp ground black pepper, 1 tsp Nuoc Mam (Vietnamese Fish Sauce), and 2 tsp Chinese black bean or hoisin sauce. Set aside to marinate.
The banh pho or banh uot will come in big sheets.
Cut the rice noodle about 2-inches wide. Separate them, but keep each "noodle" about two or three layers so that they're thick and wide.
Pan-fry in a generously oiled pan on medium-high heat until crispy. While the noodles are frying, slice the onion and other vegetables.
You want the outside of the noodles to brown, while the inside will be soft and pliable. Set aside.
Saute the onions until golden and softened.
Then add the beef, reserving the marinade for later. When the beef has developed a proper char, add the chives and other vegetables and saute again. When the vegetables have softened to your liking, add the rest of the marinade. Let simmer for a few minutes so a gravy is formed.
When the sauce has thickened to your liking, add the noodles back in and stir until mixed. You want the gravy to just coat the noodles, without softening them.
Serve as a meal for two, or an appetizer for four.
Other Vietnamese stir-fried noodles you might like:
Banh Cuon Xao Bo (Vietnamese Rolled Rice Noodles Stir-Fry with Beef)
Banh Cuon Xao Thap Cam (Vietnamese Combination Rolled Rice Noodle Stir-Fry)
Banh Uot Xao Bo (Vietnamese Wet Rice Noodle Sheet Stir-fry with Beef), Bok Choy, Broccoli, Bean Sprouts, and Spinach
Mi Xao Don Chay (Vietnamese Vegetarian Crispy Chow Mein)
Mi Xao Don Thit Bo (Vietnamese Crispy Chow Mein with Beef)
Pho Ap Chao Bo (Vietnamese Pan-Fried Rice Noodles Sauteed with Beef)
1 year ago today, Crab Rangoons.
2 years ago today, Southern Baked Beans.
3 years ago today, Deep-Fried Squash Blossoms.