We already knew Bay Area chef James Syhabout has a way with crispy fried eggs—and in his new cookbook, Hawker Fare, the Commis and Hawker Fare chef shows us that dry-fried noodles are just as safe in his hands. The book is an excellent foray into what it was like growing up as a Laos refugee, "lugging memories of foods most Americans had never tasted." Recipes like this one, a noodle dish he says is just as necessary as cake at a kid's birthday party, read as love letters to the roots of the culture and cuisine that's now so entangled with that of Thailand. If you have any doubts, know that Syhabout says khua mee is the Laos equivalent of what pad Thai is in Thailand.
Dry-Fried Rice Noodles (Khua Mee)
Recipe adapted from Hawker Fare, by James Syhabout, HarperCollins
Yield: 8 to 10 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
For the Omelet:
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon fish sauce
3 tablespoons canola oil
For the Noodles:
1½ pounds dried medium-wide rice noodles
½ cup canola oil
½ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup sliced shallots
2 tablespoons finely minced garlic
¼ cup water
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
2 tablespoons Golden Mountain brand seasoning sauce
¼ cup fish sauce
1 tablespoon sweet soy sauce
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon MSG (optional)
2 cups mung bean sprouts
1½ cups scallions, in 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons fried shallots
½ cup chopped cilantro, stems included
1 cup mung bean sprouts
Prik phong (ground toasted chile) or Sriracha
1. Make the omelet: Crack the eggs into a small mixing bowl and add the fish sauce. Beat with a fork, as if making scrambled eggs. Add the oil to an 8-inch sauté pan over medium heat. When it's warm, pour in the egg mixture and tilt the pan to ensure the egg covers the bottom. Continue to cook over gentle heat for about 3 minutes—you'll notice the top of the omelet firming up. (If it starts to color, it means the pan is too hot; remove the pan from the heat.)
2. Once the top is firm, flip and cook over low heat for another minute. Slide the omelet out of the pan and onto a plate to cool. Slice into ¼-inch slivers and reserve for garnishing.
3. Make the noodles: Start by soaking the noodles in cold water according to the package directions—when done, they should be opaque white and firm yet flexible. Transfer to a colander and drain well.
4. Meanwhile, add the oil and sugar to a saucepan with a wide diameter and mix well; set over medium-high heat. As the oil gets hot, the sugar will caramelize. Cook until the caramel turns a deep amber. Once it has reached the desired color, turn off the heat, carefully add the shallots and garlic, and give it a stir with a spoon to sweat the aromatics—at this point, your kitchen should smell very good.
5. Sweat the aromatics for 1 minute, deglaze with the water and stir well. Add the seasonings (oyster sauce, seasoning sauce, fish sauce, sweet soy sauce, black pepper and MSG, if using) and mix well.
6. Return the saucepan to medium heat and bring to a simmer. Add the drained noodles and cook, stirring constantly with a pair of tongs. Move the noodles as if tossing a salad—they'll wilt and slowly soak up the sauce. When the noodles have absorbed all the sauce and the pan is dry, with no residual sauce remaining, turn off the heat and fold in the bean sprouts and scallions, again like tossing a salad.
7. Transfer to a large serving bowl or platter. Scatter the top with the omelet slices, fried shallots and chopped cilantro, with a side of extra mung bean sprouts. Serve with prik phong or Sriracha.