*or, How to Get Your Meat-Loving Guy to Love a Vegan Meal
How often does this happen to you? (I promise, this is not an infomercial): You come across a new recipe that sounds wonderful, and, fired up with anticipation, you can’t wait to try it. You rush home, prepare the dish, and it’s received to unanimous acclaim. This recipe instantly becomes your “go-to” dish, and you repeat the performance over and over many times during the following weeks. You keep returning to this item, in fact, and it instantly pops into your head whenever you think about what to cook. The page for that recipe in your cookbook acquires the rippled, stained appearance of a trusty pair of Keds you’ve worn for a whole summer, through mud and grass and lakes, covered as it is in little splatters of sauce and oil and water.
And then–just like that–you happen upon a new recipe, one that piques your interest just as much as the other one, and you abandon your old standard as easily as the office gossip moves on to the next best friend. It’s not that you don’t enjoy it any longer; it’s just that it has run its course, and now you feel like trying something new. And so there’s another novel recipe that you try out to universal accolades. . . and the cycle continues.
Well, a few evenings ago, I met my friend the Eternal Optimist for a chatty dinner at a lovely restaurant in town that serves pan-Asian food. What’s great about this place is that, along with their hip, funky, lacquered decor and fabulous grub, their multi-page menu devotes one full spread just to “Vegetarian Meals.” And they’re always happy to do up a tofu-based version of their Chicken-Lettuce Wrap for me, which means I get to enjoy their awesome hoisin sauce and eat an entire dinner for under $10.00.
That night, however, I opted for a spicy rice noodle dish with eggplant and basil, lip-smacking good. And while I was patiently grappling with the shimmering, slippery noodles between my chopsticks, I was reminded of a recipe I used to make over and over, a couple of years ago, and then suddenly abandoned: Bangkok Noodles.
The recipe comes from a wonderful cookbook I found in a remainder bin a few years ago, called the Fruit Cookbook, by Nicole Routhier. It’s one of those tomes that contains a plethora of interesting recipes, but few that seemed practical to me (as I would have had to buy an entire package of one ingredient for 1/4 teaspoon in the recipe). In the end, I think I tried out maybe a half dozen recipes from that book, and while they were all very good, I set it aside and promptly forgot about it.
This week, however, my memory and the available ingredients came together in a perfect confluence of desire and means. Just that morning, I had peeled and cut a fresh pineapple, leaving the juicy golden chunks in a container in the fridge for later consumption. And, as it happened, this dish calls for pineapple chunks. Time to resurrect the Bangkok Noodles!
Because my HH and I have vastly different eating styles, this recipe is perfect to bridge the chasm: I make up the noodles as I like them, serve up two plates, and the HH tops his own with some pre-cooked shrimp. The perfect compromise, and we both get to enjoy a meal we like.
The HH didn’t really remember this dish before I served it, as it’s been at least 2 years since I last cooked it. I’ve always loved the combination of curry spice with smooth, velvety coconut milk, and, as is my wont, I added extra veggies to the recipe (which, actually, calls for none). I also love the play of colors in this meal, as well as the alternating crunchy, juicy, lustrous and sturdy textures.
My HH was a little skeptical when he saw the vegetable-heavy ingredients bathed in the deep golden sauce, but was comforted by his own stash of cooked crustacean placed in a heap on top of the noodles. After we dished it up, we sat down at the table, slurping up our noodles across from each other in contented silence.
And then, in the middle of the meal, it happened. The HH said something he’s never said before, not in the almost-eleven years I’ve known him.
“You know, this doesn’t really even need the shrimp. It would be just as good without it.”
And suddenly–The skies were flooded with light!
And the sea parted and The Girls ran into the opening, chasing after the graven image of the calf (they didn’t realize it wasn’t real!).
The lands became fecund and there was new life, and legions of young veggies sprang up and they overtook the shrimp!
And so, Paradise was born, right in my little kitchen. And it was good.
It was very, very good.
Okay, I’ll concede, maybe the HH’s comment wasn’t quite that miraculous, in the grand scheme of things. But it was the very first time he’s suggested that a vegetarian main course did not require the addition of animal flesh. Perhaps there’s hope yet. Only problem is, I probably won’t be cooking this for another 2 years or so.
However, for those of you looking to please a carnivore with a vegetarian entree, I’d definitely recommend you give this a try. And since this noodle dish appears capable of inspiring a conversion of sorts, I figured it might just be good enough for Ruth’s huge birthday bash over at Once Upon a Feast. I’m submitting this recipe for the Presto Pasta night’s one-year anniversary event.
Bangkok Noodles with Cashews and Pineapple
adapted from the Fruit Cookbook by Nicole Routhier
Despite the long list of ingredients, this dish comes together fairly quickly. It’s also infinitely adaptable to your own tastes in vegetables–I just add what I have on hand and look forward to a slightly different experience each time I make it.
[Note: I’ve added my own changes/additions to the original in square brackets.]
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 cup chopped onions
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
[1/2 medium eggplant, peeled and cut into chunks]
2 tsp. Thai yellow curry paste
1 Tbsp. curry powder, preferably Madras brand
1-1/2 cups unsweetened coconut milk, well-stirred
1 cup chicken broth [I used vegetable]
1-1/2 tsp. sugar [I used agave nectar]
3 Tbsp. Thai fish sauce [I used tamari soy sauce]
[1 red pepper, cut in 1-” squares]
[1/2 cup green beans, trimmed]
[1 Tbsp. organic cornstarch, if needed]
1 pound dried rice noodles (the flat, long kind)
1-1/2 cups coarsely chopped fresh pineapple
[1/2 cup toasted cashews]
1/2 cup finely shredded (chiffonade) basil
Place noodles in a large bowl and cover with boiling water. Allow to soak about 7 minutes, until al dente. Drain and keep covered while you prepare the sauce.
Heat the oil in a large frypan or wok over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, and eggplant, and saute until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the curry paste and powder. Cook, mashing the curry paste with the back of a spoon, until the mixture is aromatic, another minute or so.
Stir in the coconut milk, broth, sugar, soy sauce, and remaining vegetables. When the liquid comes to a boil, reduce the heat and gently simmer until the sauce has thickened, about 2 to 3 minutes. [My sauce didn’t thicken. So I skimmed off about 1/4 cup liquid, mixed it with 1 Tbsp. cornstarch, and returned that mixture to the pot, allowing it to simmer for another couple of minutes, and this thickened the sauce enough.]
Add the pineapple and cashews along with the noodles, and stir to coat, until it is heated through, about another minute. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the basil.
Makes 4-6 servings.
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