Yesterday, on my walk home from the gym an entirely random craving for Spicy Wok Basil Noodles came over me . This past summer my husband and I were both working research positions in New Haven, Connecticut. New Haven, an unexpected mix of “Yalies” and urban culture had a surprisingly good restaurant scene. It is also well catered to the student population. Our living arrangements this summer, were last minute and may I say less than desirable. I hardly stepped foot in the kitchen of the apartment we were staying at, much to my husband’s dismay. Basically, we ate out quite often (everyday). (Thankfully, we were able to move out after a month to a better place 🙂 ). A note to women– please do not let your husband/boyfriend/partner pick out a place to live because they can adapt anywhere, whereas we cannot! Anyway, enough with my rant!
Back to the food! In New Haven, we stumbled upon a restaurant or more aptly, a dive called York Street Noodle. It is an entirely “studenty” place that serves noodle bowls and wok creations. Every time we went there I ordered the Spicy Wok Basil Noodle (either vegetarian or shrimp). I always asked them to make it extra spicy for me and Yummmm, it just hit the spot! I know my re-creation can never be AS good. To my surprise, my version turned out quite good, not the exactly the same but pretty close. My husband loved it so much he had three servings, which can only mean it was tasty!
I have conducted an in-depth online search in order to find a recipe resembling it but, unfortunately, no luck. But, I did find a photograph of the dish here yay! My inspiration comes from this picture and my memories of the dish’s flavor. A close cousin to this dish would be Drunken Noodles.
The noodles are wide and velvety. There isn’t a sauce but a glistening glaze covering the noodles. The flavor is smokey, nutty, and spicy. The vegetables were pretty basic; green peppers (I substituted red peppers), mushrooms, white onions (I substituted shallots), wilted basil, and scallions.
My version is as follows:
5 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon of ginger of galangal, minced
3 shallots, sliced
1/2 red pepper, sliced
1/2 cup shiitake mushrooms, sliced (stems removed)
Handful of snow peas (clean by pulling off strings)
1 cup firm tofu, cubed
1 pound peeled and deveined shrimp (any size to your liking)
3-4 tablespoons vegetable oil (or to your liking)
1/3 of 16 ounce package of wide rice vermicelli noodles, Banh Pho
5 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons fish sauce, Nuac Mam Dac Biet
1 tablespoon scant rice vinegar
juice of 1/2 lime
2 teaspoons chili oil
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teapsoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon cornstarch
crushed red chiles to taste (I used 1 tsp for spicy)
10-15 Thai basil leaves (I was not able to find Thai basil so I used regular basil)
2 scallions, sliced on a bias
a few cilantro and basil leaves, for garnish
1/2 a lime in wedges, for garnish
Make the sauce by combining the soy sauce, fish sauce, rice vinegar, 1 teaspoon of the chili oil, lime juice, sugar, cornstarch, kosher salt, crushed red chiles in a bowl, set aside. Bring a large pot of water to boil, then put the noodles in a large bowl and cover with the boiling water allow to soften, about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, fry tofu on medium heat in 1 teaspoon of oil until golden, about 5 minutes, set aside. Keep heat on medium, add 2 tablespoons of oil to a wok, when oil is heated add the shallots and allow to sweat. Add garlic and ginger and stir constantly so they do not burn. Next add shiitakes and allow to soften, add red peppers and snow peas at the end, for about 1-2 minutes. Remove from wok and set aside with tofu. Put the remaining oil in the wok and fry shrimp lightly, add the vegetables and tofu that was set aside. Add the basil leaves and allow them to wilt. Next, add the sauce and combine everything together. Add the softened noodles (make sure to drain the water). Toss everything together until the shrimp are cooked, about 5 minutes. (Do not over cook, they can become rubbery; also keep the vegetables crisp, otherwise they will be soggy). Drizzle the remaining 1 teaspoon of chili oil on top. Add scallions and garnish with limes, cilantro, and basil. Serve immediately.
Note: I know this dish requires quite a few ingredients. But, keeping a well stocked pantry will avoid a high grocery bill when making such a dish. I always keep these sauces on hand so that I can whip up a fast dinner. Use whatever vegetables you have on hand, you do not have to make a special trip to get snow peas if you don’t have them on hand. If you would like to substitute chicken, beef, or make it vegetarian, feel free! Adapt it to your tastes! This dish took me 45 minutes with all the chopping. Enjoy!