Crispy Egg Noodles with Mixed Vegetables (Mi Xao Don)
Mì xào dòn chay, literally "vegetarian crispy sautéed noodles" in Vietnamese, is probably the most typical comfort food in Vietnamese cuisine. Its sauce is quite similar to ma-po tofu and adds an interesting, richer texture when it's blended with the crispy noodles. The addition of mixed vegetables and tofu makes it a very healthy dish even though the noodles are fried.
This dish reminds me of my first date with my husband at a Vietnamese restaurant back in 2000. I remember that mì xào dòn chay was the only vegetarian dish on the menu. I ordered the beef version mì xào dòn bò. I started eating and Lulu, shy, was staring at me. I asked him if everything was okay; I was thinking that maybe he didn't like this dish. And he said that he was afraid to be clumsy and spill the sauce everywhere and asked me if I could mix the sauce and crispy noodles for him. I found it so adorable. I have been mixing the sauce and noodles for him every time I make this dish ever since.
Yields: 8 servings1 (12-ounce) package firm tofu
1 quart canola oil
2 (14-ounce) packages fresh fine egg noodles
4 tablespoons tapioca starch
4 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons black bean garlic sauce
4 teaspoons chili garlic sauce, to taste
2 (14-ounce) cans low-sodium vegetable broth, or more (as needed)
1 shallot, thinly sliced
4 green onions, thinly chopped
1 fresh serrano green chile, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons salt, to taste
1-1/2 cups king oyster mushrooms, sliced
1 cup shitake mushrooms, quartered
1 carrot, shredded
1-1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 cup gren bell pepper, sliced
1 cup green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 tomatoes, cut into small wedges
2 cups broccoli florets and stems , cut into small pieces
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon black peppercorns, freshly ground
1 tablespoon cilantro, coarsely chopped
1 drizzle toasted sesame oil
For the crispy noodles:
On a large platter, untangle and separate the noodles, forming little nests. In a wok, heat the oil. When the oil is hot and bubbly, place about 2 or 3 nests at a time and fry the noodles until crispy and golden. Remove the noodles using a flat strainer and transfer to a platter lined with paper towels, to absorb all the oil. Repeat until all the noodles are deep-fried. Set aside.
For the tofu:
Drain any liquid from the tofu. Pat dry with a paper towel. Slice the block of tofu into 1 inch thick pieces. In the same wok, heat the oil and fry the tofu slices and transfer to a plate. Once the tofu is cool enough to handle, cut the pieces in half. Set aside.
For the veggies and the sauce:
Mix the tapioca starch, soy sauce, vinegar, about 2/3 cup of broth, chili garlic and black bean sauces. Set aside.
Blanch the broccoli for 3-4 minutes in boiling water then transfer into an ice bath. Drain thoroughly, then pat dry on a paper towel. Do not overcook, as the broccoli will continue to cook in the thick sauce later; it should be still tender and crisp or you'll have depleted all the healthy nutrients.
Remove and reserve the oil and just leave about a tablespoon in the wok. When the oil is hot again, add about 3/4 teaspoon of garlic. As the garlic becomes slightly golden, stir-fry the green beans. When the color is translucent, season with 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt. This will help keep a nice green color. Cook for about another minute. Don't overcook the vegetables as they will continue cooking in the broth later. Transfer to a plate. Repeat the same procedure five times (oil, garlic, stir-fry the vegetables, season with salt, transfer to a plate) with the bell pepper, the carrots, the tomatoes, the broccoli florets and the king oyster/shitake mushrooms. Set the plate aside.
In the same wok, drizzle a little more oil. Add the slices of serrano chili and shallot. This will help bring a nice fragrance to the dish. Add about 1 cup of broth. Bring to a boil. Mix in the tapioca mixture to prevent the starch from sticking to the bottom of the wok. Add the tapioca liquid to the boiling broth. Continuously stir the broth as it will thicken very quickly. Add the rest of the broth and the sugar.
Add the vegetables and fried tofu. Check the texture of the sauce, it should be thick and syrupy. If you find the sauce to be too thick, add 2 to 4 tablespoons of water. Cook for about 2 minutes. Add the sliced green onions.
Sprinkle black pepper and the cilantro. Drizzle with sesame oil.
Serve immediately with the crispy egg noodles.
The soy sauce brings saltiness to the dish and a nice amber brown color. My favorite soy sauce is the Da Bo De brand. It has a very nice flavor and is not too salty. You can find this particular sauce in downtown San Jose, at Dai Thanh Asian market on 420 S 2nd St, in San Jose. It's not the prettiest market, but it has all the fresh Vietnamese produce at a very reasonable price. This is one of the best "ethnic" grocery stores in the area.
You can find king oyster mushrooms in any Asian stores. They are also called abalone mushrooms and have a very meaty texture.
You can use store-bought black bean and chili garlic sauce like the one from Lee Kum Kee. It's just that my husband grew so many habanero and Thai chiles last summer, we got a whole box full. So I decided to make batches of chili garlic sauce. You can check for the recipe of the tướng ớt, literally spicy dipping sauce in Vietnamese; it's ultra easy.
Just as in my recipe for chow mein, I find the noodles in the fresh section of Asian stores. Just make sure to pick the thin thread-like noodles.
A fast and easy way to shred carrots is with this wonderful gadget from Messermeister. It's THE best utensil for julienning vegetables. Is that a verb?
I absolutely love the Thanh Son tofu brand. If you live in the Bay Area, you have to try it. They sell in almost all the Asian markets in downtown San Jose and their main shop is on 2857 Senter Road, San Jose. It's a very little shop but everything is very good. Their factory makes the best tofu texture. They make fresh tofu daily. This is the perfect place for vegetarians. I always get 2 to 3 pieces of fresh tofu every week. I also recommend their fried mushroom tofu cubes as well. They also serve other foods and it's very authentic.
One tip to get a perfect sauce is to "over" thicken the broth prior to adding the vegetables. When you add the vegetables, the veggies will release their own liquid and will balance the texture of the sauce.
The addition of the sesame oil at the end brings a nice fragrance to the noodles.
You can add thin strips of flank steak sautéed with sliced onions and some shrimp as well, if you want to make the non-vegetarian version of the dish. Just add them at the end, once the noodles are cooked. It works out pretty well for the carnivores in the house; that way everyone is happy.
Most important tip (how to eat the crispy noodles): Pour the thick sauce over the crispy noodles and let the "eater" delicately mix and incorporate all the sauce with the noodles. Eat immediately.
Published By: on July 23, 2009.