Lemongrass Chicken with Rice Noodles

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I’m yet to meet someone who doesn’t love bun, or Vietnamese rice noodle bowls. And no two bun are the same: the combinations are endless, but one thing remains the same: a good bun is a riot of textures and flavors: crunchy and chewy and salty and sweet and tart all at once.

This lemongrass-heavy version with grilled chicken is my favorite way to make bun at home. Feel free to adjust the ingredients to your liking.

Lemongrass chicken with rice noodles

Ingredients:

For the nuoc cham:

1/2 cup warm water
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice, plus more to taste
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons fish sauce, plus more to taste

For the marinade:

1/4 cup roughly chopped lemongrass
3 tablespoons roughly chopped shallot
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon chopped garlic

1 teaspoon soy sauce

1/2 teaspoon pepper


1 1/4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 (8-ounce) package uncooked thin rice stick noodles
4 cups lettuce, thinly sliced
1 Persian cucumber, julienned
1/2 cup torn fresh mint
1/2 cup torn fresh Thai or other basil
Vegetable oil, for grilling

2/3 cup unsalted roasted peanuts or cashews, coarsely chopped

1/4 cup crispy fried shallots

1. Make the nuoc cham: Stir together water, lime juice, and sugar in a small bowl until sugar dissolves. Add additional lime juice to taste; dilute with water if flavors are too strong. Stir in fish sauce; add additional fish sauce to taste.

2. Marinade the chicken: Place all marinade ingredients in a food processor; pulse until mixture is pureed. Transfer mixture to a large bowl. Add chicken to marinade in bowl, mixing to coat. Cover, refrigerate, and marinade chicken for 2 to 6 hours.

3. When ready to cook, boil noodles in a pot of water until chewy-tender (cook time will depend on brand). Drain and rinse under cold water; drain again. Divide lettuce and cucumber among 4 large serving bowls. Sprinkle bowls evenly with mint and basil. Top evenly with noodles.

4. Heat a grill pan over medium-high. Lightly brush chicken with oil. Place chicken on hot grill pan; cook, turning occasionally, until chicken is slightly charred and cooked through, 8 to 12 minutes. Transfer chicken to a cutting board, let cool for 2 minutes, and slice into bite-sized pieces.

5. Divide chicken among bowls. Top bowls evenly with peanuts and fried shallots. Serve with nuoc cham as an accompaniment.

Cumin Beef

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The first time I had cumin beef was decades ago at an Islamic Chinese restaurant in San Francisco. The silk road influences were obvious: cumin is often used in Ughyur cuisine in China’s Xingjiang Province, in tandem with loads of garlic and chiles. I was hooked.

This fragrant dish is a cinch to make and takes me right back to that first time I tasted Muslim Chinese cuisine. Serve this with rice for an easy weeknight meal.

Cumin beef

Ingredients:

1 pound trimmed sirloin steak
2 teaspoons Shaoxing rice wine
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon potato flour
1 green or red bell pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 teaspoons finely chopped ginger
3 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
1 fresh red chili, deseeded and finely chopped
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried chili flakes, to taste
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1 1/2 teaspoons sesame oil

1. Cut the beef into thin slices. In a medium bowl, stir the marinade ingredients with 1 tablespoon water and add the beef, mixing to coat. Cut the peppers into 1-inch strips, then cut diagonally into diamond-shaped slices.

2. Add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil to a wok over high heat. Add the beef and stir-fry until just cooked, about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove beef from the wok and set aside.

3. Return the wok to the heat with the remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Add the ginger and garlic and stir-fry for a few seconds, then add the garlic and chili pepper, and stir-fry until hot and fragrant, about 2 minutes. Return the beef to the wok and add the cumin and dried chiles, continuing to stir-fry until cooked through, about 2 minutes. Just before removing from the heat, add the green onions and stir. Remove from the heat, stir in the sesame oil, and serve.

Seaweed and Ground Turkey Stir-Fry

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This is one of those #uglydelicious dishes that you make up at the spur of the moment: check out the freezer, open the cupboard, and make something out of nothing. Except that this nothing is actually quite delicious — and healthy to boot. Ground turkey and seaweed are an unlikely pairing, but they come together in moments in a garlicy, lime and fish sauce-flecked seasoning. This is delicious on its own or with rice.

Seaweed and ground turkey stir-fry

Ingredients:

1 or 2 ounces dried mixed seaweed (I used a mixture of wakame, kelp, and white fungus), soaked in water for 10 minutes
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon thinly sliced shallots
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 pound ground turkey
2 Thai dried red chiles
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon torn cilantro leaves

1. Drain the soaked seaweed, rinse, and drain again. Cut the seaweed into roughly 1-inch size pieces and set aside in a serving bowl.

2. Place a wok over high heat. Once heated, add the oil, shallots, and garlic until aromatic, about 10 seconds. Add the turkey and chiles. Stir-fry, breaking up meat, until turkey is cooked through, about 5 minutes. Add the lime juice and remove from heat. Add the fish sauce, stir, and add the mixture to the seaweed. Add the cilantro and mix. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Garlic Green Beans

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Garlic green beans are a takeout staple, but this homestyle version is so easy and versatile, you’ll wonder why you ever ordered out to begin with. If I can find East Asian long beans, I prefer to use those, but your run-of-the-mill green beans work just as well. And instead of the traditional step of deep-frying the green beans first, this recipe modifies that step with far less oil, making these simpler and healthier.

Garlic green beans

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 cups trimmed green beans, about 3 inches long
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon Thai seasoning sauce (you can substitute Maggi seasoning sauce or even soy sauce)
1 teaspoon oyster sauce
1/2 teaspoon sugar
Pepper

1. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a wok over high heat. Working in two batches, stir-fry the beans until they begin to wrinkle, about 2 minutes. Drain on paper towels.

2. Once cooled, pour out most of the oil until about 1 tablespoon remains. Heat the wok over high heat again until the oil is shimmering, then add the garlic, green beans, sugar, Thai seasoning sauce, and oyster sauce. Stir-fry until the green beans have absorbed the sauce and the garlic is fragrant, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and add a dash of pepper and serve.

Stir-Fried Broccoli Rabe with Garlic and Chiles

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I used broccoli rabe in this quick stir-fry seasoned with garlic and serrano peppers, but you can use nearly anything: gai lan, collards, kale. One thing is constant, though: the addition of anchovies at the end. They melt into the wok, adding a deliciously funky and salty note to the dish. Serve this as a side dish alongside rice and a main, and you’re set.

Stir-Fried Greens with Garlic and Chiles

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons avocado oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 serrano chile, thinly sliced on an angle
2 bunches (about 1 pound) broccoli rabe, or other hardy leafy greens, like gai lan, stems thinly sliced on an angle into 2-inch lengths and leaves cut into 2-inch pieces
1 teaspoon oyster sauce
1 teaspoon soy sauce or Thai seasoning sauce
1/4 teaspoon sugar
3 anchovy fillets, chopped
Ground black pepper

1. Heat the oil in a wok over high heat until it begins to shimmer. Add the garlic and chiles and stir-fry until fragrant, then toss in the greens, oyster sauce, soy sauce, and sugar. Cook, stirring the greens, until they are tender and wilted, about 4 minutes. If the wok begins to dry out at the bottom, splash in 2 tablespoons of water at a time to help the greens wilt and not stick. Once the greens are wilting, stir in the anchovies.

2. Remove from heat, add a dash of black pepper, and serve.