Now that I am in my dotage, I have to take a Zantac in order to be able to eat food in the blow-your-head-off hot genre, but I still love it. I love the nose-clearing wake up call of chiles and the endorphin rush, as long as I also get a solid hit of flavor. Unfortunately, chiles are not quite as delightful when applied directly to the retina. Yesterday, I prepped this dish and then met a friend for a drink before returning home to cook. I ran out without washing my hands, and at some point during the conversation I rubbed my left eye. I then sat for approximately 45 minutes with tears (as well as about $2.00 worth of MAC Shale eyeshadow and Dior mascara) streaming down one side of my face while the other side remained dry, giving me the air of a beer-drinking mask of Comedy and Tragedy. Even after the Crying Game was over, I was left with one piggy, red, wet, makeup-less little eye and one perfectly dry, impeccably made-up eye.
At least dinner was good. My only complaint about the original recipe is not the heat, but the saltiness; I’ll let you know how to modify both though. This is, with it without the modifications I suggest, a quick, delicious and reasonably healthy meal. In case you want to see the original recipe, its here. Just remember to wash your hands.
(adapted from Bon Appétit)
1. 1 16-ounce packages 1/4-inch-wide flat rice noodles (the original recipes calls for two 14 oz packages of noodles which was far more than we needed).
2. 1/4 cup vegetable oil
3. 12 garlic cloves, chopped
4. 1/4 cup chopped fresh Thai chiles (You can use other small, intense chiles like jalapenos)
5. 1 1/2 pounds ground chicken (this would also be great with ground pork, beef or crumbled tofu)
6. 1/4 cup fish sauce (nam pla or nuoc nam)
7. 1 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce (the original recipe calls for a mixture of two kinds of regular sodium, but the dish was terribly salty)
8. 1 tablespoon sugar
9. 4 large plum tomatoes, each cut into 6 wedges (I used canned plum tomatoes and sliced them; unless you can get really fresh plum tomatoes I suggest this)
10. 4 Anaheim chiles or Italian frying peppers, or (about 12 ounces total), cut into strips
11. 1/2 cup fresh Thai basil leaves or regular basil leaves
Chop chiles, first removing seeds if you would like the dish to be relatively mild. The Anaheim or Italian Frying peppers are quite mild, but the smaller chiles carry their heat in the membranes and seeds and will be extremely hot unless those are removed.
Cook noodles in large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite, stirring frequently. Drain.
Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add garlic and Thai chiles; sauté 30 seconds. Add chicken and next 4 ingredients and sauté until chicken is cooked through, about 4 minutes. Add tomatoes, and Anaheim chiles, stir in and cook until large peppers soften, about 5-10 minutes. Add cooked noodles and toss to coat. Transfer to large platter, sprinkle with basil leaves, and serve.