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Cellophane Noodles with Shrimp and Garlic

Heads of pickled garlic, available at Southeast Asian markets, need no peeling and add a pleasantly sweet-sour flavor to offset the sweetness of the shrimp. If you cannot find pickled garlic, substitute 4 chopped garlic cloves and increase the fish sauce or lime juice by 1 to 2 Tbs. 

Ingredients:

  • 12 oz. cellophane (bean thread) noodles
  • 1 lb. small shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1/4 cup peanut or canola oil
  • 3 shallots, thinly sliced
  • 1 head pickled garlic, chopped (see note above)
  • 2 to 4 Thai chilies, seeded and sliced
  • 1/2 lb. ground pork
  • 1 1/2 cups grape tomatoes, halved lengthwise
  • 1/4 cup fish sauce or soy sauce, plus more, to taste
  • 2 Tbs. fresh lime juice, plus more, to taste
  • 1/4 cup fresh Thai or sweet basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves

Directions:

Place the noodles in a large bowl, add hot water to cover generously and let stand until softened, about 20 minutes. Drain the noodles and set aside.

Fill a saucepan three-fourths full of water and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the shrimp and boil just until they turn pink and curl, 1 to 2 minutes. Drain in a colander and place under cold running water until cool. Set aside.

In a wok or large nonstick fry pan over high heat, warm the oil. Add the shallots and stir-fry for about 30 seconds to soften slightly. Add the pickled garlic and the chilies and continue to stir-fry until the shallots begin to color, about 2 minutes. Add the pork and cook, stirring to break up any clumps, until the meat has lost its pink color, 1 to 2 minutes.

Add the tomatoes and stir-fry for 1 minute. Push the contents of the pan to one side, add the 1/4 cup fish sauce to the other side, let it bubble up for a second and then add the noodles. Quickly stir and toss to combine the noodles, fish sauce and pork mixture. Add the shrimp, toss to combine and sprinkle with the 2 Tbs. lime juice. 

Remove from the heat. Taste and adjust the seasonings with more fish sauce and/or lime juice. The dish should have a nice balance of salty, sour and hot. Add the basil and cilantro and toss to mix well.

Transfer the noodle mixture to a platter or individual bowls and serve hot or at room temperature. Serves 4 to 6.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma The Pasta Book, by Julia della Croce (Weldon Owen, 2010).