Okay I’m sure there is a real Vietnamese name for this dish but I know it as Thanh’s special noodles because it’s always a special treat when Thanh, a Vietnamese chef at work, makes them for the staff. After acquiring the basic ingredients and general recipe of how to make them I’ve done several test attempts at home but never felt like they tasted as good as Thanh makes. It’s like when your mom’s peanut butter & jelly tastes so much better. I know I haven’t found the perfect noodle yet, somehow the brands I keep buying are either too thick or too thin. I had special instructions to buy the specific brands of chili paste and fish sauce used in this recipe so looks like I’ll be needing a specific brand of noodle too! Uwajimaya will help me out.
I’ve put together what I believe is closest to the recipe is below. Adjustments and small tweaks are being made constantly by me, and you are always free to make personal changes.
Thanh’s special noodles (rice vermicelli with fresh veggies, herbs, & fried tofu in sweet chili sauce)
Serves 2 (large) portions
- 4 tsp fish sauce (Tiparos)
- juice of 1 lemon (about 3-4 Tablespoons)
- 1-2 tsp chili paste (Sambal Oelek)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 tsp sugar
Mix all ingredients in a small bowl and set aside. Taste and adjust as needed. I consider this plenty spicy but if you really want to sweat add more chili paste.
- 1 package Bun rice noodles
- 1/4 cup cilantro, lightly chopped
- 1/4 cup mint, julienne
- 1/4 cup basil, julienne
- 4 cups romaine, shredded
- 1 package firm tofu, cubed
- Cornstarch, as needed
- 1 quart vegetable oil
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the noodles and cook for 2-3 minutes or according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cool water. Set aside or refrigerate (can be made ahead of time).
Pour vegetable oil into large pot and heat until almost smoking point.
Rinse all vegetables before cutting (just makes it easier). Mix the romaine, cilantro, basil & mint together in a medium bowl. Set aside.
Slice the tofu into cubes (or rectangles, circles, stars… honestly whatever your heart desires) and toss in a bowl of cornstarch.
Timeout…. is it just me or does touching cornstarch give anyone else the willies?? It’s like nails on chalkboard or the sound balloons make when people touch them. They all make me want to leave the room. Actually don’t even get me started on balloons, I have an irrational fear of popping balloons. I have literally left rooms before because there are balloons in there. I almost cried once when I had to do one of those awful scavenger hunts when the answers are inside inflated balloons i.e. everyone has to pop them. I practically run past the balloon area in the flower department of grocery stores with the screeching helium noise. I’ve got to have some fellow balloon haters out there, anyone?? But anywayyyy…. back on topic if I could delegate this step of the recipe to someone else I would. Ok continue.
Carefully add the tofu into the hot oil and fry for about a minute, until the tofu takes on a light brown color. Remove with a slotted spoon and placed on paper towels or a metal rack to absorb some of the oil.
Fill bowls halfway with noodles. Top with the lettuce mixture and then place half the tofu into each bowl. Pour on the chili sauce. Eat with chopsticks.
…I was so ready to eat these that I didn’t try as hard in my final food styling so the tofu is noticeably overshadowing everything else in the bowl. Sorrryy. My bowls are also wayyyy too small for this dish but I literally had nothing else unless I wanted to eat out of a mixing bowl. So in comparison, this is like a quarter serving. Sorry peeps. Enjoy your noodles! Be careful, that sauce will sink down to the bottom and then the last few noodle bites will be super spicy so keep that in mind when you’re added that extra teaspoon of chili paste. Also, the great thing is that some of this can be done in advance which makes it much easier. I’d suggest boiling the noodles, cutting the tofu, and making the sauce in advance and then storing them in the fridge until needed.