There are several types of cellophane noodles, also known as ‘glass noodles’, are commonly used in Asian cuisine. The most popular one in Chinese kitchen is made of mung bean starch, others are made of sweet potato starch, arrowroot starch, potato starch, yum or cassava starch etc. One of my favorite childhood dishes was braise Chinese courgette (which is crunchier and mellower in taste than its European counterpart) with dried shrimps and mung bean noodles, it was one of the most humble but yet delicious Chinese dishes I know. Fresh courgette cooked in a light chicken (or vegetable) broth flavoured with dried shrimp and ginger, the mung bean noodles soak up the subtle sweet, umami flavours from the broth and give the dish a slightly chewy texture. It is nothing over the top about this dish but the taste is just comforting and delightful.
But I have to say from time to time, a good spicy dish is often the right taste to awaken your tastebuds, at least that is what I like to eat when I feel like my spirit needs a lift up. When I came across a pack of arrowroot noodles in my kitchen cupboard the other day and immediately I wanted to make something that reminds me of home but yet it can simultaneously give my tastebuds a good kick. I thought of my mother’s braised mung bean noodles with dried shrimp, but with a good spicy twist. So I turn to the jar of Szechuan chili bean sauce that I trust will bring exciting flavour to the dish. In fact, I took reference to a very popular Szechuan dish call ‘ants climbing up a tree’ which is made of minced pork, mung bean noodles and chili bean paste. The name came from the look of the dish: the minced meat clings onto the noodles that resembled ‘the ants on the twigs’. Whether one finds the name’s origin convincing or not, it is nevertheless one of the most famous dishes in Chinese cuisine.
As I somehow fancy a meatless version (and there are plenty of ‘ants climbing up a tree’ recipes one can find on the internet anyway), so I replace minced meat with mushrooms, the addition of dried shrimps not only gives the dish a slight crunch, but also enhances the overall flavour. I love serving it with rice which is how I remember it, but I am sure it will taste perfectly well on it own or even wrapped in lettuce leaves for a more refreshing taste. Your call.
Notes: arrow root noodles are highly absorbent, so the dish will come out dryer than other type of glass noodles. If you prefer the dish a bit saucy, then I will recommend using mungbean or sweet potato noodles.
- 100g dried arrow root noodles (or mungbean noodles)
- 120g mixed mushrooms (I use Shiitake and Chestnut mushrooms), finely chopped
- 1 small handful of dried shrimps, soaked in boiling water for 5 minutes, then drained and finely chopped
- 1 small bunch of fresh coriander (leaves picked and stems chopped)
- 1 tsp. finely chopped fresh ginger
- 2 heaped tsp. of Szechian chili bean sauce
- 2 tsp. tamari (or regular soy sauce)
- 2 tsp. fish sauce
- 300ml chicken or vegetable stock
- 2 tbsp. vegetable oil
- 1 tbsp. peanut (or ground nut) oil
- 1 tsp. sesame oil
- brown rice or Jasmine rice
Soak (not cooking) the glass noodles in boiling water for 5-8 minutes (depends on the brand of noodles, so please fellow the package instruction), drain and set aside.
Warm the vegetable and nut oil in a wok then add ginger and coriander stems, fry until fragrant. Add the mushrooms and dried shrimps and fry for another minute, then stir the chili bean sauce into the mushroom mixture. Pour in the chicken or vegetable stock and season with tamari and fish sauce. Have a taste and adjust the seasoning if needed, add the sesame oil now. Let the mixture/sauce simmer for about a minute.
Trim the drained glass noodles with scissors if they are too long and then add them into the sauce, stir continually until everything is combined well and the sauce is pretty much absorbed by the glass noodles. Turn off the heat and have another taste, add more tamari or fish sauce as desire.
Sprinkle the coriander leaves on the dish and transfer the noodles onto a serving platter. Served immediately with rice or on its own.