I came home from work this afternoon and got out a chicken breast to make chicken chow mein (p147). Once it was defrosted, I sliced it thinly and bunged it in a bowl with soy sauce, sherry, cornflour and ginger. This had to marinate for half an hour, so I sorted out the veges in the meantime.
I'd decided I could get away with a couple of substitutions when it came to the vegetables. I wasn't going to go out and buy broccoli and red capsicum, when my garden is loaded with courgettes and green capsicums I could use instead.
I cut up the capsicum and courgette, along with some celery, onion and garlic. I figured since the courgette was replacing broccoli, I should keep the pieces fairly chunky. I later realised that they were unnecessarily large and I found myself pulling them out of the pan and halving them during the cooking.
When the veges were chopped and ready, I got out some vermicelli for some crispy fried noodles (p148) to serve with the chow mein. The instructions seem pretty simple: cook vermicelli according to packet directions, drain and cool, then deep-fry in hot oil until golden and crispy.
The first step was easy: just soak the vermicelli in hot water for three minutes. After that, I drained them thoroughly and spread them as thinly as possible on on the bench to cool.
I'd given some thought to what I should cook first. I figured that deep-frying is usually very quick, so I decided to cook the chow mein first, then quickly do the noodles.
I cooked the onion and garlic first, then added the chicken and quickly browned it, before chucking in the rest of the veges. After a couple of minutes of stir frying, I poured in a mixture of chicken stock and cornflour, and let that boil and thicken while I turned to the noodles.
The oil had been heating and was ready to go. I scooped the noodles from the bench into a bowl and dropped a generous tongful into the oil. Interestingly, though the oil bubbled up a lot, it didn't spit at all, which I had been expecting. I thought it would only take a minute or two, so I kept fussing with it, pulling out bits of noodle and moving them around in the pan.
After ten minutes of this, I had a single clump of rubbery, still not 'golden' noodles. I scrapped those and bunged the remaining vermicelli in, vowing to leave it alone as much as possible, and let it cook until it actually got crispy and golden.
I don't know how long I waited. The chow mein was off the heat and congealing by the time I gave up and attempted to pull the noodles out. I had to laugh when I poked my tongs in and grabbed a single disc of clumped-together noodles, nowhere near 'golden' but at least it was 'crispy'!
While my crazy noodle disc was draining on paper towels, I moved the wok off the heat. The oil had done nothing but bubble and froth when the noodles were in there, or even after I took them out. Startlingly, as soon as I moved the pan off the heat, it began to pop and splatter violently, which went on for quite some time. I was glad I'd placed a lid over the top, or I'd have had oil all over the kitchen.
I served up the chow mein on top of my crunchy disc of noodles. The chow mein itself was not bad - though pretty much just a standard stir-fry in my book. I did eat the noodles, which had mostly gone beyond 'crispy' and into 'crunchy'. In places, the sauce from the chow mein had softened the noodles slightly, and these bits were far tastier than the crunchy ones.
I'm not sure what I did wrong with the crispy fried noodles. I'm sure that my result was not the desired one, but what it's supposed to be like, and how to get it that way, remains a mystery.
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