Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Thai Rad Nah: Fresh Rice Noodles with Pork Gravy

This is my first participation in a blogging ensemble. The event is entitled “Foods of Comfort”, hosted by Orchidea and Cream Puffs In Venice. It slides away from the sweet side of my blog into the savory, but I have kept the hemisphere oriental to remain apropos. This is so much fun. I hope to contribute more to these activities. I have just made it under the wire for the Nov. 15 deadline.

There is only one subject indisputable to discuss with girlfriends, and that is our love lives. We are like surgeons before a forum, dissecting, exhibiting, entertaining questions from the gallery about matters of the heart and soul. I have met regularly and often with Hilary, Nancy, Janet and Nora, hugging each other as we meet in front of restaurants, complimenting each other on our choice of bobbing earrings, or bags of the season, arms clasping each other in bakery soft arms, leading each other to tables that we will occupy throughout the afternoon or night in order to feed each other our latest stories of love in limbo.

Most times we go to Noodle World in Pasadena, and pass around our dishes family style. Once the modest sampling is done, we dig in to our own, mine most likely the same every time, rad nah, a Thai noodle dish, soft in texture with a gravy of hushed toned flavors. The sensations in the mouth gives no challenges or chides; it is rich and springy, salty and hot, the perfect dish to nurture an anecdote of love.

In Thailand, I walked along a street that had tiny rad nah restaurants the size of our coffee kiosks, side by side, each selling a particular kind of rad nah: rad nah with pork was one establishment, shrill with the sound of metal spatulas scraping the fresh noodles against the pan; rad nah with beef was his competitive neighbor’s work, the pieces of meat tossed highly in the air.

In Los Angles, on the menus, they signify shrimp as an option, and that is always more expensive, and the one I get with nothing else. The waitresses always ask if I know that this is the thick, white noodle, using their fingers to demonstrate its large width, because most American patrons prefer their noodles thin and transparent or yellow and skinny. The plate comes too often with too much china at the edges. There is never enough for me. I sprinkle garnishes of fresh chili in vinegar and a little red pepper flakes. I have spied other patrons use sugar before they mix everything together. I speak little while I am eating. This dish, like a lover whispering, requires close attention.

I look up to see my girlfriends, their eyes misty with redoubtable hurts, their cheeks pale with too many sleepless nights, and know if I could only offer them another bite of my rad nah, they would feel better. But I don't. As every veteran of romance knows, others can never sample the singularity of our experiences, however beneficial or fulfilling it would be to share them.

Rad Nah: Thai Fresh Noodles with Pork Gravy

4 tablespoons oil
½ package fresh wide rice noodles 8 to 9 ounces
3 cloves of garlic
¼ lbs. pork, sliced thinly (a thick pork chop from the shoulder is good)
1 lbs. Chinese broccoli, but I mostly use bitter greens, mustard, kale, etc. which is more available to me
1- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 teaspoons oyster sauce
1 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4- 1/2 cup cold water

· Pull apart the fresh noodles and separate them as best you can without tearing off their length. If they have been in the fridge a few days, I cover them with cool water to re-hydrate them slightly. Drain after five minutes.

· Heat nonstick skillet. When it is hot, measure out 2 tablespoons of oil covering the bottom of the pan. Add the noodles over medium high heat, letting the edges of the noodles get brown, but keeping the whole assembly from sticking to the bottom and edges. After about three minutes, turn out into the serving platter or bowl. Scrape the bottom clean.

· Pour in last 2 tablespoons of oil into the pan, and when warm, sauté the chopped garlic until golden. Toss in the pork and fry until they change their color and become slightly brown.

· In succession, stirring well after each to incorporate, add the broccoli or other leafy vegetables, fish sauce, oyster sauce, and cornstarch dissolved in water. Let this bubble excitedly to let the gravy develop. When vegetables wilt, the dish is done.

· Now this is my bastardization of the dish: I add back the noodles and let them simmer for a minute, instead of the traditional way, which is to place the gravy on top of the noodles, letting the individual mix everything in at the table.

Out of character for the theme of this post, I served it last weekend to my parents, between customers at our U-Pick persimmon ranch in Moorpark, California. I brought it over in an amber-colored glass casserole dish, and served it on money pod plates with chopsticks. It had cooled by then, and the pliant and tender noodles had time to absorb the marine sauces, condiments that eluded them, but intrigued their palate.

“Is this Chinese?” they asked.

With the patis, which we call our fish sauce, it could have been one of our Filipino dishes, but the oyster sauce and fresh noodles showed its Sino- strains and origins. How this has become a quintessential Thai dish, I do not know. Maybe love was involved; the way a girl falls in love with a boy, and from then on, she becomes his.


Ivonne said...

How very true, Yvonne! Welcome to the wonderful food of blogging and what a way to make an entrance! I love this dish and I agree, it must help soothe some of those hurts we experience all too often.

I'm so glad that you chose to enter this event. You have a lovely blog and are very obviously an excellent writer. I appreciate your introducing yourself and look forward to sharing many comments with you!

All the best!

Yvonne said...

Hi Ivonne,

You are the paperish made flesh, the light made warm.

Thank-you for being the considerate hostess of this event and my first contact with food blogging.

We cook by ourselves, while thinking of others.

We blog by ourselves, but we want others.



Orchidea said...

Yoru dish looks so good and I will definitely try it. Thanks for participating.

Yvonne said...

Hi Orchidea,

How kind of you to make notice of me and my efforts.

This was such good fun to participate in your event evocative of love and memories.


Nora said...

Just be careful on the ride home.

Oh, Yvonne, I love it! I am transported to that dim booth in the corner, where we tested out your camera after reading through your packet of letters filled with potential. The first booth on the side, where we talked about Einstein! It was here I had my first sips of Boba Tea, which I had previously gazed at with wonderment and curiosity, as I watched the slurping co-eds strolling through Westwood at lunchtime.

However, always, we walk side by side as we wander down the path of love, but, you are always my guide in Noodle World - I never remember what I've gotten before! My latest favourite was that one with duck - what is it? What is it?

Lis said...

This dish looks yummy. I really enjoyed reading your post and ohhh how I can relate to the most talked about subject when the girls get together. What would we do without our girlfriends??

I look forward to reading more from you - you've got a great blog!

Yvonne said...

Hello Lis,

Love the picture of your doggie- babies. Give them a smooch for me.

Thank-you for liking my blog. You are so kind to say. I took a quick peak at yours this morning. The photography really ramped my heart-rate. I can't wait to find time to read your posts, to loiter over the gifts from your kitchen.


Yvonne said...

Hi Nora,

I feel like Carrie from Sex and the City reporting about the state of romance but through the metaphor of food.

That duck noodle dish you had was fine. That guy (forgot his name, but not his biceps) who attended the Cal Tech lecture with us asked me for my phone number in the elevator, and wrote it on a piece of paper. The kid next to us said,"How old school!" because he was not imputting my number into his cell.

Check in often here and see if I mention you in our further adventures.

Thanks for the comment and the nice memories.

Sally said...

Your writing is very beautiful.

Yvonne said...

Thank-you, Sally, and so are the feelings left by your marking.

opinionatedchef said...

what beautiful writing.i do wish you would approach the publishing world. i bet gourmet mag.would really appreciate your potential.

Yvonne said...

Hi opinionatedchef,

That you have mused as much, makes the reality of that thought mine, and has leavened an action, I would not have considered without you.

Thank-you for giving me associated dreams.



P.S. Now if I only knew how...