Monday 21 May 2018

Oodles of noodles: The best noodle dishes to thrill your dinner guests

From soups and salads to stir-fries and curries, Louise Pickford brings out the best of noodles in these delicious dishes

Squid with chillies and holy basil
Squid with chillies and holy basil
Smoked duck rice paper rolls Vietnam

Louise Pickford

Whenever I visit a city with a Vietnamese population I always try and make a trip to wherever the majority of Vietnamese have settled so I can treat myself to an authentic beef pho. It's the large baskets of colourful herbs and condiments that give this classic soup its freshness and that unique flavour and texture I love so much. To allow the flavours to develop, you need to prepare this dish a day in advance.

Beef Pho

Serves 4

You will need

1 kg beef short ribs

5cm fresh ginger, peeled, sliced and pounded

1 onion, sliced

2 garlic cloves, sliced

3 whole star anise, pounded

2 cinnamon sticks, pounded

400g dried rice stick noodles

350g thinly sliced beef fillet

3 tablespoons fish sauce

1 tsp salt

1 tsp caster sugar

Freshly squeezed juice of 1 lime

125g bean sprouts, trimmed


2 red bird's eye chillies, chopped

A handful each of fresh Thai basil, Vietnamese mint and coriander

6 spring onions, trimmed and sliced


Put the ribs in a large saucepan, cover with cold water and bring to the boil. Simmer for 10 minutes then drain and wash the ribs. Return them to the pan and add 2 litres more cold water along with the ginger, onion, garlic, star anise and cinnamon. Return to the boil and simmer gently for 1 and a half hours, or until the meat is tender.

Carefully remove the ribs from the stock and set aside to cool. Thinly shred the meat, discarding bones. Strain the stock through a fine mesh sieve and set aside to cool. Refrigerate both the meat and the stock overnight.

The next day, soak the noodles in a bowlful of hot water for 20-30 minutes, until softened. Drain well, shake dry and divide the noodles between large bowls. Meanwhile, skim and discard the layer of fat from the cold stock and return the pan to a medium heat until just boiling. Stir in the shredded meat, beef fillet, fish sauce, salt, sugar and lime juice. Place the beef fillet on the noodles, spoon over the stock and top with the beansprouts.

Serve with a plate of the garnishes in the middle of the table for everyone to help themselves.

Squid with chillies and holy basil

One of my favourite Thai stir-fries, I love the simplicity of this dish. Chillies and Thai basil leaves are the predominate flavours whilst the sauce has a delightful sweetness to it.

Serves 4

You will need

250g dried egg thread noodles

2 dried red chillies

1 large red chilli, deseeded and chopped

1-2 tbsp peanut oil

2 garlic cloves, crushed

400g cleaned squid bodies

150g sugar snap peas, trimmed and cut in half lengthways

A small bunch of fresh Thai basil


3 tbsp Chicken stock

2 tbsp fish sauce

2 tbsp light soy sauce

2 tbsp caster sugar


Cook the noodles by plunging them into a large saucepan of boiling water. Return to the boil and cook for 4 minutes until al dente. Drain well, refresh under cold water and shake dry. Set aside.

To make the sauce, pour the stock, fish sauce and soy sauce into a small mixing bowl. Stir in the sugar to dissolve and set aside. Put the dried chillies in a bowl and pour over boiling water to cover. Leave to soak for 15 minutes until softened, remove from the water and finely chop.

Heat the oil in a wok set over a medium heat until it starts to shimmer. Add the garlic, soaked and fresh chillies, and stir-fry for 10 seconds until fragrant. Immediately add the squid and stir-fry for 30 seconds. Add the sugar snap peas and stir-fry for 1 minute.

Add the noodles and sauce and stir-fry for a further minute, until the squid is cooked and tender. Add the Thai basil, toss well and serve at once.

Smoked duck rice paper rolls

Fresh spring rolls, often called 'summer rolls' due to their refreshing nature, can have many different fillings. I  have adapted this recipe to use smoked duck breast (available from specialist food stores), which adds a further  intriguing flavour to these delicious rolls.

Serves 4

You will need

100g rice vermicelli noodles

2 tsp fish sauce

2 tsp freshly squeezed lime juice

2 tsp caster sugar

8 x 20-cm/8in dried rice paper wrappers

100g smoked duck breast (see Tip)

100g thinly sliced lettuce

1 carrot, peeled and cut into thin batons

½ cucumber, deseeded and cut into batons

20 fresh Thai basil leaves


2 tbsp hoisin sauce

1 tbsp smooth peanut butter

1 tbsp warm water

2 tsp freshly squeezed lime juice

1 tsp dark soy sauce

¼ tsp caster sugar


Put the noodles in a bowl, cover with boiling water and soak for 30 minutes until softened. Drain the noodles, pat dry and transfer to a large mixing bowl.

Whisk the fish sauce, lime juice and sugar together until the sugar is dissolved and pour over the noodles. Toss well and set aside.

Next make the dipping sauce. Put all the ingredients in a small saucepan set over a low heat. Heat gently, stirring until the peanut butter is softened and the sauce smooth. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.

Working one at a time, dip the rice paper wrappers into a bowl of warm water for about a minute until softened and then pat dry on paper towels. Lay each wrapper out flat and top with a few noodles, the smoked duck slices, shredded lettuce, carrot, cucumber and basil leaves. Fold the ends of the rice paper over the filling and then roll up tightly to form parcels.

Serve with the dipping sauce.


TIP: If you can't find smoked duck you could use smoked salmon or smoked trout instead.

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