Taiwanese stir-fry vermicelli (tshá bí-hún)
Enjoy this classic Taiwanese noodle dish with friends at a big gathering. You can add more veg and omit the meat, if you like
- Serves: 10 persons
- 320g thin rice vermicelli
- 10g dried shrimp
- 20g dried shiitake mushrooms
- ½sweetheart cabbage (about 100g), core removed, leaves roughly chopped
- ½celery stick (about 35g), cut into 1cm cubes
- 150g beansprouts
- 4tbsp rapeseed or other vegetable oil
- 150g pork belly, sliced into thin strips (or use streaky bacon)
- ½large carrot, sliced into thin strips
- 2shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
- 3garlic cloves, crushed
- 60ml light soy sauce
- ½tsp caster sugar
- ½tsp ground white pepper
- small handful of chives, sliced into 2.5cm lengths
- 1tbsp crispy shallots, to garnish
- Taiwanese black vinegar or Worchestershire sauce, to serve (optional)
Step 1Cover the rice vermicelli with cold water and soak for 30 mins. Rinse the dried shrimp and mushrooms, then tip into separate heatproof bowls. Cover the shrimp with 250ml boiling water from the kettle, and the mushrooms with 300ml. Set aside to soak for 20 mins. Meanwhile, fill a large wok or pot with 2 litres water and bring to a simmer over a medium-high heat. Add the cabbage and celery, and cook, stirring, for 1 min. Add the beansprouts, then turn off the heat and leave for 30 seconds. Drain and set aside. Dry the wok with kitchen paper.
Step 2Drain the dried shrimp, reserving the liquid, and set aside. Squeeze the water from the mushrooms, pouring it into the reserved soaking liquid from the dried shrimp. Cut up the mushroom stems and thinly slice the caps. If the mushrooms are very large, slice in half horizontally, then thinly slice. You should have around 450ml of reserved liquid from the mushrooms and shrimp. If you have less, top up with water or vegetable stock.
Step 3Set the wok over a medium-high heat, add 1 tbsp oil and heat until slightly glistening, about 1 min. Cook the pork belly undisturbed for 30 seconds, then stir-fry for about 30 seconds more. Add the carrots and stir-fry for another 30 seconds, then drizzle in another 2 tbsp oil and add the rehydrated mushrooms, dried shrimp, shallots and garlic. Continue to cook until fragrant, about 2-3 min.
Step 4Splash the soy sauce around the side of the wok in a half-circle; you should hear it sizzle. Mix it into the other ingredients until everything is evenly coloured and smells slightly nutty and caramelised. Reduce the heat slightly if needed.
Step 5Pour in two-thirds of the reserved soaking liquid, add ½ tsp of salt, the sugar and white pepper. Reduce the heat to low and taste for seasoning – the broth needs to be slightly salty, so add an additional ½ tsp salt if needed.
Step 6Drain the rice noodles and add to the wok, gently tossing with a pair of chopsticks and spatula. Lift the noodles up to mid-air to loosen. Be gentle, and try not to break the noodles. Add the rest of the soaking liquid, tossing until all the noodles are coloured. The noodles are ready when al dente. Turn up the heat to medium and add the cabbage and celery mixture. Cook, covered and undisturbed, for 2 mins.
Step 7Remove the lid and toss with the noodles again. Turn the heat to high and lift the noodles up high again to loosen; keep tossing, checking if there is liquid in the base of the wok. Once all the liquid has evaporated, turn off the heat, add the chives and cover for 1 min.
Step 8Toss again, then tip onto a large serving platter. Garnish with crispy shallots and serve with black vinegar on the side for guests to pour on, if you like.