Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Tapioca Thread Noodle Bowl with Baby Octopus and Fermented Black Bean Broth

     Is It A Soup Or A Noodle Bowl Entrée?
     Noodle Bowl Entrées can look like a mound of noodles with very little sauce or they can look like a bowl of broth with plenty of noodles added.  At many Asian restaurants, a portion of soup is very large and it is served in a big bowl.  The same goes for a noodle bowl.  Because of the large portion size, a broth noodle bowl looks like a soup.
     In effect, a broth noodle bowl can be called a soup.  In Southeast Asia, the word "Pho" traditionally refers to Rice Noodles in a bowl of broth.  In modern times it is okay to describe any broth noodle bowl as being Pho, no matter what kind of noodles are used.  Even so, traditionalists still prefer to only call rice noodle and broth entrées by the name Pho.
     In one Asian restaurant, today's recipe might be listed in the Pho section of the menu.  At another restaurant, it might be listed in the Noodle Bowl section.  Yet at another place, it might even be listed as a soup.  In the end, all three classifications are correct.  It is the chef's choice as to what designation is attached to the bowl of broth of noodles.

     Broth is an important staple in nearly every Asian cuisine.  This is because broth quickly revitalizes the body and mind.  Nutrients in a broth are the easiest to digest and uptake happens quickly.
     The broth for today's soup soup is made like a Japanese Wakame Dashi with fermented black bean paste added.  The vegetables add flavor to the broth.  The little octopus have a very mild flavor and they are a fat free protein.
     Tapioca Thread Noodles are also called Glass Noodles.  These noodles hold up well in a broth and they add a nice visual effect.  Glass Noodles are slightly firm and wiggly.  Glass Noodles are fun to eat!
     Tapioca Thread Noodles:
     This recipe yields 1 portion.
     Step 1:  Cook 1 portion of tapioca thread noodles in boiling water till they are fully cooked.  (The glass noodles should be slightly al dente.)
     Drain the water off the noodles.
     Step 2:  Immediately cool the noodles in ice cold water, so they gain a chewy texture.
     Drain most of the water off the noodles and set them aside.
     Fermented Black Bean Broth:
     This recipe yields enough for one large noodle bowl portion! 
     Step 1:  Boil 3 cups of water in a sauce pot over medium high heat.
     Add 4 tablespoons of dried pickled bonito flakes.  (katsuobushi)
     Add 3 tablespoons of rinsed salt packed dried wakame seaweed that is chopped into small pieces.
     Boil the dashi broth for 5 minutes.
     Step 2:  Pour the dashi broth through a fine mesh strainer into a second sauce pot.  Discard the bonito and seaweed.
     Step 3:  Place the pot of dashi broth over medium heat and bring it to a gentle boil.
     Add 1 teaspoon of minced ginger.
     Add 1 minced garlic clove.
     Add 3 or 4 drops of pure sesame oil.
     Add 2 teaspoons of thin soy sauce.
     Add 1 tablespoon of fermented black bean paste.  (Fermented Black Bean Paste can be very salty, so do not add too much.  A spoonful is enough to flavor this recipe.)
     Add 1 pinch of Chinese five spice powder.
     Add 1 pinch of white pepper.
     Step 4:  Gently boil for 1 minute and leave the pot on the heat.

     Tapioca Thread Noodle Bowl with Baby Octopus and Fermented Black Bean Broth:
     This recipe yields 1 large noodle bowl that can be shared by 2 guests!
     Step 1:  Keep a small pot of water boiling on a backburner so the Tapioca Thread Noodles can be reheated later in the recipe.
     Step 2:  Keep the Fermented Black Bean Broth Gently Boiling over medium heat.
     Add 1/3 cup of thin sliced onion.
     Add 1/3 cup of thin sliced celery.
     Add 2 to 3 baby bok choy that are sliced lengthwise into quarter wedges.
     Add 1 green onion that is cut into bite size pieces.
     Add 2 tablespoons of chopped red bell pepper.
     Step 3:  Gently boil till the vegetables are al dente.
     Step 4:  Add 8 small octopus tentacle sections.  (Be sure to remove the tiny octopus beaks.)
     Gently boil for 30 seconds.  (Do not cook them for too much time or they will be chewy and rubbery!)
      Remove the pot from the heat.
     Pour the Fermented Black Bean Broth, vegetables and baby octopus into a large bowl.
     Reheat the tapioca thread noodles in the pot of hot water.
     Drain the water off the noodles.
     Mound the noodles on the center of the soup broth.
     Try to expose some of the vegetables and octopus in the surface of the broth so it looks nice.
     Garnish with a large Thai Basil sprig.
     The fermented black beans add an interesting savory flavor.  This noodle bowl only takes about twenty minutes to prepare.  Quickly cooked broth noodle bowls like this are healthy to eat! 

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