Thursday, November 27, 2008

Asian noodle indulgence, part 1

I admit, I am not a noodles fan, especially egg noodles. It’s not much about the calories – the high levels of monosaturated fat and carbs certainly don’t help – but it is just preference.

However, I travel a lot and curiosity gets the best of me. In my visits then, I have checked countless of specialties featuring the ubiquitous noodles. Too bad I haven’t been diligent in photographing the dishes I’ve tried and enjoyed. Hunger takes precedence sometimes and not even my avowed proclivities in photography could hold off my determined companions in digging into the food before I had the chance to setup a shot.

Still, there are a few I managed to photograph and I am compiling here a few indulgences that I recommend.

hokkien mee, Singapore
Egg noodles and frying don’t make a good mix to me but when balanced with the heat of sambal chili, the bite of curry and the promise of fresh prawns and squid, hokkien mee becomes a possibility. There is the halal non-pork version but undeniably, I want mine with the chopped pig meat, please.

hokkien mee
Britney, a daughter of a high school friend, stretches her mee before eating, at Bugis Junction, Singapore
Canon EOS 350D Digital, 1/25s, f/6.3, 22mm, ISO 1600

fried crispy noodles, Cebu, the Philippines
A variant of the popular pancit canton, the fried egg noodles laden with stir-fried slivers of beans, carrots, pechay (pak choi in Chinese), pea pods, shrimp and pork. The noodles are pre-fried in hot vegetable oil and then allowed to drain and dry to brittle crispness. Upon serving, you can then pour the concentrated heated soy-based sauce over the dry nest to rehydrate the noodles as if you just came up with freshly fried chow mein in front of you. This is an experiential treat where the actual mixing on the dinner table is a significant part of the fun.

crispy fried noodles
fried crispy noodles, Big Mao restaurant, Ayala Center Cebu, the Philippines
Canon EOS 350D Digital, 1/40s, f/1.8, 50mm, ISO 200, +1/3EV

While, I am picky with egg noodles, I dig rice noodles. Still definitely carbolicious but without the incumbent fat, rice noodles come in various varieties. The flat types that I would order in a heartbeat would include the stir-fried and nutty pad thai (Thai) and cockle-rich char kway teow (Malaysian or Singaporean). Here are two Vietnamese rice noodle delights worth trying:

ban pho (rice noodles) with beef (xao thit bo), Cebu, the Philippines
This is a Vietnamese delicacy which being a dish of beef, a meat I eat but not necessarily seek, is a hit to me. The flat rice noodles come with stir-fried tenderloin of beef. The version that Lemon Grass restaurant in Cebu carries has the most tender of beef. Sprinkled with nuts and garnished with thai basil, the dish is surprisingly light and to me has a hint of fish sauce. I could be wrong but I like it.

Lemon Grass, The Terraces, Ayala Center Cebu
Cebu, the Philippines
195 PHP(4USD)/serving

ban pho xao thit bo
ban pho xao thit bo, Lemon Grass, Cebu, the Philippines
Canon EOS 350D Digital, 1/800s, f/1.8, 50mm, ISO 800, +1/3EV

ban pho (rice noodles) with crab, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
So what happens when ban pho is added to the one food I crave the most, crabs? Foodie heaven, I say. As the coup de grace in the dinner I had in my last night in Vietnam last week, my friends ordered Chinese-style steamed blue crab broken over a bed of sauteed rice vermicelli. Served in hot clay stoneware, the noodles expectedly imbibed the salty and savory flavors of the shellfish. Needless to say, the plate was cleaned up to the last morsel. Highly and truly recommended!

ban pho with steamed crabs
ban pho with steamed crabs of the Nha Hang Hoang Long (Dragon Court Chinese) Restaurant, downtown Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Canon EOS 350D Digital, 1/60s, f/1.8, 50mm, ISO 800, +1/3EV

up next: more noodle indulgences like bam-i guisado, soto ayam, La Paz batchoy and pancit Malabon

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