When my parents and I ate at Chinese restaurants, we had an understanding. My father ordered spareribs, I had won-ton soup and my mother picked out a dish we had not had before. This led to exotic experiences but we also discovered dishes like Singapore noodles, a stir-fry combining soft rice noodles, curry and assorted chopped up mix-ins.
The rice noodles made Singapore noodles filling and comforting yet light. Curry powder gave the dish pleasant warmth and turned the noodles turmeric-bright yellow. The rest of its ingredients were a combination of vegetables and proteins that we discovered differed at various restaurants. We liked it so much that we took to ordering it as we dined around in Chinatown and elsewhere in New York City.
I kept notes on the variations, since I was already a budding cook and had decided to learn how to make Singapore noodles myself. The vegetables included some mixture of finely shredded napa cabbage, bean sprouts, diced sweet peppers (red and/or green), onion, scallions, cut-up green beans and sliced mushrooms. For protein, there were always a few shrimp and a little scrambled egg, plus the possibility of diced roast pork, shreds of chicken, or, at one restaurant, cubes of fried tofu.
Talking with friendly waiters and consulting the Internet, I also learned about adding ginger to ramp up the heat and including toasted sesame oil for deeper flavor, both good because rice noodles are so bland.
Continuing to perfect my own version of Singapore noodles, recently I found mai fan noodles made from brown rice instead of white rice. They are still gluten-free, like the white rice version, but softer. They are worth using for the whole-grain benefits they add.
As for why these are Singapore noodles, no one knows for sure. What’s certain is that a Cantonese chef created them at a restaurant in Hong Kong and that they are not served in Singapore.
- 4 oz. thin brown rice noodles
- 1/2 cup fat-free, reduced-sodium chicken broth
- 1-2 Tbsp. curry powder*
- 1/2 tsp. ground turmeric
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. sugar
- 1 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. peanut oil, divided
- 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
- 1 tsp. finely chopped ginger
- 1/4 cup scallions, green part only, cut into 1-inch strips
- 1 ½ cups napa cabbage cut into thin strips
- 1 cup sliced red onion, cut into thin crescents
- 1 small red bell pepper, seeded and cut into thin 1-inch strips
- 1/2 medium green bell pepper, cut into thin 1-inch strips
- 2 large eggs, well beaten
- 1/4 lb. small (51-60 count per pound), frozen shrimp, cooked according to package directions
- 1 cup (4 oz.) roasted chicken or turkey breast, shredded into 1-inch pieces
- 2 tsp. roasted sesame oil
Break noodles in half and soak according to package instructions. Drain noodles in colander, run cold water over them and drain well. Transfer noodles back to bowl.
While noodles are soaking, in small bowl, combine chicken broth, curry powder, turmeric, salt and sugar. Set aside.
In medium skillet over high heat, add 1 tablespoon peanut oil. When oil is hot, add garlic, ginger, scallions and stir-fry until fragrant, 30 seconds. Add cabbage, onion, red and green peppers and stir-fry until vegetables are barely crisp-tender, 2 minutes. Add contents of pan to bowl with drained noodles.
Return pan to heat, reducing it to medium-high heat. Add remaining 1 teaspoon peanut oil to skillet. Add egg and scramble loosely. Add egg to bowl with vegetables and noodles, scraping up any egg sticking to pan.
Pour broth mixture into skillet, scraping out bowl. Add contents of vegetable and noodle bowl, plus shrimp and chicken to skillet. Stir, lift and chop until all vegetables, shrimp, chicken and egg are distributed through the noodles, 1 to 2 minutes. Drizzle with sesame oil and season with salt to taste. Serve immediately.
* Good choices for curry powder are Madras curry powder, the curry powder sold in the Caribbean section at supermarkets or curry powder sold in Asian food markets. These have a balance of flavors better for this dish than Indian curry powder.
Makes 4 servings.
Per serving: 326 calories, 12 g total fat (2 g saturated fat), 34 g carbohydrate, 22 g protein, 2.5 g dietary fiber, 474 mg sodium.
Something Different is written by Dana Jacobi, author of 12 Best Foods Cookbook and contributor to AICR’s New American Plate Cookbook: Recipes for a Healthy Weight and a Healthy Life.
By Dana Jacobi for the American Institute for Cancer Research
The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) is the cancer charity that fosters research on the relationship of nutrition, physical activity and weight management to cancer risk, interprets the scientific literature and educates the public about the results. It has contributed more than $100 million for innovative research conducted at universities, hospitals and research centers across the country. AICR has published two landmark reports that interpret the accumulated research in the field, and is committed to a process of continuous review. AICR also provides a wide range of educational programs to help millions of Americans learn to make dietary changes for lower cancer risk. Its award-winning New American Plate program is presented in brochures, seminars and on its website, www.aicr.org. AICR is a member of the World Cancer Research Fund International.
Photographs by Heather Victoria Photography