In Vietnamese, there’s a term called thanh toan, which means to take care of loose ends, settle the accounts per se. Every week, I have to thanh toan my refrigerator by using up all the bits of leftovers from prior meals and recipe testing. I don’t like to waste food and need to make space for new food too!
One of my favorite strategies for clearing out the fridge is to make panfried noodles with a stir-fried topping. Practically anything can go into the topping and the noodles are the carbs for the meal. Panfried noodles are an easy one-dish meal that my husband and I often make together. It’s a team cooking effort and we chat and sip wine as we prepare dinner.
Based on the leftovers panfried noodles tonight, this post outlines the master game plan that we've developed over the years. Follow it and tweak accordingly.
1/4 cup canned bamboo shoots
1 package enoki mushroom
1/2 yellow onion, sliced
1 large clove garlic, sliced
2/3 cup stirfried chicken with Chinese celery
2 Fresno chiles, thickly sliced
1 cup stir-fried beef
4 large shrimp, halved symmetrically so that they’d curl during cooking and go a longer
1 small grilled chicken thigh, sliced
To bulk up the veggies, I cut up 2 ribs of celery and 2 carrots.
A pot of water was brought to a boil and I parboiled the carrots and celery for about 1 minute, until they turned bright in color and were tender crisp. A vertical strainer like the one used for noodle soup is fabulous for that task because you put the vegetables in there and then lift them out, saving the water in the pot for – guess what? Boiling the noodles! (Remember to get multiple uses out of one pot of water so you save time and resources.)
I used thick dried Chinese noodles. A part of my Asian pantry, they’re a type of Shandong style of wheat noodles that cook up to the size of large spaghetti. Look for them in white boxes at a Chinese market. Once the water returned to a boil, Rory put 2 quarter-size bundles of the dried noodles into the pot.
Before the noodles were done, I scooped out a generous 1 cup of liquid from the pot of boiling noodles. That will be the broth for the stir-fry sauce. That ‘cheater’ stock was better than water because it was lightly seasoned by the vegetables and slightly thickened by the starches in the noodles.
When the noodles cooked through, Rory drained them (no rinsing) and I tossed them with a little salt and sesame oil. Then he panfried them in a 10-inch nonstick skillet with a little oil over medium-high heat.
“Get your stir-fry going,” he told me. Right – I seasoned my ‘cheater’ broth with these standard ingredients:
Light (regular) soy sauce
A little sugar
Then I mixed 1 tablespoon of cornstarch with 1 tablespoon of water for the slurry that would thicken the stir-fry. I heated up the wok and swirled in about 2 tablespoons of oil. First went the aromatics: onion, garlic, chiles. When those were fragrant, about 1 minute, I added the celery, carrot, bamboo shoot, and enoki.
When the vegetables heated through, I dumped in the proteins: shrimp, stir-fried chicken, grilled chicken, and beef. Lots of fast stirring action happened and the wok was rather full. When all the ingredients were hot, I poured in my cheater stock. I stirred the wok frequently until the mixture began to bubble, at which point, I tasted it – adding extra seasonings in the form of soy sauce and salt.
Finally, I added the cornstarch slurry and waited for things to thicken. By then, Rory had flipped the noodles pancake and fried the second side to a crisp. He slid the noodle pancake onto a platter and went to town cutting it into 8 wedges.
Then I came along with the wok of toppings and poured it all on top. Here’s what we could safely call our Sunday Night House Special Panfried Noodles:
At the table, I realized that I had under seasoned it a tad so I simply brought out the bottle of Maggi Seasoning Sauce. It was a tasty on-the-fly mountain noodles that nourished us at the end of a long day of work. Was it perfect? Maybe not but it perfectly fit the bill.
Following the basic framework for making panfried noodles enabled me to revive a bunch of odds and ends in the fridge. A delectable way to thanh toan and launch the new week.
Have a strategy for reusing leftover? Share your approach!
Other quickie noodle recipes previously posted: