once or twice, but my husband and I like our food spicy. Knock your socks off, burn the house down, call the fire department, spicy. So when I found a recipe in my favorite Thai cookbook described as "a fire-eater's favorite," I bookmarked it immediately. Then, the other day, when I was checking out the hot pepper situation at New May Wah, I bagged some real beauties: tiny red Thai chili peppers, the plumpest and most promising I've seen in the States. The Thai peppers in many markets look like most of the life has already gone out of them, but these had firm shiny skin, and some were only about as long as my fingernail.
In addition to increasing the heat to a death-defying level, I cut some of the sugary elements and added snow pea leaves, which are my current vegetable obsession. Our fridge is constantly packed with food, meaning space is at a premium. Therefore, ingredients that can do double or triple duty get priority. Pea leaves are truly versatile, working equally well in soup noodles and stir fries. They have a pleasing sweetness that shines unadorned, but their overall flavor is neutral enough to play nicely with others.
Mahogany Fire! Fire! Noodles (Adapted from True Thai by Victor Sodsook)
10 cloves of garlic (this worked out to exactly 1 head of garlic for me)
2 cherry tomatoes (optional)
1 pound fresh rice noodles (sold in Asian markets; I buy them presliced)
1 tablespoon canola oil
6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into small strips
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1½ tablespoons sweet soy sauce (I used kecap manis, which is the Indonesian version, the Thai version is called see-eu wan)
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 can bamboo shoot strips, drained
1 bunch Thai basil, washed and stemmed
4 cups of pea leaves, or other leafy greens, washed and stemmed
1. Wash and stem the chilies. Then place all of them, along with the peeled cloves of garlic into a food processor or blender. Since these ingredients are so dry, I threw in a couple of cherry tomatoes to make blending a little easier. Blend to a smooth paste. Be extremely careful about washing your hands after handling the chilies or chili paste. Here's a photo. Looks spicy, eh?
3. Place all of your ingredients within easy reach of your wok. Turn your vent on. You may want to open a window as well.
4. Get the wok piping hot, then add your oil, followed by the scary red chili paste. Stir fry this for about 30 seconds, then add the chicken and toss until it is no longer pink, about 4-5 minutes. Add the fish sauce. Now add the noodles and stir fry for about a minute, making sure the chili sauce is well mixed in. Add the soy sauce, oyster sauce, bamboo shoots, pea leaves, and Thai basil and stir fry for another minute or two until all ingredients are mixed well and the pea leaves and basil have wilted slightly.
5. Serve with a pitcher of ice water or cold beer, and a box of tissues.