Here’s a recipe that will appeal to fans of Thai food, paleo/low-carb eaters, people who want yet another delicious Thai-inspired use for Stokesberry Farm’s ground chicken and local tasty winter vegetables, or anyone who wants to try something new.
Pad woon sen is a particularly delicious Thai noodle dish. Woon sen are thin glass noodles made of rice or bean; in pad woon sen they’re typically stir-fried with meat, vegetables, sauces and egg. I make the dish now and then, or sometimes enjoy it out (Chayo on 15th near Northgate makes a mean pad woon sen). But it is kind of a large tangle of carbohydrates and leaves one a little sleepy. But…
Not too long ago, I was shopping at Madison Market and saw something in the refrigerator case that caught my eye: a package of what looked like woon sen noodles, except they were actually kelp. I couldn’t resist; I bought them.
I kept putting off cooking them. They keep many months in the package and, honestly, since I hadn’t tried them, it felt like a gamble. There were too many nights when I was busy with homework and wanted to cook something familiar and reliable. What if they were terrible, and I had to eat something bad while doing homework, or waste food/time cooking something new? I’d open my fridge it would say, “Make your mother’s roast chicken; it’ll cook while you study.” or “Don’t you want the rest of that onion soup in the freezer? I thought so.”
Note that if your fridge is talking to you, you might want to start getting more sleep.
But my fridge was secretly conspiring with the package of noodles. The fridge slowly talked me into getting all the right ingredients, unaware of what I was doing. And so, yesterday, when I finished a deadline and opened the fridge, I heard: “Look. You can defrost that ground chicken in the freezer. Meanwhile, we have shiitake and oyster mushrooms, carrots, onions, broccoli, spinach, napa cabbage, garlic, eggs, a lime, and those damned kelp glass noodles. Do ANY of these things not go together?”
My fridge had a point. That was pretty much the makings of a perfect pad woon sen. (Also, I really needed a nap.)
I tasted a kelp noodle. It was a little crunchy. I was a little skeptical. But I was done with a deadline, and decided I’d cook this anyway. It only took a few minutes: Throw the garlic and onion in the wok, add some fish sauce (soy or other sauce optional), add carrots, cook till soft, add mushrooms… Cook in the chicken, add the broccoli and cabbage and noodles, add eggs and stir until cooked. Maybe ten minutes.
Reader, I ate it. The kelp noodles lost their salad-like crunchiness in the wok. They were pretty much just like the regular woon sen noodles except less chewy (and woon sen is a little too chewy, if you ask me).
The only thing is, these noodles are made pretty much of water, sodium, and calcium. True, they have almost no carbohydrate (1g) but they have almost no *anything* — which is to say you really want to make this dish with meat or something substantial, or you’re going to be hungry again pretty quickly.
Pad Woon Sen (Sea Kelp version) With Ground Chicken, Winter Vegetables and Egg
NB: This recipe is very approximate in ingredients and proportions. You can modify it to taste like any kind of stir-fry you like to make. Fish sauce is essential for Thai flavor, and spices or ginger make a nice addition.
- 1 package kelp noodles (available at Madison Market and possibly elsewhere
- 3/4 – 1 lb ground chicken (Stokesberry has this at the U-District and Ballard farmers markets)
- Assorted winter vegetables (garlic, onion, carrots, napa cabbage, mushrooms — the shiitake and oyster mix from the U-district market worked beautifully, broccoli, etc)
- 2 eggs
- fish sauce
- soy or other Asian stir-fry sauce (optional)
- coconut oil or chicken fat (schmaltz; Stokesberry has this, although the amazing jar I have is one I got in San Francisco)
- 1 lime
- a pinch of sugar (optional; you can also use Thai palm sugar which is not very sweet at all)
- hot sauce to serve (optional)
- other flavors, like ginger or hot peppers, as desired
1. In a wok, stir-fry onion and garlic in oil or fat. Add a few dashes of fish sauce. Add carrots and stir.
2. Add a bit more fat/oil and add mushrooms. Cook until they emit liquid.
3. Add ground chicken and any other flavors (ginger, hot chilis, etc) and stir until cooked. You can add the optional pinch of sugar at this point.
4. Add other vegetables and cook for a minute or so.
5. Add kelp noodles and a little more oil/fat. Stir to combine.
6. Make a hole near the bottom of the pan for two eggs, and crack eggs into it. Let them cook a minute undisturbed, then break them up with your spoon and stir them throughout.
7. Add lime or any other flavors (taste and adjust), stir, and serve hot.