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Spicy Vermicelli with Pickled Vegetables

November 2, 2015

NOVEMBER 1st, 2015 — Went to Xinjiang, the Western-most province of China last month, and had a few recipes to bring back for dinner. Mostly this forced me to cook with chili peppers, which for me is “new territory,” — incidentally what “Xinjiang” translates to. Kashgar, the most Western city in China, gave me a memorable meal, that actually seemed like quite the bridge between Chinese and Middle Eastern flavor profiles.


Kashgar, Xinjiang Province, China

This is an appetizer / side dish we had to start our meal, the entrée of which was this sticky rice dish with caramelized onion, and chunks of lamb and steak–which was reminiscent of mansaf I had in Jordan. Quite simple and refreshing.

So what did you do?
(PS I served 8 people with this recipe, so take note of those measurements and do your own math.)

First, I prepared the pickles. For ideal results, do this the night before. The most last-minute you should prepare pickles is 1 hour before serving. My veggies pickled for about 6 hours, which I think was good enough, but I also really enjoy tart pickles, so the longer the better.

I tossed 10 oz. shredded carrots and 10 oz. shredded cabbage in a large bow, as well as 1 seeded and chopped serrano chile. (I would love to have thrown in some julienned cucumbers and bell peppers into the mix though.) I salted them, but only slightly since store-bought bags of shredded veggies are usually drier and don’t need as much dehydration as a freshly cut head of lettuce would. Set those aside.

For the brine mixture, bring the following to a simmer in a saucepan:
– 2 cups rice vinegar
– 1.5 cups water
– 1 cup white sugar
– 1 tsp salt
– drizzle of honey, to taste

Then pour that mixture on top of your veggies. Press the veggies down to make sure they’re all submerged, and then store in the refrigerator.

For the noodles, I used 8.8 oz (1 pack) of vermicelli. Because vermicelli is so delicate, you don’t need to boil it in water lie you would with other noodles. Just put the dried noodles in a large bowl, and pour over boiling water and let stand for 15 minutes (or according to package directions). Stir them around while they’re cooking so they don’t stick together, which is most frustrating. After the noodles are cooked, drain the noodles and toss them with 1-2 tbsp sesame oil, which also prevents them from clumping together. Set aside in the refrigerator to cool.

Spicy VermicelliToss the noodles with the pickles, along with lemon juice, sriracha, and some of the brine liquid, to taste. Top with sesame seeds and chopped green onions, and serve cold.

Lessons learned?
Wash your hands carefully after handling the serrano pepper. They’re apparently twice as hot as jalapenos. Also, getting rid of the seeds and the ribs will diminish the heat of the pepper. In my case, I think I could have added another seeded and chopped pepper for extra spice, but when I tasted the pickles, I could definitely taste the heat.

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