When I lived in Birmingham my favorite restaurant was a Thai place called Surin West. It was originally based out of Atlanta. They opened shop around the corner from my house in Five Points in Southside at some point in the mid 90s. From what I understand, Surin West turned out to be more popular than the Atlanta restaurant and they opened a second restaurant in Birmingham as well as one in Huntsville not far from my folks house. That place is always always packed late at night. Their sushi menu was just over-the-top, and probably one of the best I can recall having (OMFG, The super crunch roll…how I miss thee…). So awesome.
This photo is from Yelp and is by Brian P. Find Surin West on Yelp Here.
They had this one dish simply called the chicken noodle bowl. It was only available at lunch, and I tell you, there were not two weeks that went by that I didn’t have a craving for that dish. And ever since I’ve moved to Asheville, I’ve really missed that noodle bowl. I’ve been on a quest to try and duplicate it. We are talking 11 years people. Yep it is that good. The last time I had this dish was a few years ago in Huntsville. It was way sweeter than I remember, and the chicken was not cooked very well. So there are just a few modifications that I have made, less sugar, taking better care to cook the chicken, grilling outside if possible, adding veggies I have on hand.
Robin at Vegetable Matter Blog has a great blog post on Asian Greens here. This is her image.
I think I finally finally have it down, or at least close enough to satisfy that craving. In deconstructing the key to the freshness of this dish, I had to look at how this dish had to be prepared in a restaurant setting. Most of the time with Thai dishes you end up simmering all the vegetables and meat in the thick rich coconut curry sauce. But if you were cooking it as a short order, most of that time would be spent on assembly. So I made the sauce separately, cooking the noodles adding some fresh vegetables and some grilled chicken and garnish. Easy peasy. It is pretty cheap to make if you get the “exotic” ingredients at an Asian grocery store. Even better if you grow your own Asian greens. They are so easy to grow. This makes more sauce than you will need for 2 servings. You can freeze the extra sauce, just do so before you add the lemon. This dish is also easy to make gluten free, just make sure the noodles, curry, fish sauce, and fried onions do not contain any hidden gluten.
So here here’s the recipe as I think I remember it:
Chicken Noodle Bowl
- 2 skinless boneless chicken breasts
- Garlic powder, salt, pepper to taste
- 1/2 a package of flat Asian rice noodles (the kind that look like fettuccine, approx 1/4″ wide)
- 1 cup of tender Asian braising greens like pak choy, mizuna, or tatsoi (substitute swiss chard, spianch or baby kale–nothing too dense) very coarsely chopped
- 1 can of coconut cream (not milk, cream if you can get it. But if not, coconut milk will do. You will just have to simmer longer)
- 2 TBSP of green curry paste (adjust heat as needed)
- 2 TBSP of cooking oil (I use coconut oil)
- 1 small onion, diced
- 1 TBSP minced ginger
- 1 TBSP minced garlic
- 1 stalk of minced lemon grass, white part only (if you have it I often do not and this tastes just fine)
- 3 TBSP fish sauce
- 2 TBSP of sugar (you can omit if needed)
- Juice of 1/2 of a lemon
- 1 cup romaine lettuce
- Asian garnish greens like cilantro, Thai basil, green onions, fresh bean sprouts
- Asian fried onions or shallots for garnish, they look like the Durkee onions you use on a green bean casserole (optional)
Cook the chicken, seasoning with garlic powder, salt and pepper to taste. Allow to rest. If you can, grill it outside, but you can also pan sear or broil.
Cook noodles according to the package directions, rinse with cold water to stop cooking.
Saute onion, garlic, lemon grass and ginger in oil until onion is translucent. Add curry paste and cook until fragrant(just a couple of minutes). Stir in coconut cream, sugar, fish sauce and a little water (like what you use to rinse out the can of coocnut cream). Simmer on low for about 12 minutes until sauce is slightly reduced and the consistency of really thin pancake batter.
In a separate pan, wilt greens.
In a couple of large pasta bowls (one per person) layer:
- Wilted greens
- Stir lemon into the sauce (important to do this right before serving, do not cook the lemon in the sauce. It changes the flavor big time), and ladle over noodles and greens
- Slice the chicken breast, place over sauce
- Top with Romain lettuce, garnish greens and fried onions.
Yum!! You can also substitute the sauteed greens with any veggie really. Try broccoli, asparagus, or green beans. Try basmati rice instead of noodles. Try shrimp, tofu of more veggies instead of chicken.