By Request


For an impressive display,
fry up some rice noodles

How to get your kids interested in cooking: Fry up some rice noodles.

This is food preparation designed to impress. Drop a bundle of noodles into hot oil and -- FOOM! -- instant bird nest.

It's magic. The noodles go in a solid mass; they come out crunchy and light like a cloud.

This dish is worth making for the wow factor alone.

Cynthia Gakiya e-mailed looking for Keo's recipe for a crispy noodle dish that she sampled during Brunch on the Beach in Waikiki. A spokeswoman for Keo's said the dish most likely came from Keo's sister restaurant, Keoni by Keo's. It's a classic Thai appetizer made with a tamarind sauce poured over the crispy noodles.

Rice noodles, also called rice vermicelli, rice sticks or pancit bihon, are easy to find in the Asian section of supermarkets, but tamarind requires a bit of a hunt. Try Asian specialty markets such as 99 Ranch or Asian Grocery. It comes in bricks that resemble Chinese crack-seed candy or as a liquid.

This recipe is adapted from Keo Sananikone's cookbook -- "Keo's Thai Cuisine, Revised" (Ten Speed Press, 1999), with advice from Chai Chaowasaree of Chai's Island Bistro on the handling of tamarind.

Some Thai cookbooks call for lemon juice in this dish rather than tamarind, for a similar citrus tang.

Thai Crispy Noodles

4 ounces rice noodles
3 cups vegetable oil for deep-frying
1/2 cup bean sprouts
1/4 pound boneless chicken breast, diced, precooked
2 ounces shrimp (optional), precooked, shelled and diced
1 stalk green onion, chopped
Cilantro sprigs, for garnish
>> Sauce:
1/2 cup tamarind
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon ketchup
1 to 3 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/3 cup brown sugar

Break noodles into bundles about 2 inches long and 1 inch wide. Heat oil to 375 degrees, then carefully drop noodles into oil, 1 bunch at a time. They immediately will puff up. Remove with tongs, tapping tongs on the sides of the pot to release excess oil. Drain on paper towels. Noodles may be made ahead and stored in an airtight container.

To make sauce: Combine tamarind and warm water; mash slightly to release juice, then let soak a few minutes. Strain. Mixture will be thick but pourable. If it's too thick, add water to make a little less than 1/2 cup liquid. (If using canned tamarind concentrate, you may want to dilute slightly, depending on how tangy you want your sauce).

Combine tamarind mixture with remaining sauce ingredients; bring to a boil over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until sauce is reduced by half, about 3 minutes.

Toss noodles with sauce, chicken, shrimp, bean sprouts and green onions. Garnish with cilantro. Serve immediately; noodles will soften once sauce is added. Serves 6.

Approximate nutritional analysis, per serving: 340 calories, 20 g total fat, 2 g saturated fat, 30 mg cholesterol, 320 mg sodium, 31 g carbohydrate, 9 g protein*

Food Stuffs: Morsels

Send queries along with name and phone number to:
"By Request," Honolulu Star-Bulletin,
500 Ala Moana, No. 7-210, Honolulu 96813.
Or send e-mail to

Asterisk (*) after nutritional analyses in the
Body & Soul section indicates calculations by
Joannie Dobbs of Exploring New Concepts,
a nutritional consulting firm.

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