I am a huge, huge fan of vermicelli. I love noodles, like any other Chinese girls you know, but it is the white thin strands of vermicelli noodles that could make me eat more than I really should have. Vermicelli is always cooked in Chinese-style stir-fries dishes, but in Indonesian cuisine, my first love is simple fried vermicelli with spices. Vermicelli noodle is quite bland by itself, it is the texture that we all love. When cooked right, it is always springy. When cooked wrong, it would be lumpy and broken. I got it wrong many, many times. I played them around in the wok for way longer than I should, causing the noodles to be soft, then broken, naturally. Toss them around really quickly and just get them off the heat. That’s the only wisdom I can share.
The vermicelli is what we would normally find in traditional street vendor around the city. It is served as side dish of mixed vegetable salad with peanut sauce (Indonesian Pecal salad).
Basic fried noodles spices, Indonesian style, are whole white pepper, garlic, shallot, candlenuts and dried shrimp for extra kick. Omit the shrimp if you are making vegetarian version.
Work them into a paste in mortar and pestle, or electric grinder.
The paste is ready to be used when it is really fine.
Other condiments are cabbage, leek and Chinese celery. These are all shredded finely.
Use the best quality dried vermicelli you can find. Soak in water for 30 minutes before cooking. The better quality vermicelli would normally be slightly thinner, hence shorter cooking time and shorter soaking time. So adjust accordingly.
Stir fry spice paste with oil in a hot wok. Keep stirring till fragrant.
The dried shrimp would be hydrated by cooking oil and candlenut oil. Keep cooking till the color turns golden brown.
Add shredded cabbage into the wok.
Pour water into the wok. Cook slightly longer, till most of the water is absorbed by cabbage and it is completely cooked.
Season with soy sauce.
Stir until all ingredients are mixed well.
Add soaked vermicelli into the wok.
Stir-fry quickly so that the spices are evenly distributed.
Toss in celery and leek.
Remove from heat when everything is mixed well.
Serve with Indonesian pecal salad, or vegetable salad with peanut sauce.
Indonesian Fried Vermicelli, Bihun Goreng
500 g dried vermicelli, soaked for 30 minutes
3 garlic cloves
20 g dried shrimp
20 g / 6 candlenuts
1 tbsp white pepper, whole
1/4 cup cooking oil
400 g cabbage, shredded
3 tbsp kecap manis
1 tbsp soy sauce
1/3 cup water
20 g / 3 stalks Chinese celery, chopped finely
20 g / 1 leek, sliced diagonally
Grind dried shrimp, candlenuts, white pepper, garlic and shallot till fine.
Heat cooking oil in a wok. Stir fry spice paste till fragrant, about 1 minute.
Toss in shredded cabbage, stir fry for one minute and add water into the wok.
Season with soy sauce and kecap manis. Cook for a couple of minutes and try to get all the spices mixed well with cabbage.
When the cabbage is wilted and slightly cooked, add vermicelli into the wok.
Stir fry everything together over medium heat for five more minutes.
Remove from heat and serve slightly cool with Indonesian-style vegetarian salad with peanut sauce.