Whenever I talk with someone about going gluten-free, the conversation always turns to the same subject — what foods do you miss the most? Actually it goes more like this… I say I’ve gone gluten-free and am feeling great, and they say, “My doctor told me to try a gluten-free diet, but I could never give up bread.” It’s a funny thing, but I can count on a single hand how many times I’ve craved bread since going gluten-free. I’ve had one gluten-free sandwich so far, in more than five months. I’m a long-time sandwich addict, and yet I don’t miss them one bit. I’ve tried a lot of gluten-free pizza, but I’m not really missing it either. I wouldn’t say I was craving cookies, but I’ve been taking baby steps back into baking lately, so my sweet tooth is satisfied. And I can boil up some Jovial spaghetti any time to fill my need for pasta.
Noodles are what I miss the most — Asian noodles. Udon, soba, ramen, lo mein, chow fun, you name it. I was a total addict before going gluten-free. Vietnamese rice noodle dishes are pretty satisfying, but they’re not quite the same to me, so I’ve been on a quest to find rice noodles with some bite to them. A little heartier or earthier maybe, and not so slippery. Something that holds the sauce a bit better. On a crazy food crawl to Queens with Jackie, Ken and Margaret, we ended up at Fei Long Market in Dyker Heights. They’ve got a noodle selection like nothing I’ve ever seen before, so while my foodie friends were combing the entire massive market, I was reading the ingredients list of every package in the noodle aisle.
These Egret brand Fuzhou rice sticks are just what I was looking for. They cook up dense and chewy, not like some of those brown rice pastas which fall apart so easily if overcooked. The trouble is, I can’t find these particular rice stick noodles anywhere else, and Dyker Heights is really out of the way. I’ve combed the shops of Manhattan’s Chinatown without success. I checked out my local Vietnamese markets as well. It looks like another trip to Fei Long is in my future. So how did I cook them for the dish above? That’s kind of a funny story. There was a recipe I’d been wanting to try from a popular blog, and it was a disaster. Imagine a bowl of 1 1/2 cups of sliced scallions with just a few tablespoons of liquid… yikes, that’s not a sauce at all. (Sorry, but some bloggers really need editors, myself included!) Instead I had to improvise, but you probably know how the combination goes — soy sauce (gluten-free of course), rice vinegar, ginger, the scallions, sesame oil, chili oil (or something else spicy), and then a sweetener if you’d like. Finally you taste the sauce and make it spicier, sweeter, saltier, or whatever you’d prefer.
Fortunately I’ve usually got a block of tofu in the fridge because fried tofu turns a simple noodle dish into a real meal. I used to be afraid of frying tofu, but I’ve finally got the hang of it. Now if I can just stock up on those yummy noodles, maybe I can finally satisfy my cravings.