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Into the Vietnamese Kitchen: Cellophane Noodles with Crab and Black Pepper

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List of viewable recipes from "Into the Vietnamese Kitchen" by Andrea Nguyen

Photograph by Leigh Beisch
Into the Vietnamese Kitchen is an amazing debut cookbook by Andrea Nguyen. Through Andrea's wonderful narrative we learn about the food traditions, ingredients and techniques from her native country.  Andrea's heartwarming story of her family's airlift out of Saigon and introduction to life in America complements her detailed and delicious Vietnamese recipes. Today's recipe, "Cellophane Noodles with Crab and Black Pepper", is a wonderful example of this cuisine. Rich with details such as obtaining ingredients, cooking techniques and seasonal suggestions. "Into the Vietnamese Kitchen" is a treasure chest for those wishing to explore Vietnamese cooking firsthand.


Cellophane Noodles with Crab And Black Pepper

Mi?n Xào Cua

From Into the Vietnamese Kitchen: Treasured Foodways, Modern Flavors by Andrea Nguyen, Ten Speed Press. 

WHEN IT IS DUNGENESS CRAB SEASON (November through May on the West Coast), one of my favorite ways to capture the essence of Cancer magister is to make these golden noodles. Cellophane noodles absorb whatever flavors they are combined with, in this case the sweet brininess of crabmeat and tomalley. 

This dish is best when it is made with a live crab that you cook yourself. If you are too squeamish to cook crab at home, buy a precooked crab the day it is cooked. But don't have the crab cracked, as you want all the delicious juices to stay inside. See page 322 for directions on cooking and cleaning the crab and picking the crabmeat.  

Serves 2 as a main course, or 4 to 6 with 2 or 3 other dishes

  • Cooked meat and tomalley and fat from a 2-pound Dungeness crab (about 1/2 pound crabmeat and 1/4 cup tomalley and fat)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon black pepper, preferably freshly ground
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons canola or other neutral oil
  • 1 large shallot or small yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 dried wood ear mushrooms, reconstituted (page 334), stemmed, and cut into 1/8-inch-wide strips (about 1/4 cup)
  • 1/4 pound cellophane noodles, soaked in hot water until pliable, drained, and cut into 10-inch lengths

1. In a bowl, combine the tomalley and fat, egg, water, fish sauce, pepper, and chopped cilantro and mix well. Measure the mixture; you want about 3/4 cup total. Add water if needed.

2.  In a wok or large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the shallot and stir-fry for about 2 minutes, or until soft. Add the crabmeat and mushrooms and stir-fry for about 1 minute, or until aromatic. Add the noodles and continue to stir-fry for about 2 minutes, or until they begin to soften. They noodles will look a bit dry.

3. Give the tomalley mixture a good stir and pour over the noodles. Quickly work the mixture into the noodles to ensure an even distribution of flavors, lowering the heat if the noodles begin to clump. In about 2 minutes, the noodles will become translucent and lightly golden.  

4. Remove from the heat and taste and adjust with extra sprinkles of fish sauce and/or pepper. Transfer to a serving plate and serve immediately.

NOTE: If only blue crabs are available, substitute 9 or 10 crabs (3 1/3 pounds total) for the Dungeness. If you prefer not to use the tomalley and fat, or if there isn't any, use 2 eggs instead of 1 egg and increase the fish sauce in step 1 to 2 tablespoons.

Reprinted with permission from Into the Vietnamese Kitchen: Treasured Foodways, Modern Flavors by Andrea Nguyen. Photographs by Leigh Beisch. Copyright 2006. Published by Ten Speed Press.

About Into the Vietnamese Kitchen

ImageWhen author Andrea Nguyen's family was airlifted out of Saigon in 1975, one of the few belongings that her mother hurriedly packed for the journey was her small orange notebook of recipes. Thirty years later, Nguyen has written her own intimate collection of recipes, INTO THE VIETNAMESE KITCHEN, an ambitious debut cookbook that chronicles the food traditions of her native country. Robustly flavored yet delicate, sophisticated yet simple, the recipes include steamy pho noodle soups infused with the aromas of fresh herbs and lime; rich clay-pot preparations of catfish, chicken, and pork; and an array of Vietnamese charcuterie. Nguyen helps readers shop for essential ingredients, master core cooking techniques, and prepare and serve satisfying meals, whether for two on a weeknight or 12 on a weekend.

Get Into the Vietnamese Kitchen: Treasured Foodways, Modern Flavors at:

Disclosure: Review copies of books discussed in this post may have been provided to Project Foodie by publicists and/or publishers.


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