Spicy pork and noodle stir-fry

Spicy pork and noodle stir-fry.
Spicy pork and noodle stir-fry. Photo: Marina Oliphant

This hot and spicy Thai dish is great on a hot day with a crisp, cold beer. Bean thread vermicelli, sometimes known as cellophane noodles, are very fine strands made of mung bean starch. When cooked, these silvery threads acquire a wonderfully silky texture. Use a jar of tamarind pulp to make thisdinner even quicker to prepare.


100g bean thread vermicelli

1/2 bunch coriander, including roots and stem, washed

2 cloves of garlic, peeled

1 whole fresh red chilli, roughly chopped (seeded if a less hot dish is desired)

2 tsp white peppercorns (if unavailable, use black peppercorns)

1/4 red onion, or 2 shallots, peeled and roughly chopped

100g tamarind*

3 tbsp peanut oil

250g minced pork

5 kaffir lime leaves

2 tbsp grated or chopped palm sugar

2 tbsp fish sauce

1 Lebanese cucumber, washed and thinly sliced

1/3 cup Thai basil leaves

* Jars of ready-made tamarind puree can be bought at Asian grocers. Although the jars are convenient, I prefer the flavour of a freshly made version.  


Bring a pot of water to the boil, turn off the heat and soak the vermicelli noodles for a few minutes until soft. Rinse under cold running water until cool and drain.

Cut off the coriander roots from the stems. Cut a length of stems (from the bottom) about 2 inches long. Reserve 1/3 cup of the leaves for later.

In a mortar and pestle, pound the coriander root and the 2 inches of stem with the garlic, chilli, peppercorns and onion until they form a paste.

Soak the tamarind in 1 cup of warm water for several minutes until softened (if not using pulp). Squeeze and work the pulp with your hands to loosen the fibres. Soak for a further 30 minutes then strain, pushing the pulp against the strainer to get the tamarind water. Discard the pulp.

Heat a wok over high heat and add the peanut oil, then the coriander paste. Stir-fry for a few minutes until softened, stirring all the time.

Now add the pork mince and lime leaves and stir-fry a few more minutes until the pork is cooked through. Add the palm sugar, fish sauce and the tamarind water. Bring to the boil, stirring all the while, and taste. It should taste sweet, salty and sour all at once. If it needs more salt add a little fish sauce or if too rich, just add a little water.

Add the noodles, mixing them well into the pork sauce, and toss in the cucumber, Thai basil and coriander leaves.

To serve: Divide into individual bowls and serve immediately.