Done properly, this is delightful, but for maximum enjoyment it should be eaten as soon as it is ready, on its own rather than as part of a menu.
250 g/8 oz rice vermicelli
185 g/6 oz chicken or pork fillet
250 g/8 oz raw prawns
1 cake yellow bean curd
3 tablespoons white sugar
3 tablespoons fish sauce
3 tablespoons white vinegar
750 ml/1 1/2 pints/3 cups peanut oil for frying
3 eggs, beaten
2 whole heads pickled garlic, finely sliced
2 red chillies, sliced
small bunch fresh coriander, chopped
Dip vermicelli quickly in a bowl of cold water, shake off as much water as possible, and leave it near a window to dry for 30 minutes or more. While it is drying, prepare the other ingredients.
Finely chop the meat until it is almost minced. Finely chop the prawns. Cut bean curd into small dice. Combine sugar, fish sauce and vinegar, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
Separate rice vermicelli into small handfuls. In a wok heat oil and when a haze rises from the surface, test the heat with a few strands of noodles. They should puff and swell immediately. If not, let the oil get a bit hotter, or the noodles will be tough instead of crisp. Have ready large sheets of paper towels to drain them on, as they increase greatly in volume. A large frying spoon also helps.
Fry in small handfuls, and as soon as they puff and become white, scoop them out onto the paper. Continue until all are fried. Allow to cool completely. This may be done ahead of time, and the cold noodles stored in an airtight container or plastic bag for a few hours.
Drain oil into a heatproof bowl, but leave a couple of spoonfuls in the wok. Heat the oil again until very hot, and stir-fry the meat on high heat, tossing until it is no longer pink. Add prawns and fry a minute longer. Add bean curd and fry until hot. Add the vinegar, sugar and fish sauce and when mixture boils add the beaten eggs and stir constantly until the egg is set and firm and almost dry. Toss in the crisp noodles and quickly scoop together with the fried mixture. Sprinkle pickled garlic, chilli slices and chopped coriander leaves over and serve at once.
Recipe excerpted from Encyclopedia of Asian Food by Charmaine Solomon (Periplus Editions, 1998)