If there’s any noodle that always has a place on the table, it’s sotanghon. Sometimes called Chinese vermicelli, glass noodles or crystal noodles, these shiny, thread-like noodles are versatile. They can be cooked Korean style (as in chap chae), used for Japanese sukiyaki as well as for soup (chicken sotanghon soup) and as an ingredient in Vietnamese spring rolls. Because of its versatility, I make sure I always have some packs of sotanghon noodles in my cupboard.
Here’s one of my favorite ways to cook sotanghon: infused with garlic and the rich amber color of achuete seeds. While we Filipinos always like to eat everything with rice, the best accompaniments for this sotanghon dish are puto, biscocho, camachile or mamon tostado. If you don’t have any of those, even crunchy toasted bread slathered with butter will do.
If you can find dried wood ear mushrooms (tengang daga), it would be great to incorporate them into the dish (soak first in water for about 30 minutes to refresh). But even without the difficult-to-find black fungus, this sotanghon tastes hearty and delicious. You can even serve it as the obligatory noodle dish for birthday celebrations.
250 g sotanghonWater, for soaking sotanghonFor the garlic oil:
¼ c cooking oil
2 Tbsp achuete seeds
1 whole head garlic, chopped
For the sotanghon filling:
1 carrot, cut into thin sticks
3-4 Baguio beans, cut into 2-inch lengths
Water, for blanching the carrot and beans
2 Tbsp cooking oil
¼ c chopped onion
2 Tbsp chopped garlic
1 c cooked chicken, shredded
1 Tbsp patis
250g sotanghon (see above)
2 c chicken broth or water
¼ c chopped spring onions
Soak the sotanghon noodles in enough water to cover (noodles must be submerged in water) for five to 10 minutes. Drain the noodles and set aside.
Make the garlic oil: In a wok, heat the ¼ cup cooking oil then add the achuete seeds. Sauté until the oil turns yellowish red. With a slotted spoon, remove and discard the seeds. Add the garlic and sauté until a light golden brown. Pour the oil and the garlic into a clean container and set aside.
Make the sotanghon filling: Blanch the carrots and Baguio beans in boiling water for two to three minutes. Remove from the water and set aside.
Heat the 2 Tbsp cooking oil in a large wok or cooking pan. Sauté the onions then add the garlic and continue sautéing until fragrant.
Stir in the cooked chicken, and the blanched carrots and Baguio beans. Season with patis.
Add the drained sotanghon noodles and pour in the chicken broth or water. Let simmer until the liquid has been fully absorbed and the sotanghon noodles are tender but still firm (do not overcook).
Pour in the prepared garlic oil and toss well to fully incorporate the garlic oil into the noodles. The noodles should turn an appetizing amber (yellowish red) color. Remove from heat and transfer to a serving dish. Top with spring onions. Serve with calamansi. Makes 3-4 servings.