If you need a beginner recipe to open the gates of Asian cooking, choose this little gem. I promise you that your grocery store carries these items if it's a grocery store not beginning with the word "Wal"... although I've seen these ingredients there, too.
I use the pre-cooked, roasted chicken breast that comes in the convenient (and I know, I know artificial flavorings, preservatives, blah, blah, blah) container. We've had this meal countless times and we're doing just fine, thank you. If it bothers you though, I would use either a rotisserie chicken or you could boil some chicken breasts for about 30 minutes, pop them in the oven for about 4 minutes on 400, and allow to rest for 10 minutes.
Rice Vinegar - either in the Oriental Foods section or the salad dressing/vinegar aisle. Anytime you're adding vinegar to a dish, you're going to get that tongue-to-the-top-of-your-mouth tang. The other great use for vinegar is to tone down the heat of a dish. So, if you find that the sambal oelek added WAY too much for you, try adding a few drops of the rice vinegar. Obviously, you can't erase the heat totally, so don't go dumping the vinegar in. Just a few drops, y'all.
Sambal Oelek - If you don't want spicy, stay away from this little rooster. <Sidenote: I have no idea why there's a rooster on the bottle. You?> This is also to be found in the Oriental Foods section. This is what adds the heat to the dish. And I do mean heat. Don't overuse this. I've done that on one too many occasions and it truly ruined it. I thought I could handle more; my tongue protested. It's very, very tasty in the recommended amount (2 tsp.). If there are multiple versions of this (I've only seen one), choose the one with the green top.
Rice Noodles - Now don't be scared. They're easy to work with and they cook faster <bonus!>. You'll find them in the Oriental Foods section most likely (not the pasta section). They cook in about 3-5 minutes in rapidly boiling water. This is a time that you don't want to salt your pasta water though. These noodles, just as the package suggests with the flower, are very delicate and do not handle the salt well. They'll soak up the sodium from the soy sauce, so there's no need to flavor them in the water.
2 tbs. rice vinegar
2 tbs. hoisin sauce
2 tsp. sambal oelek
3 tbs. low-sodium soy sauce
2 cups cooked, chopped, skinless, boneless, (how many adjectives does it take) chicken breast
1 tbs. dark sesame oil, divided
1 tbs. grated, peeled fresh ginger
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup chopped green onions (3-4)
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
1 (6.75-oz.) package thin rice noodles
2 tbs. chopped peanuts (optional: this isn't something I add to mine)
Whisk together soy sauce, rice vinegar, hoisin, and sambel oelek in a medium-sized bowl. Add chicken and allow to sit and marinate for about 5 minutes (gives you time to chop veggies).
Heat oil in small skillet or wok over medium-high heat (bring to a shimmer). Add garlic and grate ginger straight into pan; stir constantly. Cook for 45 seconds, or until garlic is aromatic. Stir in green onions and cilantro; cook for 1 minute, stirring occasionally. Add chicken mixture to pan; stir to combine. Reduce heat to low and simmer for about 5-10 minutes, or until sauce has thickened, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add noodles and cook for about 3-5 minutes, or until desired texture. Drain and rinse under cold water; drain some more. (This stops the cooking process so you don't get rice mush, but rice noodles.) Cut noodles into smaller pieces <the size you'd want to slurp up>, and add to wok. Cook for 1 minute or until pasta is coated.
Garnish with cilantro and/or peanuts. Serve with soy sauce.
Makes 4 servings at 480 calories each. (Fat: 7.4g, Sat Fat: 1.5g, Cholest: 106mg, Sodium: 1,407mg, Carb: 69.2g, Fiber: 4g, Sugars: 6.3g, Protein: 34.1g)
Adapted from Cooking Light.