A tasty combination of chicken, lime, and coconut milk, Thai Chicken with Saucy Rice Noodles is a quick dinner choice that is low-calorie and gluten-free
The Making of Thai Chicken with Saucy Rice Noodles
As a general rule, I like Cooking Light for recipe ideas, but I do find that their recipes lack a certain "depth of flavor" in trying to be all things to all people. Low salt, low sugar, low fat, well, all those lows = low flavor IMHO. But the recipes are easy enough to doctor up. My recipe for Thai Chicken with Saucy Rice Noodles is the result of one of those easy to doctor up recipes.
Why marinate/brine chicken?
The original recipe was written as Thai-Style Chicken Menu in 2005.
It starts well enough, marinating or brining the chicken in vinegar, brown sugar, fresh lime juice, and curry paste. This simple marinade/brine not only flavors the fairly flavorless bite-sized chicken pieces but the acids in the lime juice and vinegar actually change the texture of the chicken, making it much more tender.
It's the same principle as using buttermilk (another acidic ingredient) to brine the chicken pieces in my recipe for Simply The Best Fried Chicken. It just makes the texture better.
The marinade/brine works its magic in as little as 15 minutes. So while you might be tempted to skip this step, don't. It makes a huge difference in the flavor and texture of the chicken. And flavor is good. Right?
Regular coconut milk or light?
If I had my druthers, I would rather use regular coconut milk when I cook. It's richer, silkier and has more "unami". But it also has 552 calories per cup with a whopping 57 grams of fat (50 Saturated)...YIKES! Light coconut milk is only 152 calories per cup with 13.6 grams of fat and while 12.1 of it is saturated, that's a much more reasonable number nutritionally, and on the scale.
I mean that scale in the bathroom, gym, or doctor's office.
Rice noodles vs traditional pasta
A lot of people have jumped on the gluten-free bandwagon, some because they have to, some simply because they want to. I'm trying to modify my diet to include less processed wheat, and using rice noodles helps me reach this goal.
Ounce for ounce, rice noodles, and wheat pasta have the same calories, and they both have the same amount of carbs. But rice noodles, also known as maifun, are gluten-free. And while they may not make a difference with your blood sugar (so if you have a problem with diabetes, treat rice noodles the same as you would any starch, with caution); I find that I'm much more satisfied with a smaller portion of rice noodles than I am with traditional pasta. Less than 2 ounces per serving was fine with this dish. It is also been proven that cooking pasta al dente is healthier for you, lessening the impact on the glycemic index; rice noodles are naturally al dente. You don't cook rice noodles per se, just pour boiling water over and let them sit and soften.
Me Vrs Them
The original recipe in Cooking Light was served as a "stir fry". With rice noodles, being fairly bland, I decided to make it saucy, so I had some flavorful broth to eat with my noodles. I also added some Sriracha for a little more bang, chicken stock to make it saucier, and added sliced green onions and peanuts to top it off. It turned out delish, with a nice "depth of flavor".
I find it interesting that Cooking Light failed to add the noodles to their final calorie count. Although the numbers look better that way, I've added them to mine since I figured they were kind of key to the dish. So here's my recipe for Thai Chicken with Saucy Rice Noodles (formerly known as Thai-Style Stir-Fried Chicken)
Thai Chicken with Saucy Rice Noodles
- For the Marinade
- ¼ cup rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 2 - 3 tablespoons lime juice I used 3
- 2 teaspoons red curry paste I use Thai Kitchen
- ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- For the Saucy Noodles
- 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces (I use chicken tenders that I get when I cut my own whole chickens into pieces, another advantage to cutting up your own chicken)
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil I use grapeseed
- 1 cup diced onion (a large dice)
- 1 cup julienned carrot about 2 - 3 inches long (remember to cut a flat side to the carrot first to make it easier to julienne)
- 8 ounces fresh mushroom stemmed and quartered
- 1 cup light coconut milk you could use regular coconut milk but see note on calories as stated above
- ½ cup homemade or low-sodium chicken broth
- 1 ½ tablespoons fish sauce
- 1 tablespoon Sriracha
- 6 ounces thin vermicelli rice noodles
- To Top it Off
- 1 cup fresh bean sprouts
- ¼ cup chopped cilantro
- ¼ cup chopped or sliced green onion tops
- 2 tablespoons chopped roasted peanuts
- 1 lime cut into wedges
- Prepare the Noodles - Place the noodles in a large bowl. Pour boiling water to cover. Allow to sit while you prepare the rest of the meal.
- Marinate the Chicken - Combine the vinegar, brown sugar, lime juice, red curry paste, and crushed red peppers in a large zip-top bag. Squish around to mix well. Add the chicken, press to remove as much air as possible, seal and allow to sit and marinate for 15 minutes. (if leaving for more than 15 minutes, please put in the refrigerator, but don't marinate too long or the meat will become too mushy)
- Remove the chicken from the bag, reserving the marinade. Heat the oil in a large skillet or wok; add the chicken and stir-fry for about 3 minutes, add the onion and carrot; continue to stir-fry for 2 minutes then add the mushrooms. Stir-fry for 3 minutes; add the marinade along with the coconut milk, fish sauce, and Sriracha. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 3 minutes. Taste and adjust for heat and salt.
- To Serve - Place the noodles in the bottom of a deep bowl. Split the chicken, vegetables, and broth evenly over the top. Top with bean sprouts, cilantro, green onions, and peanuts. Add a lime wedge for color and flavor.