Popular wisdom has it that one should trust one’s gut when making decisions. My culinary experience this evening serves as a supporting example of that premise. I am not usually particularly adept at sensing what my “gut” is telling me, but today, as I crouched down to peer at the various noodles in the Asian section of the “Ethnic” aisle at New Seasons, it spoke. Unfortunately, as you will come to see, I did not listen.
I had a vague idea of making a brothy soup with rice noodles and chicken and I was crouching in the aforementioned aisle to look at the various non-wheat noodles that were available. I was looking for something with a thinner texture, like vermicelli. There were two types of rice vermicelli, one of which I have used before. However, this was the first time I noticed that the package said rice “sticks”. Somehow “sticks” did not appeal to me. The name made me fear the noodles would turn into something unrecognizable and strange. The only thing labeled as vermicelli was bean vermicelli. It was cheaper than the rice options. Something deep within me said, “No.”
“But it is cheaper and it looks the same. Why don’t I look at the ingredients?”
Mung bean starch & potato starch
I recognized mung beans. That should have clinched it for me. I should have picked up the familiar rice noodles, sticks or not, and carried on with my shopping. Typically, even of hint of mung bean sends me packing. This aversion commenced after my first and only experience preparing and eating them. Having read, probably in Nourishing Traditions or some such place, that they were incredibly healthy, I went off and bought some at the natural food mart. I prepared them as instructed, consumed them, and went on to experience the worst, most intensely painful gas of my entire life.
Despite this compelling personal experience with mung beans, I ended up selecting the bean vermicelli for my soup.
My “gut” and circumstances generously gave me another chance to correct my error. After creating a delicious stock from the carcass of a rotisserie chicken, and preparing all the vegetables and adding the chicken and stock to the pot, I turned to retrieve the noodles from their prescribed soak in hot water. Their appearance was ghastly. They were strangely shimmery and felt odd in my hands. “Maybe you should leave these out of the soup. You could add rice instead, or just enjoy the brothiness of a noodle-less soup even more. . .”, suggested my gut.
Once again I foolishly ignored this sage voice. After draining the noodles, I dumped them into the soup. Alas. My dreams sipping beautiful broth with the occasional unobtrusive noodle of perfect firmness or bit of chicken were destroyed. Within minutes, the noodles transformed into weird gelatinous things that seemed to take over the entire stockpot. They continued to shimmer in a strange oily way. It did not appear appetizing, but having come this far and spent the money, I had to try and eat it.
The soup was alive and did not want to be consumed: the noodles wriggled and slid and were more unwieldy than any I had encountered. Ladles and tongs could not remove the soup from the stock pot: I had to use a measuring cup and a wooden spoon to coax some out for eating.
After garnishing it with green onions, cilantro and a splash of lime juice, I sat down to eat my soup. It would be more accurately named glop. The taste was quite all right, but the noodles were bizarre. It was more like eating firm-ish tubes of gelatin. The noodles built up an outer layer that reminded me of tapioca and they were almost as unwieldy to eat as they were to extract from the pot.
To make matters worse, when I returned to the kitchen there appeared to be MORE of this glop in the pot than before. I dutifully scooped it all into containers and stored them in the fridge, wondering how on earth I was going to eat a gallon and a half a glop before it went bad. I fear that when I wake up tomorrow it will have taken over the entire fridge as one faintly pulsing, shimmering gelatinous mass.
I reveal this somewhat distressing cooking result as a lesson: when your gut talks, listen. You may get a second chance, but a not a third.
Also: NO MUNG BEANS, regardless of format or presentation.