When you first move somewhere, there are a few important things to find out: when is garbage/recycling pick-up, where is the closest liquor store, where is the breaker box for the house, etc. Something I added to that list was more of a prayer: “please god, let there be Asians in Roanoke.” It’s not a race thing, it’s a grocery store thing. It’s an I-can’t-get-by-without-rice-noodles thing. Thankfully my prayer was answered the way I was hoping it would: a firm, definitive, there-are-actually-several-stores yes.

I didn’t go as crazy as last time, but I did pick up several packages of rice noodles, some rice cooking wine, some curry pastes, and a couple other little things. Checking out the assortment of non-gluten flours–plantain, sweet potato, cassava, to name a few–really got me thinking. I might go back to pick up a few bags and try them out with other more traditional gluten-free flours. The cassava might work really well in bread, actually!

So when I got home I wanted to make something quick and easy with the veggies I had on hand: various kinds of Asian eggplants, purple bell peppers, and thai peppers. I remembered Lazy Smurf’s Pad Kee Mao from a few months ago, and that sounded pretty darn tasty, so I figured I’d riff on it. Comforting with the right amount of heat, there was nothing too special about the dish, just that it was just what I wanted. Plus I got to use up some more basil and a tomato from the garden, so that’s always a good thing. Feel free to use up whatever you have on hand–carrots, mushrooms, tofu, broccoli, etc. All of those would taste great with the hot and soy-sopped rice noodles!

Thai Basil Eggplant

1 package of rice noodles, soaked in hot water for 10 minutes

2 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
10-12 small Asian eggplants, cut into rounds
2 small purple bell peppers, cut into strips
2 thai chili peppers, deseeded and minced
1 large tomato, cut into wedges
1 bunch of basil leaves, washed and patted dry

3 tbsp soy sauce
3 tbsp mushroom soy sauce (dark)
(if GF use 6 tbsp Bragg’s Amino Acids)
2 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp veg broth powder or 1 bouillon cube

Mix together the soy sauce, mushroom sauce, rice vinegar, sugar, and veg broth powder in a small bowl. Set aside.

In a wok, heat the oil over medium heat. Once hot, add the onions and cook until they turn translucent. Add the garlic and thai chili peppers, cook for 1 minute. Add the bell peppers and eggplant, cook for 2-3 minutes, until the eggplant begins to become tender and brown on the outside. Add the tomato and cook for 1 minute more.

In batches, add the soaked rice noodles to the wok and stir them in completely (I like to use tongs to do this). Once the noodles are fully incorporated, add the sauce. Make sure everything is covered in the sauce, add the basil, and remove the wok from heat.

Serves 4.