South Indian Sevai with Tamarind Kecap Manis (gluten-free)
I don’t know what it is about this particular dish that I enjoy so much. Maybe it’s the combination of the shallots with peas and the toasted cashews. Maybe it’s the noodles. Sometimes, there are food moods that can only be called “noodle-y”, don’t you think? Nothing else will do but a big bowl of noodles, and this is one of the many dishes that does it for me.
The recipe that inspired the version of sevai you see here actually called the dish “idiyappam“. I’ve learned that idiyappam is not the dish itself but a type of very thin hand-made rice noodle made in the Kerala and Tamilnadu regions of India. My search of the Internet found recipes that use this kind of noodle have a variety of names, including “sevai“. To avoid confusing this dish with the plain rice noodles, I’ve called it sevai here. And since I couldn’t find the brown rice vermicelli I would usually use in this dish, I’ve used a Chinese type of vermicelli made from peas and green beans. My version of sevai is probably not all that authentic, but it’s pretty darn tasty.
I’ve also used a kind of Indonesian soy sauce known as kecap manis. You can purchase it, of course, but I decided to make mine, and with a bit of a tangy twist. Interestingly, “kecap” is pronounced like “ketchup”, though it seems that many versions of kecap manis don’t actually include ketchup. This sevai includes ketchup in addition to being topped with kecap manis. If that sounds weird to you, just go with it. The ketchup really does add an interesting depth of flavour to the whole dish and it doesn’t stand out as being ketchup.
South Indian Sevai
250g/8.8oz dried fine vermicelli noodles
1 cup cashew pieces, toasted
1 1/2 cups shallots, very thinly sliced (a mandolin is really helpful here)
1 cup frozen green peas
2 small carrots, very finely grated
1 1/2 cups red bell pepper, sliced into very thin match sticks
3 tbsp prepared ketchup
2 tsp curry powder
3 tbsp oil (olive oil works fine, or use whatever you have)
1. Heat a large pot of water to boiling. When the water has boiled, remove it from the heat and cover with a lid.
2. Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots and sauté until caramelized, about 7 minutes or so.
3. Add the red bell pepper to the onions and sauté for another 5-7 minutes, until the bell pepper is very soft.
4. Add the green peas to the mixture and sauté another 4 minutes until the peas are warmed through.
5. Add the toasted cashews to the mixture and sauté 2 more minutes.
6. Finally, add the curry powder and the ketchup, thoroughly combining with the skillet mixture. Reduce the heat to low.
7. Add the vermicelli noodles to the hot water, letting soak for 5 minutes or until soft. (Be careful not to let the noodles soak too long, as they can quickly become mush when you try to mix them with anything.)
8. When the noodles are ready, drain them thoroughly. Add the noodles back to the pot and add the remaining two tablespoons of oil and mix it into the noodles to prevent them from sticking to each other. (If you find the noodle strands are too long, use a clean pair of kitchen scissors to cut them up a bit.)
9. Add the skillet mixture and use tongs to evenly combine all of the ingredients.
10. Serve with 2 tbsp of tamarind kecap manis (recipe below) drizzled over each plate of noodles.
Makes 2 large or 4 small servings.
Tamarind Kecap Manis
1 cup Braggs
1 cup agave nectar
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (about 1 medium lemon)
1 tbsp finely grated lemon zest (about 2 medium lemons)
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
3 tsp tamarind concentrate (this is a very thick paste, a lot like molasses in texture, found in well-stocked Asian markets)
1. In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the Braggs, agave nectar, and lemon juice and mix everything together to thoroughly dissolve the agave nectar.
2. Add the tamarind concentrate, mixing well to ensure all of the tamarind dissolves into the mixture.
3. Add the garlic and lemon zest to the mixture and continue to heat the mixture through for about 2 minutes.
4. Let thoroughly cool before bottling and refrigerating.
Makes 2 1/4 cups.