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QUICK FIX

Cooling Off, Taiwan Style

September 17, 1997|JEAN PATTERSON | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Hot weather reminds me of living in Taiwan. The heat there seemed oppressive--even the Mandarin word for "hot" sounds like a dog growling through its teeth. In search of food that fit the temperature, I took to the streets.

One refuge was an open-air noodle stand where I could order cold noodles to go, then rush back to enjoy them inside my air-conditioned office. The noodles had a nutty sesame sauce that complemented the mix of fresh vegetables. The dish was satisfying but not heavy.

Another food stall favorite was a simple tofu salad, flavored with soy sauce and green onions. I use tomatoes for added color and juiciness.

For me, lunch was incomplete without some refreshment from a roadside tea stand. Here's one of my favorites: squeeze the juice from a few kumquats into a glass of iced tea for a "kick" of tangy flavor. Substitute tangerine juice if you can't find kumquats.

Menu (30 MINUTES OR LESS)

Chilled Glass Noodles With Vegetables

Tofu Salad with Tomatoes and Green Onions

Kumquat Iced Tea

CHILLED GLASS NOODLES WITH VEGETABLES (VEGETARIAN)

Water

1 (6-ounce) package glass noodles

1/3 cup sesame tahineh

1 tablespoon lime juice

1/2 teaspoon dry mustard

1 tablespoon canola oil

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 carrots, thinly sliced

1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and cut into matchstick-size strips

Toasted sesame seeds

Shredded chicken, ham or pork may be added at the same time as the carrots and cucumber.

Bring 6 cups water to boil in medium saucepan. Turn off heat and add noodles. Let noodles soak 15 minutes.

Whisk together tahineh, lime juice, mustard, oil, salt and 3 tablespoons water in small bowl.

Rinse noodles with cold water and drain well. They should be soft and chewy.

Toss noodles with carrots, cucumber and sauce in large bowl. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

4 servings. Each serving:

320 calories; 328 mg sodium; 0 cholesterol; 13 grams fat; 48 grams carbohydrates; 4 grams protein; 1.87 grams fiber.

TOFU SALAD WITH TOMATOES AND GREEN ONIONS (VEGETARIAN)

1/2 head cabbage, thinly sliced

1 (14-ounce) package firm tofu

1/2 cup green onions, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 tomato, sliced into narrow wedges

1/4 cup canola oil

1/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar

1/2 teaspoon white pepper

1 tablespoon sugar

2 teaspoons light soy sauce

1 teaspoon chopped ginger root

1/2 teaspoon sesame oil

Salt

Spread cabbage evenly on serving platter.

Drain tofu and cut into 1/2-inch cubes. Place tofu, green onions and tomato wedges in medium bowl.

Combine canola oil, vinegar, white pepper, sugar, soy sauce, ginger, sesame oil and salt to taste. Mix gently with tofu, onions and tomato.

Transfer tofu mixture with slotted spoon to cabbage-lined platter. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

4 servings. Each serving:

320 calories; 191 mg sodium; 0 cholesterol; 24 grams fat; 16 grams carbohydrates; 18 grams protein; 1.37 grams fiber.

COUNTDOWN

30 minutes before: Start boiling water for noodles.

25 minutes before: Slice cabbage, cut tofu, green onions and tomatoes and prepare tofu salad.

20 minutes before: Soak noodles.

15 minutes before: Chop carrots and cucumbers and make sesame sauce.

10 minutes before: Prepare kumquat iced tea.

5 minutes before: Assemble noodle dish.

INGREDIENTS

SHOPPING LIST

1 head cabbage

2 carrots

1 cucumber

1 dozen kumquats

1 lime

1 (6-ounce) package glass noodles

1 bunch green onions

Sesame oil

1 (16-ounce) jar tahineh

1 (14-ounce) package firm tofu

1 tomato

STAPLES

Ginger root

Dry mustard

Canola oil

White pepper

Salt

Toasted sesame seeds

Light soy sauce

Sugar

Tea bags or iced tea mix

Seasoned rice vinegar

CHEF'S TIPS

Glass noodles, also known as cellophane noodles or sai fun, are made from mung bean starch. If you can't find them, try using rice-flour noodles instead. Both are quick and easy to prepare--just follow package directions for soaking noodles in warm water before using in soups or stir-fries.

Don't substitute regular or soft tofu for firm tofu, as they are more likely to crumble.

SHORT CUTS

Buy packaged coleslaw mix instead of slicing the cabbage by hand.

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