Dinner in 30 Minutes

Thai Stir-Fry Noodles

4 servings

This lightly sauced noodle dish isn't as peanutty as pad Thai nor as saucy as drunken noodles. And it's definitely not as salty as ramen noodles.

It is instead uniquely subtle though distinct in flavor and quick to toss together.

Adapted from the Thai Kitchen brand recipe booklet:

7 ounces rice noodles

4 tablespoons sugar

4 tablespoons fish sauce

3 tablespoons rice vinegar

1 tablespoon minced garlic

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 eggs

1 teaspoon red onion or shallot, minced

6 to 8 ounces peeled, deveined shrimp or thinly sliced chicken breast

About 1/3 cup firm tofu, cubed (may use more shrimp or chicken instead)

About 4 scallions (white and green parts), thinly sliced

1/2 cup bean sprouts (optional)

About 1/2 cup crushed peanuts

Chopped fresh cilantro, seeded and minced red or green chili peppers and lime wedges

In a large pot, bring 8 cups of water to a boil. Remove from the heat, add the noodles and set aside to soak until noodles are softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Drain well and rinse with cold water for 30 seconds. Set aside.

In a bowl, combine sugar, fish sauce, vinegar and garlic. Set aside.

In a wok or large nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of oil. Add the eggs and scramble until cooked to the desired degree of doneness. Transfer to a plate and set aside.

In the same wok or frying pan, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil. Add onion, shrimp or chicken, tofu and scallions. Stir-fry for 1 minute. Add the softened, drained rice noodles and sauce mixture and stir-fry for 3 to 5 minutes or until all ingredients are well-cooked. (If noodles are still too firm, add water, 1 teaspoon at a time, as needed and continue to stir-fry until tender.) Add scrambled egg and bean sprouts, if using, and toss to combine. Sprinkle with peanuts and, if desired, cilantro, chilis and/or lime wedges.

Per serving: 412 calories, 19 gm protein, 34 gm carbohydrates, 23 gm fat, 122 mg cholesterol, 3 gm saturated fat, 1447 mg sodium, 2 gm dietary fiber

-- Renee Schettler

TASTE TEST | Blue corn chips

A hearty crunch, just enough salt, an earthy -- in a good way -- edge to its corniness and just the right amount of oil: That's what makes a blue corn chip great.

Of the nine different bags of blue corn chips available in local stores, here are our favorites, pictured from left to right:

Tostitos Natural: Chips are huge, really salty, lightly corny; $2.99 per nine-ounce bag.

Garden of Eatin': Our favorite. More corn flavor than most, nicely salted, overall very good; $2.69 per 10-ounce bag.

Frontera: Most authentic-tasting, thick with a hearty, nubbly texture; $2.49 per 10-ounce bag.

Kettle: Very blue, very salty, very corny; $1.99 per eight-ounce bag.

Pan de Oro: Really good taste, not quite enough salt for some, rather unpleasant gray color owing to the addition of white corn; $1.99 per nine-ounce bag.

Also tasted but tossed in the trash: Bearitos (stale-tasting), Guiltless Gourmet (no taste, cardboard texture), Trader Joe's (where's the salt?) and 365 Organic (tough and chewy).

INGREDIENT | Noodles

Rice noodles come in a variety of thicknesses, from nearly 1/2-inch wide to thread-like vermicelli, and are integral to Thai and Vietnamese recipes such as pad Thai, summer rolls and pho.

Transparent in appearance and wiry in texture, cellophane noodles are made from the starch of green mung beans. They are neutral in flavor and common in Chinese soups and stir-fries. Cellophane noodles may be used in place of rice vermicelli.

Both types of noodles should be soaked in hot water until softened prior to using, for anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes.

TODAY'S TIP

Place a skillet over the heat before you add the oil. The heat closes the pores of the metal, which means that food proteins can't get caught in it and stick. And because the pan's heat thins the oil, allowing it to cover more surface area, you will use less oil.

-- Adapted from "The Flavors of Olive Oil," by Deborah Krasner

(Simon & Schuster, 2002)

TO DO

TUESDAY and WEDNESDAY: Cheese tasting with beer pairings at Whole Foods Market, Tysons Corner. Free. 7 p.m. 7511 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church. Call 703-448-1600.

RESERVE NOW

SEPT. 13: Demonstration and book signing with "Fig Heaven" author Marie Simmons at Sur La Table. $55. 6:30 p.m. 1101 S. Joyce St., Arlington. Call 703-414-3580.

SEPT. 18 and 19: Catering Confidential -- two-day catering workshop on financial planning, marketing and growth at L'Academie de Cuisine. Special guests: caterers and authors Denise Vivaldo and Nicole Aloni. $325. Saturday, 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.; Sunday, 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Marriott Hospitality Center at Montgomery College, 51 Mannakee St., Rockville. Call 301-986-9490.

PLEASE NOTE: Space limitations sometimes prevent Food from publishing all submissions. For possible inclusion, send notices -- including organization name, date, cost, time, address and phone number -- to: To Do, Food, The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington D.C., 20071 or food@washpost.com. Submissions must be received at least 14 days prior to publication date.

D.C. vs. N.Y.

Depends on what you're buying, of course, but we'd heard that food shopping can be less expensive in New York City than Washington -- and that just seems so . . . annoying. Here's what we found in a random sampling among three comparable sets of stores in the two cities:

DC SUPER FRESH TOTAL: $20.38

- Tropicana orange juice, quart $2.69

- 1 percent milk, quart $1.58

- Rotisserie chicken, whole $5.99

- Romaine lettuce, head 99 cents

- Granny Smith apples, pound $1.69

- Fresh baked baguette $2.79

- French roast coffee beans**, pound $4.65

NY FAIRWAY TOTAL: $18.03

- Tropicana orange juice, quart $2.09

- 1 percent milk, quart 99 cents

- Rotisserie chicken, whole $5.99

- Romaine lettuce, head $1.29

- Granny Smith apples, pound $1.49

- Fresh baked baguette $1.19

- French roast coffee beans**, pound $4.99

DC BALDUCCI'S TOTAL: $27.23

- Tropicana orange juice, quart $2.79

- 1 percent milk, quart $1.89

- Rotisserie chicken, whole $7.99

- Romaine lettuce, head $1.59

- Granny Smith apples, pound $1.99

- Fresh baked baguette $1.99

- French roast coffee beans (house brand), pound $8.99

NY GRACE'S MARKETPLACE TOTAL: $26.06

- Tropicana orange juice, quart $2.55

- 1 percent milk, quart $2.19

- Rotisserie chicken, whole $8.40*

- Romaine lettuce, head $1.39

- Granny Smith apples, pound $1.79

- Fresh baked baguette $1.75

- French roast coffee beans**, pound $7.99

DC WHOLE FOODS TOTAL: $25.84

- Tropicana orange juice, quart $2.29

- 1 percent milk, quart $1.09

- Rotisserie chicken, whole $7.99

- Romaine lettuce, head $1.99

- Granny Smith apples, pound $1.49

- Fresh baked baguette $1.69

- French roast coffee beans**, pound $9.33

NY WHOLE FOODS TOTAL: $28.84

- Tropicana orange juice, quart $2.29

- 1 percent milk, quart $1.29

- Rotisserie chicken, whole $10*

- Romaine lettuce, head $1.79

- Granny Smith apples, pound $1.79

- Fresh baked baguette $1.69

- French roast coffee beans**, pound $9.99

* Average prices July-August 2004; Washington Post research

** House brand