1. Heat a 12-inch nonstick skillet or flat-bottomed wok over high heat for 1 to 2 minutes. To test for readiness, put your hand 2 to 3 inches above the skillet. If you can feel the heat, the skillet is hot enough. Add 3 tablespoons of the oil and the garlic, and cook, stirring constantly, until the garlic is golden brown. Reduce heat to medium, add noodles, and cook, stirring with two spatulas to separate the noodles. If noodles start to clump, lower heat and add 1 tablespoon water, stirring and tossing. Continuing to add water 1 tablespoon at a time if necessary, stir-fry until the noodles are cooked but not soggy.
2. Add tofu, vinegar, dried shrimp, salted cabbage and nam pla, and continue to cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Sprinkle the peanuts, dried chile powder, and sugar on top of the noodle mixture, and stir to combine; quickly mix in bean sprouts and Chinese chives.
3. Push noodle mixture to one side of skillet, and add remaining 1 tablespoon oil to the center of the skillet. Break egg directly into oil and scramble it lightly. When egg begins to set, push noodle mixture back on top of egg, then slide onto a serving platter. Garnish with bean sprouts, Chinese chives, banana blossom, and lime wedges. Serve immediately.
Roasted Dried Chile Powder
Makes about 1/2 cup
When making chile powder, work in a well-ventilated area. To clear the air afterward, boil 1 cup of vinegar and 4 cups of water in a saucepan for at least 30 minutes.
1 cup dried de Ã¡rbol or Japones chiles for mild to medium-spicy powder
or 1 cup dried chiltepÃn chiles for extremely spicy powder, stems removed
1. In a 12-inch skillet, dry-roast the dried chiles over medium heat, shaking the skillet or tossing and stirring with a wooden spatula to ensure even heating, until blackened. To reduce the fumes, add a pinch of sea salt to the skillet. Transfer to a plate to cool completely.
2. In a food processor fitted with the steel blade, process the chiles until they turn to powder. Let the powder settle in the machine for at least 2 minutes. When you remove the food processor lid, do so at armÂ’s length, and do not inhale the powder. Carefully transfer the powder to a glass jar, and seal with a tight-fitting lid. Store at room temperature for up to a year.