I want to start doing a regular feature on some of the ingredients we have here in Algiers that may not be familiar to readers out there. There's lots of local things that we ignore or take for granted, and by doing this feature I hope to also force myself to learn a little bit more about some local fare.
Today we have rechta (reshta) noodles: rechta is not only the name for these noodles, but also the name for the Algerian dish of rechta, which is a stew of meat, chickpeas, and turnips served over these noodles. Like most people, I buy my rechta noodles at the butcher shop or at a large market. They are curly very very thin flour noodles, and they freeze easily so you can always have some on hand. They most important thing about these noodles is that they MUST be STEAMED. If you put them in boiling water you will have a pile of mush in less than 30 seconds. Trust me, I learned from experience.
So, most people make the stew in the bottom of their couscousier (a crucial piece of equipment for Algerian cooking). The stew can have chicken, lamb, or beef, but it must have turnips and chickpeas. Other vegetables are added too, but the turnips are key here. When the stew is almost done cooking you place the noodles in the top part of the couscousier to steam until tender. Similar to couscous, you want to rub a little oil into the noodles before you steam them, and steam them for five minutes, remove from the steam, and then steam another five minutes. The nice part about them is that they retain their curly shape, and kind of remind me of a pleasant cross between curly egg noodles and fine angel hair pasta.
You can find a recipe for rechta (both the noodles and the stew) here.