Saturday, August 25, 2012

Asian Noodle Salad

Oodles of Noodles

Why, oh why, does my cooking pot always hold more pasta than I need for one dinner? A single handful of dried pasta suddenly morphs into a huge, steaming mound. Maybe I'm subconsciously afraid of not having enough, or more likely the issue is a lack of attention when I grab that first handful of uncooked noodles. Not that an extra pile of cooked pasta is a problem, it's more like a headstart on a tasty and quick-to-fix dish. Pasta Frittata is one example, and this Asian Noodle Salad is another favorite. 

Italian frittata? Asian salad? which cuisine can claim the oldest noodle connection? and where did the noodle originate anyway? did Marco Polo really introduce pasta to Italy when he returned from his travels? Google has 4.76 million hits relating to that very question, and I personally like the notion that, "...the noodle was developed independently by different people from all parts of the world."(link)

Back to the dish at hand. The sauce and noodle base work well with a wide variety of crispy vegetables, so don't feel limited by the suggested carrots, celery and green onions. Add some julienned Napa cabbage, baby bok choy shreds, crispy bean sprouts, tiny pea pods, julienned sweet peppers... the list goes on. The crunch of raw or barely blanched vegetables provides the needed contrast to the soft, slippery sauced noodles, but it's the sauce that really shines with mixed notes of sweet, salty, sour and hot.

Add some slivers of cooked chicken and you have a main dish entree. Plate some noodle salad alongside Thai fish cakes and marinated cucumbers for a satisfying summer meal. But don't wait for a day with leftover noodles to try this salad, it rates star billing as a first-time-around preparation.

Asian Noodle Salad

Prep Time:20 min           Cook Time:15 min

1 package soba noodles (or a pile of thin pasta noodles like angel hair)

1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons seasoned rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce (or Ponzu sauce)
1 teaspoon hot chili oil
1 tablespoon mirin sauce 
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 or more tablespoons bottled Thai peanut sauce
1 small knob of fresh ginger, grated
2 garlic cloves, pressed or mashed

1 carrot, thinly sliced or julienned
2 celery stalks, thinly sliced or julienned
5 green onions, bottom 4 inches, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro leaves
3 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted, for garnish
4 tablespoons unsalted peanuts, roughly chopped, for garnish

In a medium stock pot, boil water, add salt and cook noodles until al dente, barely done. When finished, transfer to an ice water bath to cool. Drain and set aside.
In a medium bowl combine, sesame oil, vinegar, soy sauce, hot chili oil, mirin, extra-virgin olive oil, Thai peanut sauce, ginger and garlic. Mix thoroughly. Add the prepared vegetables, cilantro and noodles and toss to combine.
Garnish with sesame seeds and peanuts.

I make extra sauce to hold in the fridge for a day or two. Use it on wraps and burgers or as a meat sauce for chicken or pork.
The noodle salad will hold several days if chilled, but will need additional sauce before serving. In a pinch, just toss with additional seasoned rice wine vinegar and mirin.

1 comment:

  1. January is National Pasta Month so I'm ready to rock this salad for lunch today. It sounds terrific.


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