Sweet peanut & lime noodles
The casual observer, or even frequent reader of this blog, would probably not realise that I really like Vietnamese and Thai food. The problems? I have trouble believing coriander (cilantro) is something anyone would want to eat or smell, up until now I’ve also had doubts about mint, and I am a complete lightweight when it comes to chilli. Oh, and I don’t feel much warmer towards fish or shrimp sauce. I know they can just lend “background flavours” and when someone else deals with them, it’s all good. Just don’t waft a bottle in my general direction.
If you happen to be of the rare breed with a similar frame of tastebud, or you simply want a noodle salad dressing recipe that isn’t as long as your arm, hopefully this will solve some of your woes. This is not authentic anything, but it is refreshing and delicious and pretty good for you. The noodle salad itself can vary widely depending what you have on hand, but the dressing is the real treat, and I urge you to use at least the 4 key ingredients in it. From there, you can experiment and add as much as you have in your cupboards – maybe some minced ginger, garlic, shallots, or chilli. Just don’t tell me about no coriander. Don’t be startled by how long the recipe looks, I just include a lot of variations.
Sweet peanut & lime noodles
Noodle salad ingredient suggestions:
- Some sort of noodle, eg:
- rice noodles (bring a pot of water to the boil, add noodles, cover, turn off heat, let sit until cooked – not long, rinse under cold water in a sieve)
- soba noodles (follow packet instructions, then rinse under cold water)
- mung bean or sweet potato starch noodles (ditto rice noodles)
- Some sort of green leafy thing (I used baby bok choy/choi, mizuna would also be great)
- Grated/very thin strips of carrot or red peppers or something red/orange
- Mung bean sprouts (the commercially grown stuff)
- Any and whatever combo of: basil, Thai basil, mint, lemon balm, spring onions, and fine, coriander – torn or finely chopped
- Protein – I like home fried tofu* and/or scrambled eggs. Extra roasted, non-salted peanuts could work too, or cashews
- Crispy fried shallots to sprinkle on top (you can get bags of these at many Asian supermarkets – try not to get ones fried in palm oil, for the orangutans an’ all)
- Um, this is where you tell me…because I’d like to try variations of this too!
I keep basically everything raw except the protein and noodles, make sure the noodles are well drained and then toss everything together. Then I spread a thin layer on a plate, drizzle over the dressing, and repeat. This makes for a more interesting eating experience as you get little pockets of varying flavours and textures.
Sweet peanut & lime dressing (would also make a rad dipping sauce for rice paper rolls)
- 1 lime, about 1 1/2 Tbs juice and all the zest…yes you could use lemon but it won’t be as awesome I reckon!
- equal amount of good soy sauce (I like Yamasa)
- equal amount of honey or golden syrup
- equal amount of good peanut butter (where the only ingredient is roasted peanuts, although salt and extra oil are ok) – I use crunchy but feel free to use smooth, there should be plenty of crunch from the raw veges anyway
- half the amount of lime juice worth of mirin
- freshly minced garlic, ginger or chilli
- tamarind paste
- whatever else you like
Mix together with a fork in a bowl – it’ll seem like it won’t ever combine, but keep at it. If using crunchy peanut butter it might not go uniform. Meh. Taste and adjust to your, well, taste. Too salty? Add more honey. Not tangy/fragrant enough? Add more lime. Not sweet enough? Add more honey. Not rich enough? Add more peanut butter. See, this dressing has it all.
*This is pretty convoluted, but yields a delicious result. Sit your firm tofu in nice salty water at least overnight. Slice thinly (but thick enough that you can pick it up with a fork and it won’t fall apart), dip both sides in cornflour that’s been mixed with salt and pepper. Shallow fry in a single layer in a large pan on both sides until lightly golden and crispy. Even though they don’t stay crispy the texture is still super moreish and holds the dressing a lot better.
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