Spicy Peanut Noodles are great for summer, though the ingredients transcend seasons. They can be a side dish or the main course, depending on what you add. These are so much more than just noodles and I always serve them when we celebrate the Asian New Year. I love the flexibility these noodles offer. You can add julienned cucumber, radishes, sliced scallions and shredded, cooked chicken or pork or diced, cooked shrimp. Serve everything on the side and everyone should be happy. Really, they should be. If they aren’t, show them the door!!!
I serve this with copious amounts of cilantro on the side, as well. You know not everyone loves cilantro the way The Goddess does. Some people think it tastes like dirt. Or soap. Apparently, it’s a genetic thing. Who knew? Either that, or they had their potty mouth washed out with soap too many times. But, alas,, who is The Goddess to judge?
After I cook the noodles and please, don’t over-cook them. I drain and rinse the noodles. Yup. That’s right. I rinse them. You want to remove some of the starch. Drain them well and then, while still hot, add part of the sesame oil.
For the sauce, I like to whisk the peanut butter and the part of the hot pasta water together first. This loosens the peanut butter up a bit. That isn’t what’s happening in the picture on the left, is it? I decided I wanted to add more peanut butter. And that’s when I realized combining the hot pasta water and the peanut butter, was the better way. I’m constantly learning new things, when I cook. You know how that goes. Therefore, add the hot pasta water to the peanut butter and then proceed. Anyway, I add the remaining sauce ingredients, and whisk them up together. It should be relatively thick and smooth-ish. Then, I dump the noodles on top of the sauce, and toss. I like to let the dressed noodles sit for about 15 minutes, then see if I need to add some additional pasta water—I usually do need to add a bit. You can garnish with the chopped peanuts and minced fresh herbs. Personally, I like to stir them into the noodles. And I like to use a combination of fresh herbs. I added some minced scallion, this time. The other garnishes I prefer on the side.
Peanut noodles are many times served cold. So, you’ll need to make certain there’s plenty of salt added. When they’re warm they should taste slightly salty. When they are chilled, they will then, be perfectly seasoned. Cold “numbs” out taste buds a bit. These are also good at room temperature…tonight I served them like that, with my Favorite Grilled Eggplant, and crab cakes with Fresh Peach & Herb Salsa! Summer on a plate
Spicy Peanut Noodles
- 1 pound fresh Chinese egg noodles (1/8-inch-thick), or dry spaghetti or linguine
- 4 teaspoons Asian sesame oil, divided
- 1/3 cup smooth peanut butter (see NOTE)
- 1/4 cup soy sauce or tamari
- 3-4 tablespoons rice vinegar (Chinese is stronger than Japanese)
- 1 tablespoon sweet soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 tablespoon finely grated ginger
- 2 teaspoons grated garlic
- 1-2 teaspoons chili-garlic paste or sambal oelek (to taste)
- 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice (optional)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt or to taste
- 1/3-1/2 cup reserved noodle water (from cooking the noodles)
- 1/4 cup chopped dry-roasted peanuts
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro leaves
- 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh Thai basil
- 2 teaspoons finely minced garlic chives (optional)
- 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh mint (I like orange mint or lemon balm)
- Half a cucumber, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/8-inch by 1/8-inch by 2-inch sticks
- Shredded or julienned scallions, including some of the green part
- Shredded carrots (optional)
- Bean sprouts (optional)
Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add noodles and cook until barely tender, about 4 minutes for fresh noodles, 6-8 minutes for dry pasta; there should be a hint of chewiness. Drain, reserving about 3/4 cup of the cooking liquid. Rinse with cold water; drain again. Toss with 2 teaspoons of the sesame oil.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the peanut butter and 1/3 cup of the reserved pasta water, until smooth. Add the remaining sesame oil, soy sauce, rice vinegar, sweet soy sauce, honey, ginger, garlic, lime juice, and chili-garlic paste. It should be smooth-ish.
Plop the noodles on top and toss. Let stand for about 15 minutes; toss again. If they seem dry, add some additional pasta water and toss. Transfer to a serving bowl, and garnish with the peanuts and herbs (I usually toss them together). Serve the julienned cucumber, scallions and shredded carrots and bean sprouts, if using, in bowls on the side. The noodles are best made at least two hours before serving.
NOTE: You may substitute Chinese sesame paste (Lan Chi brand® is very good) for half of the peanut butter. Chinese sesame paste is made of toasted sesame seeds; it is not the same as tahini, which is made of plain, untoasted sesame seeds. You can use tahini in a pinch, but a little extra sesame oil to compensate for flavor. You can make this a main course by simply offering a bowl of shredded, cooked chicken or chopped cooked shirmp on the side. To make this gluten-free, use rice noodles and gluten-free soy or tamari. I find that rice noodles absorb liquid more readily than wheat noodles, so you may need to add a bit of additional noodle water or broth. These are also very good served at room temperature.
Spicy Peanut Noodles Recipe©Marcia Lahens 2020. All rights reserved.