By Chef Linda
Does your mouth water when you see the word “Thai” in a recipe title? There's good reason. Thai cuisine weaves together different fundamental taste senses in each dish: sour, sweet, salty, bitter, and spicy to deliver a complex experience that can often appear very simple. Words that come to mind when we think of Thai food are; texture, color, taste, and attention to detail, with an emphasis on lightly prepared dishes that include strong, flavorful components and a spicy edge.
In this recipe for Thai Peanut Noodles, tender noodles and crunchy, colorful vegetables provide a delightful texture play. One might say these are merely a vessel to deliver the vibrant and sumptuous sauce. A flavorful sauce that can transform the simplest dish into an experience: this is one of those sauces. Velvety, exotic, and lick-the-spoon-good-enough to use on just about anything, this peanut sauce can be made one of two ways, both are simple. One takes a couple of minutes and the other takes a couple of minutes more. If you do have those extra couple of minutes, opt for the version that includes quickly simmering the ingredients, it's worth it.
The finished dish hits all the notes of texture and taste, and leaves you feeling a world away.
Thai Peanut Noodles
1 package udon noodles (or substitute spaghetti)
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 medium cucumber, unpeeled, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
1 red bell pepper cut into 1/4 inch pieces
3 to 4 scallions thinly sliced
For the Peanut Sauce
1 (14 ounce can) coconut milk, light or regular
1 cup natural unsweetened creamy peanut butter
2 to 3 garlic cloves, minced
1-inch piece of fresh ginger, grated
1/4 cup real maple syrup
3 to 4 tablespoons red curry paste, found in the ethnic isle of most grocery stores
3 tablespoons tamari or good soy sauce
Juice from one large lime or 2 tablespoons white vinegar or rice vinegar
1/2 cup water, more the thin if necessary
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1/2 cup roasted, salted peanuts, roughly chopped
Chopped cilantro, optional
Cook noodles according to package directions. When done, drain and rinse in cold water. Add sesame oil and toss to coat so noodles won’t stick together. Set aside. In a large bowl, toss together the cucumber, pepper, and scallions. Add noodles and toss to combine.
To make quick version of peanut sauce, whisk all the ingredients together, except the chopped peanuts and cilantro. Sauce should be thin enough to easily pour or drizzle. Use more water to thin if necessary. To make the simmered version of peanut sauce, whisk together all the ingredients, except peanuts and cilantro, in a small pot and bring to a simmer. Cook while stirring often, for 2 to 3 minutes. Let cool slightly. Use immediately or store in a container in the fridge for several weeks.
To serve, pour desired amount of sauce over noodles and vegetables, toss to combine. Top with chopped peanuts and cilantro. Serve in bowls or in lettuce cups.