Here we are, well into two months of lockdown. Undoubtedly, we are all hoping that we can soon return some semblance of normalcy in these chaotic times. At the beginning of the quarantine, I was naively hopeful. I promised myself that my diet would remain in tact; lots of leafy greens, clean proteins, sensible portions, blah, blah, blah. Though, no sooner were we in lockdown, than it seemed that all I could to do was eat my weight in carbs. I went through a phase of what I call “stress cooking”, by which I mean cooking as a way to reduce stress. By day 10 of the lockdown, I managed to go through about 4 kilos (8 pounds) of flour by attempting to teach myself to make Chinese hand-pulled noodles after remembering a hand-pulled noodle workshop I attended years ago. The workshop was taught by a Chinese noodle master. He made the entire process from making the dough and pulling and stretching the noodles look like child’s play. But, as the saying goes, “easier said than done.” And while my failed attempts at noodle pulling were still edible, even pleasurable, I haven’t fully decided whether it was the sort stress-cooking that was more stress inducing, rather than stress reducing. Though, I suppose, it’s arguable that cooking is always mix of both. I have heard that it can take years to master the art of hand-pulled noodles. Since embarking on the task, I’ve come to the realization that I may have been overly ambitious to think that I could learn the process of hand-pulled noodles well enough to make them for my team upon return to the office. Certainly, my blithe ambition was spurred on partly because I love a good challenge but mostly because I miss cooking for my team —even if it is the sort of “stress cooking” that induces more stress for me than it reduces. And while there may not be any hand-made noodles whenever the time comes that we can reconvene (sorry guys), I’d be more than happy to offer my lovely colleagues a heaping bowl of these noodles.
Spicy Peanut Noodle Salad
Serves 4 -6
1 box spaghetti, linguine or bavette noodles, (500g)
For the dressing:
3 stalks green onion, minced
2 inch knob of fresh ginger (5 cm), minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
¾ cup creamy peanut butter
¼ cup tahini (sesame paste), optional
¼ cup honey, agave or root syrup
3 tablespoons lime juice bottled lime or from fresh limes
4-5 tablespoons soy sauce (light or dark, whichever you have on hand)
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
¼ cup neutral-flavoured vegetable oil such as canola or sunflower
2-3 heaped tablespoons of crispy chilli in oil (use the crispy and oily bits)
½ teaspoon sea salt
For the vegetables, use whatever you like or have on hand. Here are some suggestions:
1 red paprika, julienned
1 carrot, julienned
1 head of broccoli, florets only, cooked and blanched
2 handfuls of fresh spinach
To top the salad:
2 tablespoons salted peanuts, roughly chopped (optional)
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds (optional)
Start by cooking the noodles according to the package instructions. Meanwhile make the dressing.
To make the dressing, add the green onion, ginger, garlic, peanut butter, tahini (if using), honey, lime juice, soy sauce, sesame oil, vegetable oil, crispy chili and sea salt in a mixing bowl. Whisk to combine.
Once the noodles have cooked, strain and set aside ½ cup of the pasta to reserve should for the sauce, should you need it.
Place the cooked, drained noodles into a large mixing bowl. While the noodles are still warm, add the dressing and vegetables and toss, adding the reserved pasta water a few tablespoons at a time, if necessary. Top the salad with the peanuts and sesame seeds.
The salad can be enjoyed warm, room temperature or cold.