Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Thai Curry Peanut Noodles

I quit testing recipes for noodles with peanut sauce when I realized that none of them was going to top our favorite Peanutty Noodles. Recently, however, I came across one that had curry paste in the peanut sauce, and I guess I was really hungry for noodles, because I decided to try it right away. Well, as right away as I ever get to anything.

When I bookmarked this one in an electronic version of Eating Well magazine, I just looked at the photo and the ingredients and thought I was reading a recipe for a warm noodle dish. Actually paying attention revealed that the original recipe is for cold noodles, and I briefly considered making cold noodles, but the snow had come back by then and a cool supper was less appealing. I simply cooked the vegetables in a wok, added the noodles and the sauce and tossed it all together to heat up.

I stuck with the vegetables called for in the original recipe. The red bell pepper seemed like a no-brainer, but I thought it was kind of unusual for a Thai-style noodle recipe to call for kohlrabi. I’m in favor of kohlrabi, which is basically a mildly flavored, overachieving cabbage stem, and it’s popular around here, but I wasn’t sure I could get any. I was thrilled to find some, however, and locally grown, too! It seems a nearby farm had some awesome greenhouses and I could use super fresh kohlrabi from Minnesota in my Thai noodles!

This is a really delicious dish of hot curried noodles. It’s different enough from Peanutty Noodles to be appreciated as its own thing. It’s filling and satisfying, complex and flavorful. It’s not particularly spicy, but there’s plenty of complex warmth in the tastes and aromas of the sauce. I will say that I made it a little salty, but I think that’s because I salted the water in which I cooked the noodles, then used that water to thin the sauce. Cutting out that salt should keep things out of the too-salty range.

There are also probably dozens of variations, additions and subtractions one could apply to the basic concept of this dish. In my opinion, only the peanut butter, curry paste and noodles are absolutely essential components. Even the red curry paste I used could be replaced with green or yellow curry paste. You could add more spice. You could use cabbage in place of the kohlrabi, add other vegetables, or add some protein. I’ve thought of cooking the vegetables and making a saucier sauce and serving it all over rice instead of with noodles.

Of course, this could be turned into a cold dish, too. Although I suppose I could just go to back to the original recipe for that.

Thai Curry Peanut Noodles
Based on a recipe in Eating Well magazine (March/April 2015)

I recommend cooking the noodles without salt to keep the saltiness under control. Also, feel free to swap in whatever vegetables you like or have available, such as cabbage, snow peas, carrots, etc.

8 ounces whole wheat spaghetti
½ cup frozen edamame
½ cup smooth peanut butter
2 tablespoons red curry paste
¼ cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons canola or peanut oil
¼ cup finely chopped red onion
1 medium garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 medium red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
1 medium kohlrabi, peeled and cut into thin sticks
½ cup chopped cilantro
½ cup chopped peanuts

1. Cook the spaghetti in boiling water until still a little bit firm. Add the edamame to the boiling water with the spaghetti and continue cooking until the spaghetti is cooked as you like it. Reserve about 1 cup pasta cooking water. Drain the pasta and edamame and set aside.

2. In a small bowl, combined the peanut butter, curry paste, soy sauce and sesame oil. Whisk together. Add about ¼ cup of the reserved pasta water and whisk until smooth. Set aside.

3. Heat the canola or peanut oil in a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently about 1 minute. Add the garlic and ginger and cook, stirring constantly, about 30 seconds. Add the bell pepper and kohlrabi. Cook and stir about 5 minutes or until tender-crisp.

4. Add the noodles and edamame and stir everything together to combine. Stir in the peanut butter mixture. Add enough of the remaining pasta water to thin out the sauce such that it coats the noodles and vegetables. Stir in the cilantro and peanuts.

Makes 4 main-dish servings.

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