Spicy Ginger Peanut Noodles


I cannot tell a lie: this is one of my favorite noodle recipes to eat.

It’s not because I love peanut butter, and ginger, and sesame. It’s not because I love that you can make this as spicy or as mild as you like. It’s not because it’s super easy, although all those things are nice too.

It’s really because every time I make it, it’s a little different. Depending on what fresh ingredients I have in my fridge or growing in my herb garden, I can always change it up a little, and it always tastes amazing and fresh. And because of that, it’s easy to customize the recipe to include ingredients that you love, so that you can make it just the way you like it. Like a little extra heat? Just go for the max number of thai chilis. Like it a little milder? Seed one jalapeno and use that instead. Hate carrots? Leave ’em out. Crazy for ginger? Up the quantity to two tablespoons….

TIP: Smaller chilis are more potent than larger chilis of the same variety. Chilis grown in a hotter, more humid climate are spicier than those grown in a cool, dry climate.

TIP: If using the optional vegetarian “chicken,” read ingredients carefully before you buy to make sure that your variety is vegan. Also, look for brands that are made in the USA; brands made in taiwan or china may not include all ingredients on the label, and may not be vegetarian at all. If I am using vegetarian “chicken,” I go to my local asian mega-mart and look there. They carry US brands, and they are typically much cheaper than popular grocery store brands such as Morningstar Farms.

What other fresh ingredients would YOU add to these noodles?

Spicy Ginger Peanut Noodles

Ingredients

  • 12 oz spaghetti, preferably whole wheat
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1/4 cup white sesame seeds
  • 3 tbsp peanut butter (chunky, smooth, or other)
  • 3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1 tbsp fresh ginger, finely diced
  • 5 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 -4 thai chilis, chopped (or 1 jalapeno, chopped, or 1 tsp tabasco sauce)
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2-3 tbsp water
  • 2 tbsp black (or white) sesame seeds
  • 2 carrots, peeled and grated
  • 4 spring onions, sliced on the bias
  • 8 oz vegetarian “chicken” shreds, or strips sliced into long, thin pieces (optional)
  • Any other veggies or herbs  you want to add (i.e. celery or chilis sliced on the bias; shredded raw kohlrabi, turnip, or jicama; fresh parsley, mint, or chives; etc.)

Method

Break spaghetti in half before cooking (this will make it easier to distribute the rest of the ingredients evenly at the end). Cook pasta to al dente in salted water according to package directions. Drain, and place in a very large bowl. Add toasted sesame oil to the pasta, and use tongs to toss the spaghetti in the oil; this will keep it from sticking.

Meanwhile, place 1/4 cup sesame seeds in a dry pan, and toast over medium heat until aromatic and just starting to brown a little. Set aside to cool a little bit.

Place peanut butter, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, rice vinegar, chilis or hot sauce, brown sugar, and toasted sesame seeds into your blender. Blend until smooth. Add water 1 tablespoon at a time, until the mixture is the consistency of cream.

Pour the dressing over the noodles. Add the black sesame seeds, carrots, spring onions, veggie  chicken, and any other veggies or herbs to the bowl. Use tongs to toss. Serve room temperature or cold.

Makes about 8 servings.

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Lemon Ginger Tea

lemon-090930-0002Lemons are really wonderful. No one would ever sit down and eat a lemon or drink a glass of straight lemon juice unless it was for a dare. But added to food and drinks, lemon brings an amazing brightness and pleasant acidity to many foods, both savory and sweet.

But when using lemon, there is a dark side of which we must be careful. It is….BOTTLED LEMON JUICE.amcor_cliffstar_lemon_juice

Oof, I shiver just to look at it.

Let’s consider bottled lemon juice for a moment…have you ever tasted the stuff straight out of the bottle? And then tasted a real lemon? They don’t taste remotely alike. It’s like bottled met fresh at a party once, and that’s all they have in common. Bottled just tastes kinda dead, and it certainly isn’t doing your food any favors either.

To be fair, there is one thing that bottled juice is good for, and that is canning tomatoes and tomato products (which I will discuss in another post). But if you don’t can, then you don’t need it.

Juicing lemons takes hardly any time at all, and it will really elevate the flavor of your food if you’re not already using fresh juice; this is a case where the effort is more than worth the return.

No special equipment is needed, you can juice lemons with a fork over a bowl if you want to. But if you’re going to take the plunge, I recommend splurging on a reamer that sits above a measuring cup (such as this one from oxo), which is actually really handy for juicing any citrus fruits.

You will notice that in all my recipes, I stress that you must use fresh lemon juice. Now you know why. There are certain foods that I make and take to parties with me that always have people asking me “what’s the secret?” Now you know the secret.

So let’s jump in and make something that really showcases fresh lemon juice: my favorite tea.

Technically, this is an “infusion” and not tea. It is inspired by a drink I used to order in the Bookworm Cafe on Lamma Island when I lived in Hong Kong. It is really versatile and the quantities can be liberally adjusted to suite your taste.

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Lemon Ginger Tea

Ingredients

  • a 3″ piece of ginger root
  • 2-3 lemons, juiced
  • 1 quart boiling water
  • 2 tablespoons agave nectar

Method

Give the ginger a good scrub under running water (I don’t usually even bother to peel it). Slice it into thin coins, and place into a tea pot or pitcher. Add lemon juice, boiling water, and agave nectar. Stir to combine, and let steep.

The amount of time you let the tea steep will affect how spicy it gets from the ginger…longer time means spicier. I really like the kick of ginger so I tend to let it sit for quite a while before drinking.

Taste the tea and adjust the sweetness and acidity as desired but playing with the agave and lemon juice.

Serve hot OR over ice. It’s delicious both ways.

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TIP: If you’re really feeling saucy, how about adding some fresh mint as well?

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