This summer, I am conquering my culinary fears. No, there will be no pig slaughter. I also will not be venturing into molecular gastronomy anytime soon. But! I will be trying to make all the delicious things that I have always relied on others to do, thinking it must be too complicated, messy, or difficult for a hungry person like me to even think about trying.
In the process, I have learned something surprising (and kind of stupid). You see, those things I had avoided? The ones I thought were too challenging? Turns out they are often really, really easy. And also delicious. This delightful cold rice noodle salad is one of them.
I know, I know. What could I have been thinking? Cold rice noodles are not complicated at all. The thing is, I wanted this to be at least remotely authentic*, and I had trouble knowing how long to cook the rice noodles, since I bought real ones (with zero english on the package) from an asian market. But then I remembered this one really tasty recipe I made long ago with vermicelli following Nigella’s delicious instructions. Suddenly, I decided it was time to abandon my fears and embark on a tasty cold rice noodle adventure.
And that, quite simply, is where the story ends. I made a hodgepodge of all the things I have ever wanted in a noodle dish, but never could find. At once spicy, fresh, and palate-cleansing, these noodles are the perfect accompaniment to a lazy summer day outside. Dressing these in two different sauces may seem excessive to some, but I am positive that it is necessary.
The noodles first acquaint themselves with a drizzle of gingery-peanut sauce and some fresh jalapenos, pickling pleasantly in cilantro lime dressing. Letting this mixture chill in the fridge allows the fragrant flavors to really absorb into the noodles before they are topped with salty chopped peanuts, snappy cucumber slices, crunchy carrot matchsticks, more gingery-peanut sauce, and a giant helping of fresh herbs. The more I describe the process, the more I wonder what on earth took me so long to get over my culinary hesitations…I will say one thing, though–my feelings on aspic (“No, Always”) will likely remain the same.
One step at a time, friends. One step at a time.
Spicy Cilantro Cold Noodle Salad with Gingery Peanut Sauce and Fresh Herbs
2 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tsp fish sauce
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tbsp brown sugar
juice of half a lime
1 garlic clove, minced
ground black pepper, for seasoning
3 tbsp fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
2 tbsp fresh jalapeno, cut into thin slices
GINGERY PEANUT SAUCE:
2 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp creamy peanut butter
1 inch ginger root, peeled and grated
1/4 tsp fish sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
3 tbsp soy sauce
juice of half a lime
2 tbsp roasted, salted peanuts, crushed
6 oz rice noodles
4-5 cups boiling water (or just enough to cover the noodles)
3/4 cup cucumber, thinly sliced
1 cup carrots, sliced into matchsticks
1/4 cup jalapeno, thinly sliced
3 tbsp scallions
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
3/4 cup fresh basil, roughly chopped
1/4 cup roasted, salted peanuts, crushed
JALAPENO-CILANTRO DRESSING: Whisk first seven ingredients together, then stir in cilantro and jalapeno. Set aside to pickle.
GINGERY PEANUT SAUCE: Whisk together all ingredients and set aside.
NOODLES: Cover in boiling water and set aside to cook for 15-20 minutes. When noodles are fully cooked (and you want them to be more soft than al dente), drain and shock with cold water. Combine noodles with the Jalapeno-Cilantro Dressing and stir in 2 tbsp Gingery Peanut Sauce. Refrigerate for 30-45 minutes (this allows the flavors to meld). This can also be done 24 hours ahead of time, in which case the additional Gingery Peanut Sauce would need to be covered and refrigerated, as well.
ASSEMBLY: After noodles have been refrigerated, divide into individual servings and top with cucumber slices, carrots, scallions, cilantro, basil, crushed peanuts, and drizzle with the remaining Gingery Peanut Sauce before serving. Yum.
*Yes, I am aware. Jalapenos are not authentic. I tried?