Yesterday I threw together this peanut noodle salad in a mad rush while preparing a couple of other dishes for a big pot luck dinner we were hosting last night. It often happens that when I’m cooking during the day, preparing for a dinner party, the last thing I think about is what to have for lunch. My big pot of vegetarian chili was simmering, the chocolate tart was cooling (as much as it could do in my sweltering hot kitchen), and I quickly decided on this cold noodle salad for lunch.
The last few days have been beautiful here in Auckland, and yesterday was no exception so we ate this peanut noodle salad outside on the balcony. It was the first time I can remember eating outside in forever. A perfectly timed slice of blue sky combined harmoniously with the warm breeze and the pale blossoms in our front yard to lure us outside and spend a brief moment celebrating that the most hideous winter is finally, finally over.
I’ve come to really appreciate cold soba noodles lately. In fact, I would say I think I prefer them cold. I sometimes find when I try to serve them hot they can disintegrate and break apart quite easily. But served cold, they tend to hold their form and retain a little firmness. The key is to run them under cold water immediately after draining to stop them cooking any further. Then add a small glug of oil and stir through with a fork to stop them sticking.
Peanut Noodle Salad Recipe
I used baby mung bean sprouts in this salad. They are actually the same as regular “bean sprouts” often used in Asian cooking but they haven’t been left to sprout so long. Thus they still retain the form of the bean, lending a lovely sweetness and crunchy texture. Regular bean sprouts would work fine as well.
9oz / 270g soba noodles
1 bunch asparagus spears, trimmed, cut into 1- to 1½-inch (2-3cm) pieces
3-4 large eggs
½ cup smooth / creamy peanut butter
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes, crushed
3 tablespoons brown rice vinegar
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
2 medium cloves garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons cilantro / coriander, finely chopped
¼ cup – ½ cup hot water
juice of half a lime
sea salt to taste
½ cup roasted peanuts
½ cup baby mung bean sprouts
2 spring onions / scallions, finely sliced
Place the eggs in a large saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil then turn off the heat and leave to cook for 7 minutes. Quickly drain the water and place eggs in a bowl of iced water. This will stop the area between the yolk and the white from going grey.
Add a couple of big pinches of salt to a large saucepan of boiling water. cook the asparagus for 30 seconds, quickly remove and run under cold water to stop them cooking further. You want the asparagus nice and crunchy. If possible, reserve the water for cooking the noodles.
Cook the soba noodles in a large saucepan of salted water according to packet instructions. Be careful not to overcook – you want them to have a little bite to them. Run them under cold water immediately after draining to stop them cooking any further. Then add a small glug of oil and stir through with a fork to stop them sticking.
To make the dressing, mix the peanut butter, brown rice vinegar, toasted sesame oil, red pepper flakes, garlic, lime juice, and cilantro / coriander. Stir in the hot water a few tablespoons at a time, until you are happy with the consistency. I like mine to be a little on the thin side. Taste and adjust flavours until you are happy – maybe a little salt or more lime juice. My peanut butter was unsalted so I added a few pinches of salt here.
Stir half the sauce into the noodles along with two thirds of the asparagus, mung bean sprouts, peanuts and spring onions. Serve and top with chopped egg and the remaining asparagus, mung bean sprouts, peanuts and spring onions. Add more sauce until you are happy with the taste.