Monday, February 20, 2012

Spicy Peanut Noodles

Sesame noodles defined my childhood Chinese take-out Sunday nights.  I never left the table without second helpings (or sometimes thirds.)  My family became wary of our weekly tradition though after learning about the harmful effects of MSG, loaded salt, and saturated fat used in Chinese food cooking, and consequently substituted Sunday night take-out with more healthful alternatives.

Therefore, I was delighted to get my hands on this healthy version of my beloved sesame noodles. Serious Eat's Spicy Peanut Noodle Salad with Cucumbers, Red Peppers and Basil is the perfect makeover to a classic calorie-laden dish. Peanut butter provides the majority of calories in the salad, but they are derived from the LDL (bad) chloesterol-lowering "good fat". A heaping serving of julienned vegetables helps lighten up the calorie density while providing a nutrient boost, and whole wheat linguine or the fiber-rich, calorie-free Shirakati noodles (read more below) can be used to eliminate carb overload. Finally, preparing the dish yourself rids the mystery of any hidden additives, oils or salt that are potential in the restaurant-made counterpart. Another tip to maximum the health benefits of this dish: half the sauce and noodles while keeping the original quantity of veggies, and add a lean protein like grilled chicken to the mix.

Sesame oil is the key ingredient in this dish if you want it to taste authentic; I would not recommended substituting anything else. I mostly stuck to the original recipe here, but I did use a bit less chili sauce (as mine was garlic-chili and I didn't want it to overpower), and used lime juice and rice vinegar as I enjoy both. A huge cilantro buff, I stuck to this herb but would highly recommend basil as well.

Spicy Peanut Noodle Salad with Cucumbers, Red Peppers and Basil (original link here)
Yield: 4 servings
Prep time: 15 minutes


8 ounces fresh Chinese noodles (see note)

For the Dressing:
1/2 cup chunky peanut butter
3 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons fresh ground chili sauce (such as Huy Fong brand Sambal Oelek or Sriracha), more or less to taste
2 tablespoons juice from 2 limes (or rice wine vinegar)
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seed oil
1 clove garlic, grated on a microplane grater
1 tablespoon sugar or honey
3 tablespoons warm water

To Assemble:
2 large red, orange, or yellow bell peppers, sliced into thin strips
1 large cucumber, seeded and sliced into fine julienne or small half moons
1 cup mung bean sprouts
1 cup loosely packed fresh basil, mint, or cilantro leaves
8 scallions, finely sliced at a severe bias to create long, thin strips
2 jalapeño peppers, seeds and ribs removed, sliced into fine strips
1 to 2 red thai bird chilis, finely minced (optional)
1/2 cup roughly crushed roasted peanuts

1. Cook noodles according to package directions. Drain and transfer to a large bowl of ice water. Agitate noodles until thoroughly chilled. Set aside while you make the dressing.
2. In a large bowl, combine peanut butter, soy sauce, chili sauce, lime juice, sesame seed oil, garlic, sugar or honey, and water. Whisk until homogeneous. Drain noodles thoroughly and add to bowl. Add bell peppers, cucumber, bean sprouts, basil leaves, scallions, jalapeños, and bird chilis (if using). Toss to combine. Serve immediately, topped with roasted peanuts.

What are Shirataki Noodles?
Shirataki noodles are a Japanese noodle composed of a dietary fiber called glucomannan that is either extremely low-calorie or calorie-free.  Similar to tofu, they do not have much taste on their own but easily absorb the sauce or dressing they are submerged in. Shirataki noodles are also called "yam noodles", as they are made from the flour of the yam-like Konjac plant.
Approach these noodles as you would any other high-fiber food: if you don't normally eat a lot of fiber, eat a moderate moment to make sure the fiber doesn't get funky on your stomach. Also make sure to drink lots of water with the noodles. A recent converter to shirataki noodles myself, I can personally vouch for them: the texture is spot on comparable to any thin Asian noodle, and twirls perfectly with chopsticks too :)

1 comment:

  1. shirataki noodles consists of essential vitamins and nutrients,both the taste and health benefits of these noodles can be enhanced by preparing them with vegetables.Thanks for the awesome recipe.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.