Asian Noodle Salad with Peanut Salad Dressing

Asian Noodle Salad with Peanut Salad Dressing Recipe

We went to a potluck this weekend, and I brought along an Asian-inspired salad. I wanted to serve it as a main dish, so I made a pasta salad loaded with tofu and vegetables. But instead of using regular pasta, I used thin egg noodles. I mixed a myriad of vegetables such as crimini mushrooms, baby zucchini, cauliflower, bok choy, sugar snap peas and pickled red peppers with fried, cubed tofu. To finish the dish, I covered it in a delicious peanut dressing made of peanut butter, chili garlic sauce, sugar cane vinegar and ponzu soy sauce.

This cold Asian noodle salad can be prepared hours in advance, making it perfect for picnics and potlucks. Just leave the peanut salad dressing on the side and mix right before serving.

Ingredients

Yields: 8 servings

1 (16-ounce) package fresh thin egg noodles
1 teaspoon salt
1 (12-ounce) package firm tofu
2 cloves fresh garlic, crushed and minced
½ cauliflower
¼ cup regular white vinegar
¼ cup sugar snap peas
½ cup bok choy
¼ cup baby zucchini, halved, lengthwise
1 cup crimini mushrooms, quartered
¼ cup pickled peppadew peppers, drained and chopped
¼ cup sugar cane vinegar (or any white vinegar)
½ cup creamy peanut butter
5 tablespoons ponzu soy sauce
3/4 cup canola oil (or any neutral oil), as needed
¼ cup hazelnut oil (or any flavorful oil)
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil (optional)
4 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon chili garlic sauce
2 teaspoons ginger, freshly grated
1 tablespoon sesame seeds (optional), slightly toasted
3 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
3 tablespoons curly parsley, chopped
¼ cup roasted peanuts, coarsely crushed


Directions

Soaking the cauliflower:

To cut the head of the cauliflowers into florets, remove and discard the green leaves and the stem.

Place the florets in a large bowl, cover them with water and add the white vinegar. Stir well. Soak (see tips) for 5 minutes, then drain.

Boiling cauliflower:

Fill a pot with cold salted water and bring to a boil. Add the whole cauliflowers, bring back to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook for about 20 minutes. The cauliflower should be fork-tender (not mushy). Drain the water. Allow to cool a little.

Frying tofu:

Drain any liquid from the tofu. Pat dry with a paper towel. Slice the block of tofu into 1-½" thick pieces. and cut into cubes.

In a small pan, heat about 4 tablespoons of canola oil for about 2 minutes. The key to good fried tofu is to get little bubbles when the tofu is in contact with the oil. Don't overheat the oil; otherwise the tofu will get too browned and chewy. Just stick to the slightly jumping bubbles. Add the tofu one piece at a time, making sure the tofu pieces don't touch each other. Lower the heat to medium. Cook for 2 minutes; the tofu will start to pop and increase in volume. Flip each piece and cook about a minute longer. Transfer to a platter.

In the remaining oil, add the garlic; cook until lightly golden. Add the crimini mushrooms. Toss for about a minute, then add the baby zucchini. Toss well until golden. Turn off the heat. Transfer to a platter and allow to cool.

Cooking thin egg noodles:

On a large platter, untangle and separate the noodles. Fill a large pot with water. Bring to a boil. Place the noodles in the boiling water, return the water to a boil then lower the heat to medium-low. That way the pasta is cooked evenly all the way through. Salt the water half way through the cooking process (it will bring out the natural flavor of the noodles and they will be softer) and keep stirring every now and then so the noodles don't stick to the bottom.  Cook for about 2-3 minutes. When the noodles are cooked (tender but still in shape and firm), drizzle about 1 tablespoon of canola oil, then drain the noodles. Discard the liquid. Add the fried garlic. Separate the noodles, by creating little nests (so it doesn't get too tangled and the noodles aren't stuck to each other) and drizzle with more oil. Set aside.

Meanwhile, bring another large pot of salted water to a boil, add the sugar snap peas, return to a boil, add the bok choy and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, until crisp tender. Lift the sugar snap peas and bok choy from the water with a slotted spoon and immerse them in a bowl of ice water. Drain.

Making Asian peanut dressing:

In a bowl, combine the peanut butter, sugar cane vinegar, ponzu soy sauce, condensed milk, chili garlic sauce, grated ginger, remaining canola oil, hazelnut oil and 1 tablespoon sesame oil. Whisk well. 

Assembly time:

Place the thin egg noodles with cilantro and curly parsley in a large bowl. Pour the Asian peanut dressing over the noodles. Add the pickled peppadew peppers, cauliflower, crimini mushrooms, baby zucchini, bok choy, sugar snap peas and fried tofu. Toss well. Add the sesame seeds (if used) and a drizzle of sesame oil.

Serve at room temperature with more salad dressing on the side.

Garnish with crushed peanuts.

Bon appétit!


Tips

For a meat version, you could replace the fried tofu with chicken.

I bought the sugar cane vinegar at Ranch 99 in Mountain View.

My favorite egg noodle brand is New Hong Kong Noodle Company (they carry all sorts of noodle products).

The addition of the sesame oil at the end is the perfect finishing touch to the noodles.

Soak the cauliflower in the "vinegary" liquid to prevent oxidation (turning brown) of the vegetable.

I used store-bought Lee Kum Kee brand chili garlic sauce.

You can find pickled peppadew peppers at Trader Joe's.

For a vegan version, replace the sweetened condensed milk with honey.

Published By: Jacqueline Pham on April 5, 2011.


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