Independence Day is coming up, and here I am, craving what seems to be commonly dubbed Cold “Asian” Peanut Noodle salad. This dish is perfect for a side or a main meal. When I want to serve my melting pot of friends, and please young and old, alike, I don’t mind playing with my food – and flavors – to come up with my own Minnesota/Asian fusion version of this salad. Would that be Minasian?
These days, you never know who might show up at your cook out and what diet requirements they may have, and this recipe, although probably more American than Asian, has it all – it’s chock full of vegetables, cool, creamy, crunchy and delicious with just the faintest hint of spiciness. It’s hearty enough to pass as a main dish for the stray vegetarian or yourself. The garnish of peanuts is delicious but serves, also, to flag the dish for anyone who might have an allergy.
Play with your food – add more or less of anything. If you wish, leave out the noodles and serve the veggies with lettuce cups…or make it with rice noodles and turn it into spring rolls (just add a spicy dipping sauce…) This type of “peanut sauce” is an improvisation of the real thing: lime stands in for Kafir lime leaves, molasses for tamarind, peanut butter for roasted and ground peanuts. Play with the ingredients as you see fit, and more or less of any vegetables, or other vegetables you like. To see an actual recipe for peanut sauce, I recommend the Asian Grandmother. By far one of my favorite blogs.
Cold Asian Peanut Noodle Salad, serves 4 to 6 as a main dish, cost $3.67
- 4 to 8 ounces Udon noodles (or substitute soba, spaghetti or linguine)
- 1/2 cup peanut butter (choose a good one, without sugar)
- 2 cloves of garlic, smashed and minced into a paste
- 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon Sherry
- 1 lime, cut in half, 1/2 for serving and the juice and finely grated zest of the other for the sauce
- 2 teaspoons sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon molasses
- 1 teaspoon chile paste
- 1/2 small head of cabbage, sliced very thinly
- 2 bell peppers, red or orange or combination, sliced very thinly, then in 1/2
- five or six radishes, sliced thinly
- 1/2 cup snow peas, blanched and thinly sliced
- roughly crushed or chopped peanuts for garnish
- a few green onions, thinly sliced for garnish
- Remaining 1/2 lime, cut into wedges for serving
Bring salted water to a boil; blanch snow peas for a minute and then plunge into ice water. Cook your noodles al dente in the boiling water, drain and cool with running cold water. Mix sauce ingredients together, taste and adjust. Thin with a bit of water if necessary – you’ll want it thick enough to coat the vegetables and noodles, but not so thick it that it stiffens up when cold. Prepare vegetables. In a large bowl (I generally use the pot I cooked the noodles in so as not to dirty another dish) toss all ingredients, except the garnishes, together. Serve cold, topped with crushed peanuts, thinly sliced green onion and a wedge of lime.
Let’s talk about how to save money/time on this recipe:
- Use a coupon matching site! One of my favorites in my area is Pocket Your Dollars, but every store has a group of enthusiastic Coupon Matchers. Do not discount the savings! I check their site every week, even if I don’t “need” to go to the store and often find bargains I can’t pass up.
- Follow my 12 Strategies – You’ll see them on the upper drop down menu of every page and how I apply them, below.
- Don’t get discouraged if your prices don’t match mine! Keep shopping at the best prices and your fridge/freezer and pantry will be stocked with sales priced ingredients.
- Read below for additional tips as well as throughout the recipe, for saving time and managing food.
- Consider preparing extra vegetables while you’re getting them ready for this one and setting them aside for a stir fry later in the week.
- Udon Noodles: I paid $1.50 for 12 ounces and used eight for a cost of $1.00 – if you’re even more budget minded, look for sale prices and coupons for spaghetti or linguine – I often buy them at no cost; the sale price in our area is normally $1.00 and it’s not unusual to find $1.00 coupons. I buy whether or not I need any, stick them in my freezer for 3 days (which is something I do with all flour or grain products per a conversation I had once with Pillsbury – if you’ve ever had flour critters, you’ll know why!)
- Sauces, vinegar, etc: Buy these shortly after New Years, when the prices are at rock bottom or look for them at an Asian market. Honestly, I’m not sure about a teaspoon of this and a tablespoon of that – I’m estimating 15 cents…
- Garlic: Runs around 59 to 99 cents a head in my area in the boxes. It can be a little tricky to discern the best prices because it can also be bought by the pound, and generally you’ll pay less this way. Cost 5 cents.
- Red Pepper: When I see red, yellow or orange peppers on sale, I start thinking of ways to use them – they are super pricey at full price. At $1.89 a pound, two peppers (each around five ounces) ran about $1.10.
- Radishes: So often overlooked, but so good for you and always cheap – they keep well, too. There’s a proverb I saw when looking for the radishes’ nutritional information: “Eating pungent radish and drinking hot tea, let the starved doctors beg on their knees.” Sorry, Doc…a few radishes cost about 20 cents. Now that I’ve read the nutritional information I’ll be adding the leaves to my morning green smoothies instead of discarding them – I’m thrilled to find a way to use these leaves (and a little chagrined I’ve tossed them in the past!)
- Cabbage: Always cheap per pound, sometimes the price adds up quickly when you consider how heavy they are. I find 1/2 a head generously serves my family, so I use some as a side and think about other dishes to use the rest in – coleslaw comes to mind. Green cabbage almost always costs less per pound than red. It does go on sale and keeps for weeks at a time – even if it does start to turn a bit, you can generally peel off the outer layers and cut off any bad spots. I bought mine on sale for 49 cents a pound, and a half head works out to 10 ounces, or about 27 cents.
- Snow Peas: Very expensive per pound, they are really just pennies! They’re so light they weigh very little. 1/2 cups worth (a small handful) cost around 40 cents.
- Lime: These always go on sale four to five for a dollar, so I pick up several – especially during the summer it seems I never run out of uses for them! Cost 25 cents.
- Peanuts: I have a whole freezer area for nuts: I pick them up, especially over Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years and freeze. I’ll often find coupons at that time, and I also buy them at alternate places – our Feed and Supply stores (Mills Fleet Farm) here in the Midwest will have great prices on nuts. Aldi’s varies in price a lot, and quite often our drug stores, CVS, Walgreens will have very good prices. Watch for coupons of the name brand varieties. $1.99 for a pound, 1/2 cup is 2 ounces, 25 cents.
- Green Onion: I just buy one bunch when on sale and use over and over (put the white part into a jar and place in a sunny window, where it will regrow for weeks…) This amounts to so little, I don’t generally even count the cost.
Kitchen & Cooking Hacks:
Ignore Lime color when buying. Pick up several and buy the ones that feel “heavy” for their size – those are the ones that are full of juice. The lime, above, was almost yellow and one of the juiciest limes I’ve ever used.
Make Complicated Ingredient Lists Easy:
If you love cooking certain cuisines that seem to require a lot of ingredients, a bit of this, a bit of that, keep the ingredients together and accessible. Here’s a few examples of how to make a long list of ingredients less daunting. This can be adapted to almost any cuisine you love.
- If you love the many Asian cuisines, try keeping all the condiments needed to mix up your favorite sauces and dips in one section of a fridge door compartment. Just lift compartment out of the fridge and plop it on the counter and you’re ready to go.
- If Indian food is your weakness, double up your spices – rather than buy two of everything you’ll need, use empty jars and divide the spices and herbs used in Indian cooking so you have two of each type. Put your little collection into a small sturdy box and you can pull it out of the cupboard at a moment’s notice and not have to dig around in your spice cupboard for half a dozen jars.
- If BBQ is your passion, you may want large jars of the basics all ganged up together to pull out for your favorite rubs and sauces. Keep smaller jars in with all your spices for regular old cooking but throw large containers of paprika, cayenne, brown sugar, etc., all together in a sturdy box (plastic shoe boxes might fit the bill) so every thing is at your fingertips.
Put Your Own Spin on It:
- I don’t think there is any “right” or “wrong” way of making this sauce – I’ve seen recipes with garlic, ginger, Shaoxing wine, Mirin, honey, soy sauce, Kafir lime leaves, Sriracha, You certainly substitute a more authentic sauce, too…I always like to put in a plug for the Asian Grandmother’s blog!
- You can make this with a variety of vegetables – just choose your favorites! Cucumbers are wonderful, broccoli would be fantastic, cut small and quickly blanched. Mung bean sprouts, water chestnuts, daikon, carrots – use what you like!
- The noodles, too, seem to differ in every recipe – Udon, Soba, or even plain old pasta – use what you like.
Recipe made July 2013