Rice noodles + ginger = Asian-flavored happiness. Hard to go wrong with a fresh southeast-Asian tinge when starting with those two elements as inspiration, not least of all when there are a few other appropriate ingredients lounging around on all the pantry and refrigerator shelves just leering at me suggestively. So as soon as I start salivating over this stuff, I must head for the hob and get cooking up something semi-respectfully enthusiastic in its homage to the marvels of the Asian-inflected kitchen.This expedition can lead down byways as remote and convoluted as any of my other forays into cookery, but on a recent occasion I hewed just a little closer to the genuine article, ending up with a peanut-sauced noodle dish that was definitely reminiscent of those subtly spectacular and deliciously heartwarming feasts my Thai college roommate (Hi, Beautiful!) and friends fed me years ago.Thai-inspired Peanut Noodles
Starting with a combination of homemade broth (about 3 cups) and 1 8 oz. can of coconut milk, I added about 2 heaping tablespoons of diced ginger root (I keep a jar of it in vodka in the fridge), another tablespoon of preserved kaffir lime leaf shreds (bought jarred), yet another spoonful of minced preserved cilantro, a scant half teaspoon of ground black pepper plus about 1/8 teaspoon of cayenne pepper, and a tablespoon of fish sauce (I use Squid brand because it’s the one I ‘learned’ from my roommate), and lastly, I added about 8 dried Shiitake mushrooms. All of this simmered over low heat until it reduced by about 50%, and then I strained it. The strained broth went into a broad saucier, where I cooked the handful of Pad Thai-style (though in this instance Vietnamese) rice noodles until done. I tossed a heaping two tablespoons of creamy natural (only salt added) peanut butter into the pan and let it soften while I was raiding the freezer, and by the time I got back with a 1-cup packet of frozen peas, the peanut butter was soft enough to stir in along with them.
My spousal-person was happy to keep the dish as served, not adulterating it with the garnishes a strange creature like his wife would add, but I was happy, on the other hand, to reintroduce the kaffir shreds and the ginger–this time in the form of my old favorite, sushi gari, also shredded thinly–and to top it all off, a nice sprinkling of sesame seeds. But however it gets to the table, this little concoction is a pleasant quick trip to southeast Asia that even those who can’t tolerate air travel can afford.