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Just Cook Something: Kinda Thai Peanut Noodles

May 5, 2010

Around this time last year, I encouraged readers to Make Your Own Damn Sauce! Part of the idea was to give people an easy recipe, get them into the kitchen, and build confidence that they can cook.

In part because I don’t want to forget some of the goals set forth in the first year of the FUSSYlittleBLOG, and in part because it is consistent with Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, today I’ve got another easy and unfussy recipe.

If you can boil water you can make this, although it may require a trip to an Asian market to get one critical ingredient.  But if that is too daunting you can always buy it online.

What is great about this dish, besides being tasty and loved by children and adults alike, is its flexibility.  It’s noodles with peanut sauce.  If you are allergic to peanuts, it can be noodles with sesame sauce, just substitute tahini.  The only thing that gets cooked are the noodles, and possibly some frozen broccoli or other vegetable if you are feeling fancy.  Which means that if you don’t like how the sauce tastes, it is very easy to adjust.

I like a lot of sauce, and it’s easy to use up leftovers, so here’s the build, and feel free to halve it.

1C Peanut butter
2T Soy sauce
2T Thai fish sauce
2T Brown sugar
1T Chopped cloves of garlic
1T Chopped ginger
½t Sriracha
Pasta water to thin – reserve 2 cups, just to be safe.

It’s the Thai fish sauce that is really critical to give the dish a Thai flavor.  Get a small bottle, and buy the most expensive one you can afford.  It still shouldn’t be more than a few dollars.  Fish sauce is produced in a lot of different countries, in a lot of different styles, and is of varying quality.  Make sure the bottle says it is from Thailand.

But besides that, everything else is flexible.  If you don’t have fresh garlic or ginger, use the dried granulated stuff from the spice cabinet.  I won’t tell.

If you wanted to throw in some vegetables, that’s fine.  Should you want to garnish, you could chop up some green onions or sprinkle with crushed peanuts.  A little cilantro or lime couldn’t hurt either.  Cucumber offers a refreshing counterpoint, if you are into that kind of thing.

As far as the noodles go, in the Fussy household we sometimes use buckwheat flour soba noodles.  However recently we tried this dish with whole wheat thin spaghetti and it worked fine.  Traditionally dishes like this can be eaten at room temperature, so you don’t even have to sweat your cooking times.

If the pasta is ready before you are done mixing, don’t worry.  Just drain it, making sure to reserve some of cooking liquid for thinning out the sauce, and put it aside.

If you are concerned about making the dish too salty, you can cut back on the soy, fish and hot sauces, and offer them alongside the dish at the table.  Also, since you are using the pasta water in the sauce, do not salt the pasta water.  That is a mistake you only make once.

Mix the cooked noodles with the thinned-out sauce and any vegetables in a big bowl, and serve whenever.

It goes great with Thai beer, so if you can get a Singha, go for it.  But you also know how I feel about cheap beer and spicy food, so that is another option.  And have one while you are cooking too.  That pasta water can get hot, and you may need some refreshment.

See?  Cooking can be easy.
Just cook something.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. StanfordSteph permalink
    May 5, 2010 12:06 pm

    Does it matter what kind of peanut butter you use? Can I use natural PB?

  2. May 6, 2010 1:51 am

    Here is a great thread on fish sauce: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/379200 . I always get the Tiparos (bought my last bottle at the Asian Supermarket on Central) but this hread makes me want to try the Three Crabs and Laughing Baby. I’m a little worried about the Fussy advice to buy the smallest bottle because you might end up with some kind of watered down tourist concoction.

    Re noodles, if you can’t boil water then use pat thai noodles which require hot but not boiling water.

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