Thai Peanut Noodles

I don’t know what it is about noodles that always makes me happy. I mean, they’re hard to eat – especially when there’s other stuff tangled up with them – and I always eat too much. But, my boy Darren just loves ‘em, and I can’t seem to resist myself. And because I can’t resist so often, I’ve come up with lots of variations. This great Thai peanut sauce version is inspired by Heidi Swanson’s Almond Soba Noodles

Soba noodles are different from spaghetti. They are usually made with buckwheat which gives them a heartier texture.  In a pinch you could use the Italian noodles that are hanging out in your pantry, but this dish is really better with Asian style noodles like soba or udon. Soba are the skinny ones, and udon are wider and usually made of wheat. There’s also somen, which are super thin. Pick your poison.

This recipe uses tofu as the protein. I struggled for years to brown tofu in a skillet and have it come out looking (and tasting) nice. So if you have a preferred way of browning tofu go ahead and do it, but if not, here are a few tips:
1. Get the firmest tofu you can find, I like Wildwood Sprouted Tofu (the sprouting also helps with digestibility).
2. Sprinkle a little salt on the skillet before laying the tofu down, then a bit more on top.
3. Put the tofu down in a cold skillet and slowly heat it up.
4. Don’t move it for a few minutes so that it can form a crust and won’t stick.
Of course, feel free to sub your protein of choice, or just add lots of veggies (the peanut butter is surely enough protein in itself). You can use any greens you’d like here, or whatever else you’ve got hanging around. I bet broccoli would be good. If you do use a vegetable that takes a little longer to cook, remove the tofu from the pan, add a little more oil and cook the veggies separately. 

Thai Peanut Noodles

8 oz. soba noodles
1 T. peanut or sesame oil
8 oz. firm tofu
a few pinches of sea salt
a small bunch of greens, I used kale
1/2 c. peanut butter
1 T. red curry paste
1 t. shoyu
1/4 c. toasted peanuts, roughly chopped 

Bring a pot of water to boil on high heat. Add soba noodles and cook for the time directed on the package (usually about 5 minutes). Drain and set aside, reserving 1/2 c. of cooking water.

Cut the tofu lengthwise into 4 slabs. Wrap the slabs in a clean dish towel and gently press for a few minutes to remove excess water. Stack the slabs and slice into thin strips, about as wide as a pencil.

Pour the oil into a large skillet, and sprinkle a little salt over it. Lay the tofu into the pan in a single layer, making sure they are coated with oil on the bottom. Turn the heat to medium and let cook for 3-4 minutes at least, or until they have formed a crust. Resist the urge to stir or flip, even if it sounds like it’s cooking like crazy. If you move them too soon they will stick. After a few minutes use a thin spatula to get underneath the tofu and flip. Sprinkle a little more salt and let cook until 2 sides are browned, another 4-5 minutes. In the last minute, add the greens to the pan and cook until they are bright green, stirring a few times.

Meanwhile, make the sauce. Add the peanut butter, curry paste and shoyu to a jar and pour in a little of the hot pasta water. Shake well. Keep adding hot water, a little at a time, until you have a thin sauce. It will thicken as it sits, so be sure to make it thin enough. I used the whole 1/2 c.

Transfer the noodles to a serving platter and combine with half the sauce. Add the tofu and greens and carefully stir again. Pour in the rest of the sauce and sprinkle with the peanuts before serving.

serves 4

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