I love noodles of all origins, be it Italian spaghetti and penne pasta, Chinese ramen noodles, Japanese udon and soba noodles, Thai glass and cellophane noodles, Vietnamese pho noodles, and so on. They all have their place. Though Italian pasta is the most common one found in American homes, you should not overlook its Asian brethren. I’ve attempted Asian dishes with Italian pasta and it is not the same. Sorry Rachael Ray, it’s just not. Pay the extra bit for the noodles in the “ethnic” aisle or be adventurous and check out the Asian market. You’ll be happy you spent the extra cents and won’t attempt to use pasta for a stir fry again. Instead you’ll reach for the soba or maybe grab the ramen, throw out the “spice” package, and grab a sauce.
I used to buy my peanut sauce in the Asian aisle at the grocery store, but then we had to cut back on our garlic and spicy components, so I searched for a recipe to make at home. I found a satay sauce that was okay, but it didn’t hold my attention. Then I found this recipe. It reminds me of the cold peanut noodle dishes you find pre-packaged next to the salad at your favorite cafe, except good. It is perfect for the summer time and served room temperature or cold. The sauce is versatile and the dish can be served warm. You can substitute any of the vegetables. You could also use different noodles, though avoid the Italian pasta; it just isn’t worth it. So head to your Asian food market or the Asian food aisle and grab some soba noodles. Then head home and make your sauce. You’ll enjoy it and be happy you went with the soba noodles.
Peanut Sauce with Tofu and Soba Noodlesadapted slightly from Smitten Kitchen 1/2 cup smooth peanut butter 1/4 cup soy sauce 1/3 cup warm water 2 tablespoons grated ginger* 1 clove garlic, grated or minced 2 tablespoons rice vinegar 1 1/2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil 1 tablespoon honey 1 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes 1/2 package soba noodles 4 scallions, thinly sliced 1 bell pepper, cut into strips (pick your color) 1/2 cucumber, sliced and cut into half moons 1 tomato, diced in large chunks 1 package of tofu 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Remove the tofu from the package and drain the liquid. Blot the tofu with paper towels to remove some of the liquid. Place the tofu between multiple paper towels. Place a plate on top of the tofu and a heavy can on the plate. Allow the tofu to drain of the liquid for at least 15-20 minutes.
While the tofu is draining, add the peanut butter, soy sauce, warm water, ginger, garlic, rice vinegar, sesame oil, honey, and red pepper flakes into a blender, food processor or large cup for a hand blender.** Pulse or blend until combined. Set aside.
In a large skillet or wok add the vegetable oil and heat over medium-high heat. Remove the tofu from the paper towels and dice into 1/2 chunks. Place the tofu in the skillet and brown on all sides, 2-3 minutes per side. Remove tofu from skillet and place on a plate with a paper towel to allow the oil to drain and the tofu to cool (or you can add it warm).
Cook the soba noodles per package directions. Drained and rinse in cool water (or keep hot if you wish to serve the dish warm). Place the noodles, tofu and vegetables into a large bowl. Pour the peanut sauce into the bowl and stir to combine. Serve cold or warm.
*I store my ginger in the freezer. I also do not peel the skin off. Finally, I always grate mine. I do these things because it stores forever in the freezer, peeling the skin is a pain and not necessary when you grate it, and grating it is really easy, especially when it’s frozen.
**I used a hand blender, which work quite well. I do not recommend trying the whisk this by hand. I tried previously and was unsuccessful in emulsifying the mixture (completely incorporating the peanut butter).