It is an odd little kid who prefers observing adults above hanging out with other kids, but that is how I was issued. With the focus of Jane Goodall and the sofa as my cover, I studied grown-ups and all forms of their behavior; language, cultural and social norms, and how curiously their developed biology drove their actions. Kids I found to be mostly mean, addled, and ridiculous.
It will not surprise you, then, to know I hated peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. The basic components were good, I thought. But jelly seeping through the bread, the gluey palate-sticking nature of the thing, and the whole sandwich mangled by the smacking of a thermos inside the lunchbox of a girl with a purposeful stride? Thank you, but no.
If Crunchy Cold Buckwheat Noodles in Peanut Sauce had been popular among suburban moms so long ago, it would have been my absolute lunchbox preference. A tangle of chewy buckwheat noodles and colorful crunchy vegetables draped in a velvet cloak of spicy, gingery peanut sauce is arguably the best use of peanut butter. It would have had me daydreaming about girls in Indonesian — where peanut sauce originates– wondering if they liked math any better than me, if their parents fought, and whether they moved a lot or got to live in one house their whole life. I would have wished the Weekly Reader to do a story on them so I could know.
This recipe is for my grandchildren should they want something other than jelly and bread with the peanut butter in their lunchboxes.
Crunchy Cold Buckwheat Noodle Salad + Peanut Sauce
- ½ cup smooth peanut butter, well stirred if natural
- 3 Tbsp. soy sauce or tamari
- 3 Tbsp. fresh squeezed lime juice or rice wine vinegar
- 2 Tbsp. sugar, brown sugar, honey, or maple syrup
- 2 Tbsp. toasted sesame oil also called dark sesame oil
- 1 tsp. – 1 Tbsp. Sriracha or hot chili garlic sauce to taste
- 1 Tbsp. grated fresh ginger and its juice
- 1-2 grated garlic cloves
- 10 oz. soba (buckwheat) noodles udon, ramen, or rice noodles or even spaghetti are also good choices. Use gluten free noodles if you'd like
- 6 cups fresh crunchy raw vegetables (see list below to mix and match*) chopped , coarsely grated, or thinly sliced
- 3-4 green onions, sliced
- 1 bunch cilantro, coarsely chopped
- ¼ cup peanuts, coarsely chopped (optional)
- Peanut Sauce (above)
- 1 lime, cut in wedges for serving
- In a medium bowl that allows room for whisking, whisk peanut butter to loosen it. Add each ingredient one at a time, whisking thoroughly after each addition. (You are making an emulsion, and adding the liquids slowly in batches prevents a sloshy mess from forming. It will actually go faster this way, and will minimize cleanup.)
- Whisk in warm water, one tablespoon at a time, until the sauce thickly drips from the whisk. You want the sauce to be thin enough to easily coat the nooks and crannies of the vegetables and noodles, but to retain some body. Depending on the thickness of your peanut butter and the room temperature, you will add between 1 Tablespoon and ¼ cup of water. Taste and make any adjustments of sweetener, lime juice, spicy heat, or perhaps salt. Set the peanut sauce aside.
- Place a pot of salted water on to boil. Cook soba noodles according to package directions. When done, rinse in cold water until the noodles are completely cold.
- While the water is heating and the noodles are cooking, prep your vegetables including the green onions. Aim for small dice, or thin matchstick pieces so that you can fork up a mix of vegetables and noodles in each bite. Place all the vegetables in a large bowl..
- Coarsely chop the cilantro and peanuts. Keep a few tablespoons of each aside for garnish, and place the rest in the bowl. When the noodles are cooked, rinsed, and drained, add them to the bowl. Give everything a gentle toss.
- Add about ½ cup of the peanut sauce to the bowl, and give everything a gentle but thorough toss, until all ingredients are evenly coated with peanut sauce. Add more sauce, tablespoon by tablespoon, until the salad is dressed to your liking.
- Plate the salad individually or transfer it to a serving bowl or platter. Sprinkle cilantro, peanuts, and sesame seed on top. Serve with a lime wedge.
- Refrigerate any leftovers in an airtight container. Will keep nicely for a day.
- green and/or purple cabbage
- red or yellow bell pepper
- snow or sugar-snap peas
- white turnips
- green or yellow summer squash+ +Best added only if you’ll consume the entire recipe right away, as they go soft and watery overnight. I don’t mind this, but you might!