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Anti-PB + J: Crunchy Cold Buckwheat Noodle Salad

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.

Cold Buckwheat noodle salad with peanut sauce on platter

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.

Cold Noodle Salad with peanut sauce on a platter

Crunchy Cold Buckwheat Noodle Salad + Peanut Sauce

Course: Main Dish, Salad, Side Dish
Dietary: Dairy-Free, Vegan
Preparation: Fast + Easy
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 6
Author: Pam Spettel
Chewy soba noodles and crackly-fresh vegetables are draped in a velvety, gingery peanut sauce. Make it in less than 20 minutes for a speedy dinner, but be sure to make extra– it holds well for tomorrow's lunches or picnics. Easily halved or doubled, this all-ages people pleaser will be a welcome addition to your meal rotation.
Print Recipe

Ingredients

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

Noodle Salad

  • 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

Instructions

  • 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.

Notes

*Fresh crunchy vegetable options. Use what the garden or farmers market gives you, or what you have in your crisper:
  • cucumber+
  • green and/or purple cabbage
  • red or yellow bell pepper
  • snow or sugar-snap peas
  • carrot
  • radish
  • kohlrabi
  • 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!

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7 Comments

  1. Nancy Stamm says

    The writing! The memories being made as we speak of a life well lived! Thank you for making your recipes accessible, like the yummy sounding soba noodles with tangy peanut sauce, clean fresh cucumber…oh, my! I feel myself wanting to make this right now and feel empowered to do it, too. We can do this!

  2. Brenda S Dunn says

    I’m obsessed with this peanut sauce! Having used a 14 oz box of rice noodles, I went ahead and doubled the sauce and I’m so glad I did! Added chopped chicken to the leftovers … yum! I’m going to try and make it lower carb next time by using shredded chicken vs noodles with the veggies. I’m thinking a spicy peanut chicken salad of sorts to eat with gf crackers or celery.

    • I love your “make it my own” ideas. My hubs has asked that chicken be included the next time I make this peanut sauced wonder, too!

  3. Holly says

    I love your photos! They make me want to cook! Having been a guest at many a meal in your home, I am a devout believer in the way you cook! Your food is always delicious, soulful and beautifully presented. A feast for the eyes as well as the palate! Thanks for sharing your amazing gift with us, Pam!

    • Thank you for your generous words of high praise, Holly. Coming from another phenomenal home cook, you made me blush! Here’s to more decades of enjoying great times at our tables and in the kitchen together. Cheers!

  4. Nicole Hartman says

    I made this for a potluck yesterday and added chicken and it was a hit! As a side it made plenty more than 6 servings so it’s great as a side for a crowd.

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