The internet is plagued with bad recipes for Asian noodle dishes. These dishes that are often so inspiring and filling when one is out enjoying a meal at a restaurant seem to have their hearts set on being impossible to recreate at home. Seriously, have you ever been able to make good pad see yew or green curry at home? Have you ever even tried? How could you even try, when the recipes for such dishes seem to be so obscure-ingredient-ridden and the photos that accompany online recipes seem more like an omen of bad things to come than an invitation to try this at home.
Clearly, I had a lot of fear to overcome to make today’s recipe, but I needed to brave it, for, you see, I just can’t pay $11 every day for cold noodles from Num Pang. I wish I could, but my purse strings and fridge full of rotting lunch foods were calling to me to put an end to the madness after a few weeks of this Num Pang hysteria. There were more than a few left-behind sandwiches that seemed to be eying me with despair every time I opened the office fridge, these sandwiches that I had abandoned for a quick trip down Broadway to the Lunch Restaurant That Shall Not Be Named. Sorry, I’m not sorry.
My journey of overcoming home-cooked Asian food fear was not perfect. I did turn to the internet a few times to hunt for recipes. It was a mistake. Why does every cold Asian noodle dish have peanut butter or toasted sesame seeds? What if I don’t care for such inauthentic or unnecessary things—could I still make a good cold noodle dish? Well, with nothing but my test buds to guide me, I set out to do just that. And I found that I could!
And you can, too! I now know and am imparting to you that the secret to a good cold Asian noodle dish (and I predict all Asian dishes) is to use what you like. Take the recipe below and adapt it as you wish–you’re bound to end up full and satisfied. If the sauce isn’t exactly as you like, add more sugar or soy sauce. Not a fan of red cabbage? Try carrots or sugar snap peas. Want something simpler? Cut out most of the veggies and the fish sauce and honey. In the words of the Jersey Shore cast, “You do you!”
Cold Asian-ish Noodles
Makes 4 servings
4 servings cooked and cooled rice vermicelli or soba noodles (I prefer rice vermicelli as it keeps better.)
30 or so small grilled shrimp, optional
½ tablespoon unsalted butter
1 cup shredded red cabbage
1 cup bean sprouts
½ cup scallions, chopped
1/8 cup fish sauce
1/8 cup soy sauce
4 teaspoons sesame oil
1/8 cup honey (I like to use Mike’s hot honey for a little bit of a kick.)
¼ cup brown or turbinado sugar
Lime, for a juicy garnish
Crushed peanuts, for garnish
Melt the butter over medium high heat in a frying pan. Add the eggs and scramble. Remove from heat when cooked and set aside.
In a jar, combine the fish sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil, honey, and sugar. Shake until they are well mixed—it’s likely not all of the sugar will dissolve. You can also use a whisk and bowl to combine these ingredients, and in a pinch, you can replace the fish sauce with additional soy sauce. Once the sauce is made, place in the fridge until ready to use.
Combine all ingredients other than sauce in a bowl. Drizzle with sauce and stir it all together! I like to keep all of the prepared ingredients separate in the fridge and then toss them all together right before I eat—it keeps things fresh and means you can add other vegetables that may be lying around your fridge, or some kind of meat or seafood if you are feeling ambitious.
To close, I leave you with another inspiring Jersey Shore moment.