~ Cold 'Chicken Noodle Salad' w/Thai Peanut Sauce~
Planes, trains and automobiles. I get my inspiration for recipes in the darndest places. In the Summer of 1986, there was a day trip from San Diego to Tijuana in a rental car on our agenda. I ordered a Baja Fish Taco at a taco stand as a snack to eat en route -- I wish I'd ordered six. In the Winter of 1990, there was a train ride from England to Wales. I ordered the Cottage Beef Pie for dinner -- I licked the casserole clean. In the Spring of 1993, on a flight from Taipei to Tokyo, a Peanut-Sauce-Dressed Noodle Salad was served -- I kept the cute little plastic lunch box:
Cold main- or side-dish pasta or noodle salads of the American type. I don't dislike them, they're just not something I gravitate toward. That said, when I opened up that unique little lunch box on the plane that day, I instinctively knew I was in for a treat. The distinctive aroma of Thai-Asian flavors in conjunction with roasted peanuts was ethereal. There's more. There were little wisps and chards of poached chicken, matchstick carrots and green onion scattered throughout. Sigh.
You know you are old when: You not only remember when airlines served food to their passengers, the food was remarkably good too. A tale to tell your grandchildren.
A bit about peanut sauce: This sauce is widely used in the cuisines of Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, China and Africa. The main ingredients are roasted peanuts or peanut butter (crunchy or smooth), coconut milk, soy sauce and palm sugar. Pulverized spices (red chile peppers, coriander, cumin, garlic, galangal and /or lemongrass, are almost always added. My recipe, from my Thai girlfriend Kanya, contains one small can of Thai-style red curry paste, which provides all of the above named pulverized spices.
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 4-ounce can Thai-style red curry paste
1 13 1/2-ounce can unsweetened coconut milk (briefly stir after opening the can)
6 tablespoons smooth or chunky-style peanut butter
2 tablespoons firmly-packed palm sugar (light or dark brown sugar may be substituted
~Step 1. Place the sesame oil and the red curry paste in a small 1-quart saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Continue to cook, stirring almost constantly, until the curry paste is bubbling rapidly and is very fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the coconut milk, peanut butter and sugar. Continue to simmer steadily but gently, stirring almost constantly, until smooth and thickened, about 2 1/2-3 minutes.
Remove from heat, cover, and set aside, to cool slightly, about 15-20 minutes. Serve slightly warm, or, place in a food storage container (or two) and cool, uncovered, until sauce is at room temperature. Store indefinitely in the refrigerator and reheat gently in the microwave, stirring occasionally prior to serving.
A bit about Thai soup stock: It is the base for most Thai soups and many Thai dishes, including this noodle salad. While many versions will tell you to use generic "chicken stock or broth", and you certainly can, I don't and here's why: Classic chicken stock is prepared with an entirely different flavor palate in mind. Thai soup stock is full of the flavors of Thailand: fish sauce, seasoning soy sauce, cilantro roots, kaffir lime leaves, lemon grass, bird chilis and white pepper. I make it in a large stockpot and freeze it in 1-quart containers to use in many of my Thai-Asian recipes. You'll need 6 cups and you can find my recipe, ~ Thai Chicken Stock (Real Thai Food Starts Here) ~, in Categories 13 or 15.
My Spicy Peanut-Sauce-Dressed 'Chicken Noodle Salad':
This recipe shouldn't be confused with the one of the most popular and world-reknowned Thai dishes: Pad Thai. Today's recipe is a poached and simmered cold noodle salad that is made in a stockpot using pasta-esque lo-mein noodles. Pad Thai literally means "Thai-style frying". Pad Thai is fried in an oiled wok using delicate rice noodles. While somewhat similar in taste (they're both delicious) pad Thai, which is sold all over the streets of Thailand, is made quickly and is best eaten immediately. This cold noodle salad, while relatively quick to make, takes a bit more time, and, can be prepared ahead of time. It's one of my favorite next-day lunch box meals.
6 cups Thai chicken stock (generic canned chicken stock or broth may be substituted with minor compromise)
12 ounces/5-6 raw chicken tenders, cut into thin strips, strips cut into 1"-1 1/2" lengths, about 2 cups (boneless, skinless chicken breast may be substituted)
12 ounces lo-mein noodles
1 cup thinly-sliced green onions, white and firm light-green parts only (3/4 cup for tossing into salad, 1/4 cup for garnishing each portion, about 14 green onions)
1 cup chopped, unsalted, raw peanuts, lightly-toasted (3/4 cup for tossing into salad, 1/4 cup for garnishing each portion)
~Step 1. In a 4-quart saucepan, bring stock to a simmer over medium-high heat. Add chicken and simmer until just cooked through, 1 1/2-2 minutes. Using an Asian spider or a large slotted spoon, remove the chicken and place on a paper-towel-lined plate to cool to room temperature.
~ Step 2. Add the carrots to the simmering stock and blanch until crunch-tender, 45-60 seconds. Using the Asian spider or large slotted spoon, remove the carrots and place in a colander. Rinse under cold running water to halt the cooking process, then, place them on a paper-towel-lined plate to thoroughly drain.
~Step 3. Add the noodles to simmering stock and cook until al dente, 4-5 minutes. Using Asian spider, transfer to colander. Rinse under cold water to halt the cooking, then, set aside to thoroughly drain, 10-15 minutes.
Portion and serve, garnishing each portion with a sprinkling of green onion and peanuts.
Portion & serve sprinkled w/green onion & peanuts:
Special Equipment List: cutting board; chef's knife; 1-quart saucepan; 3-quart saucepan; Asian spider or large slotted spoon; colander; paper towels
Cook's Note: Planes, trains and automobiles. I get my inspiration in the darndest places. As per the first paragraph of this post, you can both of the recipes mentioned, ~ Beer-Batter-Dipped, Cod-Fish Tacos ~, and, ~ Easy Cottage Pie (Beef) & Shepherd's Pie (Lamb) ~ by clicking into Category 3 (Entrées and Main-Dish Casseroles).
"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti
(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2016)