SZECHUAN PEANUT NOODLE SALAD – ‘OMG, I can eat this?’ series

OMG, I can eat this? aims to reconstruct your favorite No Go meals and turn them into delightts you can chow down on without feeling terribly afterward.

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This is my heaven. Spicy, peanutty, noodly, salady. I literally just used the entire title and put ‘y’ on the end of each word, didn’t I? Damn, I’m eloquent.

Seriously, though, this kind of food is like a bad relationship. It’s like a big bowl of hug that proceeds to kick you in the face but keeps you wanting to come back. The Szechuan peppercorn effect, if you haven’t tried it before, is a mouth-numbing spicy sensation that is weirdly addictive. The belief is that a molecule called sanshool (sounds like a bad pair of crocs more than a scientific name, huh?) excites tactile sensors in your mouth, lips and tongue. A super fun study is here, if you want to read about it.

When you combine this feeling with the burning that comes from capsaicin in chili, it’s creates a sensation that can’t be replicated with any other food. Now, we obviously can’t just eat peppercorns and chili. I learned that the hard way. Let me tell you a story…

The first time I really tried food from the Szechuan province in China (where the peppercorns are very prevalent in their food) was in a restaurant in the Sydney suburb of Glebe. It was opening night at this stunningly appointed restaurant and our parents were away, so my older brother took us all out. Now, without regard to anyone’s sanity or safety, he proceeded to order… every. single. peppercorn. dish. he. could.

I swear, I almost passed out at some point. Potent peppercorn and chili oil came out adorning everything from roasted peanuts to noodles, to cucumber pickles. It was amazingly delicious and like nothing that I had ever felt before. But, I’ve also never experienced childbirth.

I’m fairly sure I asked for a carton of milk. I don’t think I ever got it.

So, clearly. We need a balance here. The salty, oily numbness that comes with a chili/Szechuan peppercorn oil needs to be scaled down with the absorption and bite of some noodles, the cooling of some cucumber and other vegetables and mellowed out by some earthy peanut and sesame paste.

Anybody that’s had a meal with me knows how happy I get when I eat delicious food. This literally makes me dance my happy food dance.

The recipe has a lot of ingredients, but it’s honestly mostly prep and very little cooking. Check it out!

Szechuan Peanut Noodle Salad

Prep time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 15 mins

Makes 2 serves

Ingredients

Adapted from this recipe.

  • INGREDIENTS
  • 1 package of shirataki noodles, drained and rinsed
  • 1 teaspoon of chili flakes (more or less to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon of Sichuan peppercorns
  • 1/4 cup of a neutral oil
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon of ginger, minced
  • 2 tablespoons of Chinese sesame paste
  • 1 tablespoon of chunky peanut butter
  • 1 tablespoon of Chinkiang vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons of soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon of stevia
  • 1 small cucumber, cut into thin strips (using vegetable peeler)
  • 4 green/spring onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 carrots, julienned
  • 2 handfuls of bean sprouts
  • 2 handfuls of baby spinach
  • 1/2 cup cilantro/coriander leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon of roasted sesame seeds
  • 1/4 cup of roasted peanuts
  • Optional: 1 chicken breast or 1 block of firm tofu, steamed, boiled or grilled

Method (and a touch of madness)

  • In a colander, rinse Shirataki noodle under cold running water for 30 seconds, then drain.
  • Heat the oil in a small saucepan until shimmering. Do not heat to smoking as this will burn the chili. Place chilies and peppercorns in a bowl then carefully pour the hot oil over. Let sit for at least 5 minutes.
  • Combine garlic, ginger, sesame paste, peanut butter, vinegar, soy sauce, and stevia in a large bowl.
  • Strain the chili-infused oil and then add to the sauce. Stir well.
  • Arrange your vegetables, green onions, cilantro, sesame seeds, protein and noodles. Add sauce on top and garnish with peanuts and cilantro.

Guide for the ‘arians:

  • Flexitarian – good
  • Pescetarian – good
  • Vegetarian – use tofu as protein
  • Omnivore – good
  • Vegan – use tofu as protein
  • Gluten free – good
  • Lactose free – good
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