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Peanut Noodle Perfection

As someone who has, over the last few years, frequently occasionally found myself with $20 4 days from a paycheck, I have made a practice of desperation cooking. I can calculate calorie per dollar ratios faster than I can blow my food budget on whiskey cocktails at The Kitchen. Rice + beans, pasta in various forms, potatoes and squash have rapidly become staples late in a pay period. And, as I have slept on more than my fair share of sofas in this time, I've quickly learned that my ability to feed my hosts usually guarantees me surfing shotgun, for at least a week.

Peanut noodles have become my secret weapon when I'm barely in the black or faced with a night in the Yaris. I've made hot, cold, spicy, vegan, and everything in between. I've taken recipes from magazines, cookbooks, blogs and modified based on what was available, affordable, and appealing to the group. I've made them twice this week. And yet for all my effort, I've always found them lacking in some way. Too much acid, not enough sweetness, too much spice, not enough salt. I'm no perfectionist, but after years of tweaking the same recipe hundreds of times, you'd think I could find some balance. No go. Always something missing. Namaste.

Well, tonight it was just me. Just me, $7, and a wok. And these are hands down the bestdamn fucking noodles I have ever made. In my life. PERFECT. So here you go, and may you always have a warm sofa to crash on,  my friends.

  1. Boil pasta. I use linguini. DO NOT OVERCOOK. Make sure it's al dente or you're going to end up with a gloopy gluteny mess. Seriously. al dente. If you cannot multi-task, do this first.
  2. Spice. I diced a piece of ginger about the size of the tip of my thumb, a jalapeno (de-seeded), and 4 cloves of garlic and tossed them around in a wok (medium / medium high) with about a tablespoon of sesame oil for around 3 minutes. They got just barely soft and super fragrant. This is when I knew I was on the path to perfection. This smelled AMAZING.
  3. Veggies. I sliced a red bell pepper into super thin 2-3 inch strips and sliced a handful of baby carrots and threw them in the wok with the ginger / garlic / jalp. Tossed them until tender crisp.
  4. Put all that into a bowl on the side. Check your noodles. Al dente. I'm telling you.
  5. Return wok to heat (medium / medium low for this) and add peanut butter. Chunky. If less than half of what's in the jar, just go for it. About 3/4 of a cup if you're into specifics. Add soy sauce, sesame oil (toasted is tasty) and honey - I'd say three tablespoons of each and a splash of fish sauce and stir until the mixture becomes smooth.
  6. Return veggies to the wok and toss to coat. Check those noodles. For serious.
  7. Strain pasta and add to the mix.Save a cup or so of the pasta water. If your sauce is too thick, add a bit of water at a time and toss until sauce is desired thickness.
  8. Chop green onions and toss with noodles.
  9. Add a squeeze of lime and cilantro to garnish.
  10. Don't waste time with chopsticks, NOM NOM NOM.
If you have the money / inclination - add whatever protein you like - chicken is great, tofu kinda falls apart, pork is fantastic. I slice it up super thin and cook in the wok after I've set the veggies aside and then add it to the veggie bowl while I make the sauce.
If you need a grocery list (I do or I come home with doritos, charcoal and sweet potatoes and no clue what I'm going to eat):
  • Peanut butter. Chunky is best.
  • Honey. I like it raw, but I live in Boulder - that's how we do.
  • Sesame oil.
  • Soy sauce (get the cheap stuff).
  • Fish sauce.
  • Noodles. Something substantial. Angel hair is not good here. 
  • Ginger, fresh.
  • Garlic, FRESH.
  • Jalapeno. Or serrano. Or whatever crazy ghost chile shit you're into.
  • Green onions.
  • Red bell pepper.
  • Lime.
  • Cilantro.
  • Carrots