Tender noodles coated with a creamy sesame-peanut sauce, tossed with crispy tofu pieces, refreshing cucumber and bell pepper, and brought together with a pop of fresh cilantro and sesame seeds.
Sounds delicious, right?
Good. Because it’s what I’m bringing to you in this latest blog post:
Chilled Peanut Noodle Salad with Crispy Tofu
Chilled pasta salads are a great way to mix up a boring spaghetti routine.
Yeah, you’re still eating pasta, but somehow, serving it cold makes it feel like a new, exciting, and refreshing dish.
Especially if you stray away from the typical Italian flavors, and go Asian instead. Plus, Chinese egg noodles cook even MORE quickly than Italian pasta. Win win.
Peanut sesame noodles hit all the right notes.
Okay, I have a picky palate, so rather than just combine oil, vinegar, peanut butter, and tahini, I prefer a more complex sauce spiced up with fresh ginger, garlic, and shallot.
Andrew Zimmern (of Bizarre Foods fame) published a recipe for authentic Sichuan noodles with the most amaaaaazing peanut sesame sauce, and ever since making it, I can’t use any other sauce.
So, this noodle salad features Andrew’s perfection of a sauce, plus some extra veggies and tofu to make it a meal instead of a side dish. (Thanks Andrew!)
This meal does require a lot of chopping, but I promise the end results are worth it. Don’t skimp on those sauce ingredients… the sauce is what makes the dish! It’s the perfect balance of salty and savory with a hint of acid and sweetness. And it does a wonderful job of coating the noodles, veggies, and tofu without feeling gloopy.
The final dish is a refreshing, light noodle salad with tons of flavor.
Trust me, this one is a crowd pleaser.
- 14 oz extra firm tofu
- 1 tablespoon minced ginger
- 1/3 cup soy sauce
- 3 tablespoons sesame oil
- 3 tablespoons peanut butter
- 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons dry sherry
- 1 clove garlic, peeled
- 3 tablespoons tahini
- 1 small shallot, minced
- 5 tablespoons roasted, unrefined peanut oil
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 12.3 ounces medium Chinese egg noodles
- 1 cucumber, halved lengthwise, seeds removed, cut into small matchsticks
- 1 red bell pepper, seeds removed and cut into small matchsticks
- 1/3 cup minced cilantro
- Sesame seeds, for garnish
Take the tofu block out of the watery brine and dab it with paper towels to dry it off. Wrap the tofu in a fresh set of paper towels, set on a plate, and place something heavy, like a large cookbook or small saucepan on top to "press" the liquid out. Let sit for 15 minutes while you prep the sauce.
To make the sauce, add the ginger, soy sauce, sesame oil, peanut butter, granulated sugar, rice vinegar, dry sherry, garlic, tahini, shallot, and 3 tablespoons of peanut oil to a small food processor or blender and blend until smooth. Pour into a bowl and place in the refrigerator while you finish prepping the rest of the meal.
Unwrap the tofu and discard the paper towels. Cut the tofu into 1/2 inch cubes and set aside. Pour the 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil into a large nonstick skillet and warm over high heat. Add the tofu and pan fry on all sides until golden brown. Remove the crispy tofu to a paper towel lined plate and set aside.
Next, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add the egg noodles. Cook according to package directions, until al dente (4 minutes, for the brand I used). Drain the noodles in a colander and run under cold water until the noodles are cooled. Shake to drain any excess water and blot dry with paper towels. Transfer to a large serving bowl and toss with 2 tablespoons of the peanut oil.
Add the refrigerated peanut sauce to the bowl of noodles and toss to coat well. Add the crispy tofu, cucumber, bell pepper, and cilantro. Toss again lightly to combine. Scoop into individual serving bowls, sprinkle with sesame seeds, and enjoy!
Inspired by Cold Peanut-Sesame Noodles from Food & Wine Magazine / Andrew Zimmern