“Comfort food” doesn’t have to be a dish from my childhood steeped in nostalgia and security, but instead, can stir together the flavors and spices I aspire to rediscover on this journey called life. This simple dish of noodles, fresh vegetables and peanut sauce manifests in my kitchen at least once a fortnight, conjuring a rush of memories that egg me on into the future.
The noodles can take any form: pasta, Chinese egg noodles (as chosen here), Vietnamese rice noodles. And this, in all respects, is my comforting link to the Italian staple with which I am so fond of filling my belly and pairs so willingly with any dressing. I am flexible and adaptable to my surroundings; a connection can always be soothed into being.
Fresh vegetables and dried herbs foretell a new Spring and bright harvest; my restless body begins to stretch and awaken. Hibernation is almost over, and my jeans will soon feel better fit! Hallelujah! Nothing is ever permanent; we flow and cycle, like a yoga pose that seems unbearable just before it shifts into release.
This addicting peanut sauce speaks of foolhardy and magical adventures in Southeast Asia, which culminated at the Red Bridge Cooking School over a rewarding Vietnamese meal cooked and enjoyed with my twin sister Dimity and Mamma by Hoi An’s riverside. I have the power to learn, the opportunity to peek inside new cultures, the good fortune of sisterhood and motherhood in all corners of the world.
As I swayed my hips to the pop and sizzle of the stovetop, I added these blips of memory and reminder to the dish. This time folks, it was truly worth sharing.
The beauty of this dish is it’s versatility. You can substitute the parsnips and carrots with other root vegetables like potatoes, rutabaga, kohlrabi, sweet potatoes, yams or turnips. You can substitute the napa cabbage for bok choy, kale, collards or other hearty greens. You can substitute the egg noodles for other Asian noodles, spaghetti or even use rice or other grains as the base for the veggies and peanut sauce.
- Egg noodles - 4 portions (or rolls)
- Coconut or Peanut oil - 1.5 tablespoons coconut or peanut oil
- Parsnips - 1 cup matchstick-cut parsnips
- Carrots - 1 1/2 cups matchstick-cut carrots
- Napa cabbage - 2 cups, shredded
- Tofu - 1/2 cup matchstick-cut extra-firm tofu
- Water - 1/4 cup
- Peanut butter - 4 tablespoons crunchy peanut butter
- Soy sauce - 2 tablespoons lite soy sauce
- Garlic - 1 tablespoon, minced
- Agave nectar - 1 tablespoon agave nectar, or substitute with honey or brown sugar
- Jalapeno (optional) - 1 teaspoon, minced
- Lime juice - 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lime juice
- Sea salt - 1/4 teaspoon
- Black pepper - 1/4 teaspoon, freshly ground
- Cilantro - garnish with fresh or dried cilantro
- Fill a medium pot with water, add a pinch of salt, and bring it to a boil. Add the noodles and cook for the desired time according to the packet; if using egg noodles, they will need about 8 minutes.
- In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium-high. Add the parsnips and carrots, stir and coat with oil and cover with a lid. Let them simmer for about 5 minutes until slightly tender.
- Toss in the napa cabbage and continue to saute for about 5 more minutes, covered.
- Add the tofu and stir again. Cover the pan and let the vegetables continue to simmer on low heat while you prepare the sauce.
- Add the remaining ingredients to a small pot and bring the sauce to a simmer. Whisk together the ingredients until the peanut butter is melted and the sauce is smooth. Let it simmer until the sauce becomes thick, like melted ice cream. If the sauce is too thick, it won't spread evenly when you mix it with the vegetables and noodles; you can add water to thin the sauce.
- When the sauce is ready, toss it in with the vegetables, mixing them together thoroughly.
- Add the noodles to the pan and toss everything together