If you have ever been traveling around South East Asia then you’ll understand the power that can be packed into a simple noodle dish.
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Hot, spicy, sweet, and peanutty – this recipe has everything it needs to be a delicious, filling meal.
It’s a dish that can be kept simple or packed full of fresh, crisp vegetables, and one of the great things about it is that it can be easily tailored to suit your tastes or to use up whatever you have lying around at the back of the fridge.
In this article, I’m going to give you a bit of background on Thai cuisine, the history of noodles, and some inspiration for substitutes or popular variations of this meal so you can enjoy it however you choose.
Even the most inexperienced cook will have no trouble whipping up this easy recipe, so without further ado, let’s get into it!
For those who haven’t already tried Thai food before, here are the basics you should know.
Thai cuisine involves food that doesn’t require much preparation and places a heavy focus on combining aromatic flavors with a bit of a spicy kick.
The level of heat and spice can usually be tailored to suit individual preferences for anyone who prefers their food to be a little milder, or likewise, it can be ramped up if you’re feeling brave.
You can categorize the majority of Thai food into one of four groups: tom dishes (boiled), yam dishes (spicy salads), tam dishes (pounded food), and gaeng dishes (curries).
Pasta might have originated in Italy where it has become a staple part of the cuisine, but the inspiration for this came from the traditional noodles of South East Asia, with China being the first place where a written record of noodles was first discovered.
While noodle or rice stir fry dishes are typically associated with Chinese cuisine, the recipe in this article is Thai-inspired due to its flavorings and taste.
The Best Type of Noodles to Use
When you’re shopping for noodles, you’ll probably notice that the Asian aisle in your local supermarket is absolutely filled with choice.
There’s a huge variety of noodles, including the following options:
- Egg noodles
- Udon noodles
- Soba noodles
- Rice noodles
- Ramen noodles
Luckily, this is a dish where pretty much any kind can be used, so just choose your favorite or use up whatever you already have at home.
If you’re in a pinch and don’t have any noodles to hand you can also use the plain type that comes in a packet of instant noodles.
What’s in a Sauce?
The peanut sauce is the key element of this recipe as it brings everything together. The salty sweetness of it perfectly complements Thai foods that are rich in spice and umami flavors without taking over the whole dish. As such, it’s super important, but it’s also super simple to make.
Simply combine all of the ingredients you’re using in a bowl and whisk them together until smooth. One of the things that makes this Thai peanut sauce so special is because the flavors are built up through layering multiple food components, so try to include one of each of the following:
- Something salty (usually soy sauce)
- Something sweet (some brown sugar or honey)
- Something sour (rice or apple cider vinegar)
- Something spicy (sriracha or chili paste)
- Peanut butter! You can also add a little sesame oil to further enhance the nuttiness
Tamari sauce and coconut aminos are both great in place of this staple ingredient, which leads us nicely onto our next point…
Substitutes and Variations
Even with the best will in the world, there are going to be times when you forget to pick up a few ingredients at the grocery store, even if you’re planning on cooking a specific dish for dinner.
This can be frustrating, especially if it’s something you’ve been looking forward to, but fortunately, this is a dish that naturally lends itself to substitutions and varied ingredients.
Some great examples of vegetable ingredients that work well in this dish include:
- Julienned carrots
- Thinly sliced peppers
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- Pak choi
- Tenderstem broccoli
- Sugar snap peas
It’s great to use what’s currently seasonal as this will make your grocery shopping much cheaper than buying vegetables that are out of season, and it’s a great way to use up leftovers that are about to go past their best.
There’s literally no end to the combinations of ingredients that you can experiment with when making this dish.
You can also add chicken, beef, or prawns to this recipe but it’s the vegetables that really steal the show because of the fresh bite of texture they bring to the dish, making an excellent choice for vegetarians or vegans who can just omit the meat or fish ingredients.
Tofu also works really well in this recipe due to its ability to take on and absorb other flavors. For the best results, prepare your tofu by pressing it which releases some of the liquid, and then marinate it in a sauce for a few hours or overnight as this maximizes the flavor.
In terms of toppings, again there’s no real rule about what you can or can’t put on top of your Thai noodles. Sliced spring onions are a common favorite, as are sesame seeds or toasted cashew nuts.
When choosing your toppings try to think about the dish as a whole and if it’s missing any specific tastes or textures. For example, if it’s lacking some bite, adding a handful of nuts will provide the satisfying crunch you’re looking for.
From a quick weeknight meal to a fully Thai-inspired dinner, there’s plenty of ways to enjoy this dish.
I hope this article has provided enough information and more importantly inspiration on how to make Thai noodles with peanut sauce for your next mid-week meal.