Singapore Noodle Salad
And so concludes another gray, dismal and unseasonably cold long weekend in Ontario. Mike and I took another stab at going up to the family cottage, since we’ve only been up once this year (and hey, lookie that, it’s August. My parents are totally going to start talking about wills and northern real estate taxes again.) and it rained for that whole weekend. Hey, at least this time it only rained once, even if the weather was otherwise less tropical-beach-vacation and more Jack-Frost-nipping-at-my-fat-bathing-suit-clad-arse. That said, a gratis day off work is a gratis day off work…..
The thing about going up north in Ontario for a long weekend, is that there’s a certain amount of false economy to the relaxation aspect. As people get ready to flee the city like there’s a meteorite hurtling towards Toronto (cats and women first! Oh, and children….don’t forget the children…), cars start piling onto every major highway at about 3 pm the day BEFORE the last day of work. To avoid spending quality bumper-to-bumper time with your nearest and dearest as a two and a half hour drive ticks relentlessly closer to six, the ‘smart’ person leaves in midmorning the next day….along with all the other ‘smart’ people, meaning that the two and a half hour drive is only about four. Then, of course, you leave early on the last day (to avoid traffic) and spend the NEXT four and a half hours puttering along at 20 km/h, wondering why you even bother to spend almost 9 hours in a car for a day and a half of rest.
Mike started getting testy today at about hour three into our drive home. I was pretty restless myself, or perhaps my fidgeting was borne from the trauma of having to make an emergency bathroom-befouling stop in a putrid little place that was 100% lacking in toilet paper….something that I only ever realize when it’s far, far too late. I tried to lighten the mood by playing games.
Tina: “I spy with my little eye something…BLUE!”
Mike: “Is it….is it the sky?”
Tina: “NO. IT’S NOT THE SKY.”
Mike: “Are you sure it’s not the sky?”
Tina: “Fine. Let’s play G-H-O-S-T. I’ll start first. ‘M’!”
Mike: “M….like misery? Maleficence? Murder? Maiming?”
Tina: “Okay. No spelling games.
Mike: “I’m not playing these games. I don’t want to play these games, and I’m not going to. Stop trying to make me play games.”
No games, eh? Fine. He knows that nothing good will come of denying me spoken road-trip games. So I started thinking of jokes. This one is a Tina original:
“A man walks into a bar. The bartender puts a pint of beer down in front of him. He’s just about to take a big sip, when all of a sudden a ROOSTER jumps up on the table in front of him, spins around, knocks a big pile of serviettes over onto the ground with his back end, and then just like that he’s gone!! The man was confounded, but he grudgingly picked up the serviettes and put them back on the bar. A few minutes later, the rooster LEAPS back up on the bar again! He runs in a circle along the bar, knocking things off with his plumage, as serviettes fly into the air like confetti and settle into piles on the ground.
At this point, the man can no longer contain himself. He asks the bartender, “What’s up? I don’t get it. What the hell is going on in here?” The bartender looks at him, confused, and says, “Oh, him? He’s just passing out the cock-tail napkins.”
HAR HAR HAR HAR HAR HAR!!!!!!!!! God, I crack myself up.
Note: at this point Mike agreed to play I Spy, and so another victim falls prey to my malevolent manipulations.
Anyway, we eventually made it home to investigate exactly how much damage was caused by our two sulking cats, and played an invigorating game of “What’s That Smell?” in the kitchen. Good times, good times. Weekends away are always such a joy.
But I digress. I suppose that since this is a food blog, I should actually write about some food. So let’s talk about noodle salad. Spicy cold noodle salad is becoming as ubiquitous in the picnic hamper as coleslaw, ‘tater salad, and the cold noodle kissing cousin – good old fashioned rotini pasta salad. But why not? It’s portable, easy to make, and won’t have you camped out in the Port-a-potty all afternoon if it spent a little bit too much time in the sun. Three great things that go great together.
One of our favorite cold noodle salads is one that Mike’s parents pick up at a local fine foods emporium. It’s spicy, curried, delicious, and frankly if it wasn’t on the table at the next family event, well, a single salty little tear might wend it’s way down my cheek. A couple gatherings ago, however, as my contribution to the table I volunteered to pick up said noodle salad since I knew that I’d be working late the next day and wouldn’t have time to cook anything. Mike reminded me, twice, about how appalled I was when I saw what the noodle salad cost ($8.99 for a wee little container of COLD NOODLES? Are you KIDDING ME?!) but in the interest of fulfilling obligation I diligently tootled off to the deli section of the local fine fooderie. Turns out….they were the wrong local fine fooderie. I popped back in my car and drove the 10 minutes to the other fine food competitor, who were just in the process of closing, and they told me that they had already discarded all of their fresh foods for the day. Horrors!!!!!
I mean, it’s true that it probably would have killed me on the inside to spend a tenner on some lightly dressed noodles, knowing fully that I could make them myself at home for a toonie. That kind of highway robbery really just gets my goat. I mean, they’re NOODLES, for God’s sake! CURRIED NOODLES with a few speckles of pepper to add some much needed color, and not a whole lot else. Nope. That’s it. I would just have to make them myself.
Despite the fact that on round 1 of the noodles I was a bit tight for pasta and used spaghettini, at least we got the flavor pretty much down pat. The next time we used chow mein noodles, and if I don’t say so myself they taste surprisingly like the ones from the deli but……about $7 less. For three times as much noodle salad. Just sayin’. Oh – and an added bonus to picnic salad using the chow mein noodles? They only take about 2 minutes to cook, which in the summertime can sometimes be all the incentive that I need.
Singapore Noodle Salad
Serves 6-8 as a side dish
- 1 lb dry chow mein noodles *
- 3 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1.5 tbsp sesame oil
- 2 tbsp fish sauce **
- 2 limes
- 2 tbsp curry powder
- 3/4 tsp ground ginger
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1-2 level tsp cayenne ***
- 1 tbsp mirin
- 2 tbsp light soya sauce ****
- 1 small red pepper (about 3/4 cup, chopped)
- 1 small green pepper (about 3/4 cup, chopped)
*If you don’t have chow mein noodles, an angel hair pasta would do the trick in a pinch. Adjust your cooking time accordingly.
** If you’re making a vegan salad, instead of traditional fish sauce you could use any one of the multitudes of vegetarian fish sauce flavored condiments.
*** These are spicy noodles. If you wanted a milder noodle, or if your curry powder is of the fiery ilk, you can always reduce this amount to taste.
**** If you have dark soya sauce (it’s a molasses colored browny black and somewhat thicker than your average light soya, which is just dark brown and as thin as fish sauce) you would likely want to decrease the amount and up the ante on your fish sauce and mirin. But again, that’s to taste – just my suggestion.
Press the garlic into a bowl or use a rasp to turn it into a pulp. Squeeze in the juice of both limes and add the oils, spices, mirin, fish sauce and soya sauce. Whisk it all together.
Seed and finely chop the small red and green peppers, or use half of a larger pepper.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the chowmein noodles for 2-3 minutes, or until they’re tender but not mushy.
Drain the noodles in a colander and rinse them thoroughly under cold running water. I know, I know – it’s usually a sin to rinse your pasta noodles, right? All that starch helps the sauce to adhere and blah blah blah. But you know what happens in a lightly dressed noodle salad when you don’t rinse your noodles? You get a bowl of densely massed and semi-dry noodles for dinner. Nobody wants that.
Add the dressing and finely chopped pepper to the cold noodles and toss them thoroughly to combine until each noodle has a lovely coating of sauce.
The salad can be served cold or at room temperature. And again, it packs beautifully for a picnic.
Now if this was my salad, rather than a thinly veiled impostor salad masquerading as one from the local over-priced food emporium, I would do a few things differently. I would probably add more chopped vegetable (maybe some julienned carrot or the watery crunch of bean sprouts?), perhaps incorporate a bit of fresh chopped cilantro into the mix, and perhaps even add a sprinkle of dry roasted peanut bits….thus effectively turning this into a Thai curried noodle salad, because that’s just how I roll.
However, this is not really my salad, it’s my interpretive noodle dance in an effort to feed my soon-to-be in laws the salad that they want for a fraction of the price (because sometimes, it seems, it’s not just all about what *I* want to eat). And if their salad only has peppers and dressing? Well, dangnabbit, this salad will only have peppers and dressing as well.
Spicy curried Singapore Noodle Salad: It’s What’s For Picnic Today.