|And of course, my stint as a bún thịt nướng vendor|
For these reasons, I have always been biased against inauthentic 'food hacks' where people try to make semi-homemade food that is meant to be reminiscent of that of another culture. Examples of this include 'recipes' for turning instant noodles into faux-pho, the terrible renditions of 'Western' food like pizza and hamburgers that you encounter in many Asian countries and the 'Chinese' food that they sell in takeaway stores in New Zealand. Or when a recipe for pad thai includes tomato ketchup. Nobody wins.
One practice that I have always found particularly offensive is when recipes claiming to be 'Asian-inspired' use peanut butter. I always felt uneasy with the idea of incorporating a breakfast spread into the proud culinary tradition of another culture. However, with the rise of additive-free, natural peanut butter options I have come to see it as a much more viable option as a cooking ingredient. They're just peanuts right?
So I finally decided to try out an Asian-inspired recipe with peanut butter. It was delicious. I swapped out sweet chili paste for a spoonful of my ingredient of the moment, gochujang. Combined with peanut butter, soy sauce, sesame and a bit of lemon juice, the resulting sauce was complex, flavourful and all-round amazing. It was actually reminiscent of ssamjang which is a derivative of doenjang and gochujang that often has nuts and seeds added to it.
When combined with buckwheat noodles (매밀면, memil myun) and a variety of crunchy vegetables, you get the most satisfying of noodle salads. The gochujang has a deep, slow-burning spice that pairs well with the nuttiness of sesame and peanut. This salad is a hearty vegan main rather than a side dish, and will be a go-to lunch or dinner option throughout the coming summer months.
Spicy sesame-peanut noodle salad
adapted from Nigella Lawson
serves 2 as a main meal
200g of buckwheat noodles
For the dressing
1Tb of sesame oil
1/2Tb soy sauce
1Tb of gochujang
2Tb of smooth peanut butter
2Tb of lemon juice
1Tb of sesame seeds, I used black ones
2c of crunchy vegetables, cut into thin strips if necessary (carrots, cucumbers, beansprouts, snow peas, radishes at the like)
2Tb of spring onions, thinly sliced
extra sesame seeds for garnish
1. Cook the noodles as directed on the packet. Rinse with cold water and leave to drain in a colander.
2. In a medium-sized bowl, combine the dressing ingredients into a paste. Taste and adjust as required.
3. Add noodles and crunchy vegetables to the bowl and stir to coat everything with the dressing.
4. Transfer to a serving dish and scatter spring onions and extra sesame seeds over the top.