“Smashing” Peanut Noodles and Thai Crunch Salad

Subee is a nickname I’ve had since 10th grade, when I decided to turn out for the Curtis High School tennis team. Our coach, Mr. Webb – a revered biology teacher who used to give extra credit for turning in “mutant” M&M’s® – had a strict policy that everyone on the team have a nickname. My maiden name is Benveniste, so you can see how I quickly became Sue B., or Subee.

That's me, front & center with the big hair.

Mr. Webb did all kinds of things to make his “tennis ladies” feel special, but one of the highlights was his match day morning ritual. If you were starting in a match that day, you would be “surprised” by a varsity football player interrupting your homeroom class, getting down on one knee and delivering a long-stemmed rose and a kiss (on the cheek). Talk about motivation!

After high school I shelved the tennis racquet (yet oddly kept the big hair and perms going well past college). Last year my love for the sport was rekindled, and with nary a football player in sight. After 8 straight years of childrearing, I think I just needed to get out of the house and do something that didn’t revolve around kids. (Precious as they may be.) Plus, the women on my league teams (indoor winter and outdoor spring) are supportive as well as fun. I think they put up with my less-than-stellar record because I bring tennis ball cookies and good post-match lunches when it’s my turn. Since today was my turn, I broke out the racchette pasta that I found in a grocery store months ago. Normally I make peanut noodles with spaghetti, but I couldn’t resist the racquets for this occasion. Along with some grilled chicken and a “Thai Crunch” salad, it was an ace of a meal. If only my matches could be as successful!

To make all the components for this is a bit of a process (and you’ll feel like your entire pantry is out on your countertop), but  a) it’s worth the effort, and b) you don’t have to do everything every time. For example, use shredded rotisserie chicken instead of grilling your own. Or use crunchy rice noodles instead of frying wonton strips. (Though the crispy wonton strips are usually everyone’s favorite part, and they’re very quick to make.) Or make only the salad, or only the peanut sauce and noodles. You get the idea. If you’re going to make the marinated chicken, salad dressing and peanut sauce, get out all of the ingredients and try to assembly-line the process since many of the same ingredients are called for. The good news is that everything can be made well in advance and then just assembled prior to serving. (I made everything for today’s lunch yesterday.) And if you have an immersion blender, making the 2 sauces is a snap.

Smashing Peanut Noodles & Thai Crunch Salad* with Chicken and Peanut Ginger Sauce Drizzle

(*loosely adapted from a copycatrecipes.com version of California Pizza Kitchen’s Thai Crunch salad)

Peanut Ginger Sauce (double recipe if using for both noodles and salad)

  • 1 heaping Tablespoon freshly grated or minced ginger
  • 1 generous cup peanut butter (Jif or Skippy, preferably)
  • 3 Tablespoons hoisin sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon soy sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon Asian sweet chile sauce or garlic-chile sauce)
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • ½ cup water

Peel the gingerroot and grate finely. (Do this over a piece of parchment paper to collect all the juices and make clean-up easier.)

Add the grated ginger and all other ingredients to a microwaveable bowl or measuring cup. Microwave on high for 1 minute.

Blend with an immersion blender until smooth. (Or pour into a blender.) Set aside or refrigerate until ready to use.

For Peanut Noodles:

  • 1 package (16 oz.) pasta – spaghetti or any shape
  • 1 recipe Peanut Sauce
  • 1 cup roasted peanuts, chopped
  • (optional for “Smashing” racchette pasta: 1 cup frozen peas)

Cook pasta in salted water according to package directions. (For racchette I cooked for exactly 11 minutes.) Drain and rinse with cold water. Drizzle with some sesame oil.  If making ahead, refrigerate covered until ready to use. For serving, bring pasta to room temperature or microwave for a minute or two. Warm peanut sauce in microwave, adding a little water if necessary to achieve the consistency of maple syrup.  Just before serving, toss cooked pasta with peanut sauce to coat. Garnish with chopped peanuts (and thawed peas, if using). Reserve some peanut sauce for leftovers, since the pasta will suck up the sauce after a while. Peanut noodles can be served hot, cold or at room temperature. 

Serves 6 as a main course or 8-12 as a side dish.

For Thai Crunch Salad:

  • 1 recipe Cilantro Vinaigrette
  • 1 recipe Peanut Ginger Sauce
  • 4 Grilled Chicken Breasts (optional)
  • 1 recipe Crispy Wonton Strips (or LaChoy crispy RICE noodles)
  • 1 package sliced red cabbage
  • ½ red bell pepper, sliced thin (reserved from making vinaigrette)
  • 5 green onions, chopped (green parts only)
  • 12 cups (1 large head) Napa cabbage, sliced thinly (see photo below)
  • 1 cup thinly sliced cucumber “smiles” (see photo below)
  • 1 cup shelled edamame (if frozen, just let thaw – no need to cook)

Cilantro Vinaigrette

  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • ¼ cup rice vinegar
  • Juice of ½ lime (about 1 Tablespoon)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 cup packed cilantro (1/2 a bunch)
  • ½ red bell pepper (slice the other half for salad)
  • 1 Tablespoon honey
  • 2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
  • Pinch of kosher salt

Add all ingredients to the beaker of an immersion blender and blend until smooth. (Or, puree in a blender.) Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

So pretty!

I love the immersion blender beakers because you make sauces and store them in the same container.

Grilled Chicken:

  • 1-2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 Tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 Tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • (optional: 1 Tablespoon freshly grated ginger)
  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts

Add all ingredients to a zip-lock bag and let marinated for 30 minutes at room temperature or up to a day in the refrigerator.

Heat gas grill to medium-high. Lightly oil grill grates and grill chicken for about 5 minutes without moving. Flip and cook another 3-5 minutes until center is no longer pink. Do not overcook! Slice for serving. 

Crispy Wonton Strips

Slice a stack of wonton wrappers into 5ths. (I fry up the whole package because inevitably they get munched before serving time.)

Set a small bowl of kosher salt and a baking sheet lined with paper towels next to the stove. Pour about an inch of peanut or vegetable oil into a heavy pot or Dutch oven and heat until the oil is shimmering. Fry wonton strips a handful at a time until golden brown; remove from oil quickly and sprinkle with kosher salt. Turn down stove temperature if strips cook too quickly and burn. (My first batch got tossed.) Repeat until all wonton strips are fried. Once strips have cooled, store in airtight container or zip-lock bags.

Assemble the salad:

In a large salad bowl, combine red and napa cabbages, green onion, cucumber, red pepper and edamame. Toss with cilantro vinaigrette. (You may not need all the dressing.) Toss in sliced chicken and crispy wontons, or arrange on top as a garnish. Drizzle with Peanut Ginger sauce.

To make cucumber “smiles”, partially peel a seedless (or any) cucumber, cut in half lengthwise, and scoop out seeds. Slice into half-circles.

With napa cabbage you get two textures in one: delicate ruffles on the tips of the leaves, and crunchy (but not bitter) lower parts. Once dressed, napa cabbage also stays crisp longer than lettuce.

A squeeze bottle is snazzy for drizzling peanut sauce, but you could just drizzle with a fork or spoon. (This one is a recycled agave nectar container.)

Serves 8 – 12 (depending on whether you’re serving with chicken or peanut noodles)

Shopping List (for all components)

  • Vegetable oil and/or peanut oil
  • Toasted sesame oil
  • Rice vinegar
  • Hoisin sauce
  • Soy sauce
  • Sweet chili or chili-garlic sauce
  • Peanut butter (smooth or chunky, Jif or Skippy)
  • Shelled cocktail peanuts
  • Dijon mustard
  • Brown sugar
  • 16 oz. pasta – spaghetti or any shape
  • 1 package fresh wonton wrappers (often in the produce section)
  • Fresh gingerroot (a 3” section)
  • 5 scallions/green onions
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 large head Napa cabbage (look for ones with a lot of green)
  • 1 package shredded red cabbage
  • 1 “seedless” cucumber
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • Shelled edamame (I use frozen)
  • 4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts

5 thoughts on ““Smashing” Peanut Noodles and Thai Crunch Salad

  1. Yum ! That looks fantastic ! I do a throw together of the same vein, but I’m going to try this and I’ve never tried to make the peanut noodles – I’ve just winged a version of that too.🙂 Or done a sesame version. That picture is hilarious ! And Subee, this is not at all how I thought you got your name, I’ve been telling people for years another story ! Don’t ask me where I came up with mine … ! I obviously winged that one too ! :S

  2. That looks so delicious … and love all your step-by-step pics! With spring in the air, I am loving the different ways to have a salad! Sure it was great after tennis! (Love the Blog!)

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