Pasta salad is a staple food in the summer. This type of dish is easy to make, can always be made ahead and there are an almost infinite number of variations out there for it. It’s great to take to a barbecue or picnic, but because they keep for a couple of days are served cold, they’re also something that you can keep in the fridge at home and have for lunch without much additional fuss.
The salads always start with cooked pasta, to which a variety of veggies and sometimes meats are added. The whole mixture is tossed in a usually mayonnaise-based sauce and chilled before serving. I didn’t want to go with this traditional route for a pasta salad this summer and took inspiration from a pack of Thai rice stick noodles – the same type of noodles used in dishes like pad thai – and made a lovely dressing using some of my favorite asian/Thai flavors.
The dressing for this salad is mostly made with soy sauce and peanut butter, with some honey thrown in to sweeten things up and take a bit of the edge off of all that salt. Creamy and chunky peanut butter both work really well here, although using crunchy will guarantee you a bit of extra texture from chopped peanuts. Supporting flavors are sesame oil, ginger and garlic. I used all kinds of vegetables in here and have also made the salad non-vegetarian by including thin slices of cooked tri-tip steal; the base recipe is vegan. From start to finish, it only took me the time that I needed to boil water and cook the noodles!
Thai-Inspired Peanut Noodle Salad
1 package (12-oz) Thai rice stick noodles
1/3 cup soy sauce
1 tbsp sesame oil
1/4 cup peanut butter
2-3 tbsp honey
1 tsp fresh ginger, grated
1/2 tsp garlic powder (or 1/2 tsp minced fresh garlic)
1/4-1/2 tsp chili oil
1 cup broccoli florets, raw or steamed
1 cup thinly sliced red bell peppers
1 cup sliced and seeded cucumber
1/2 cup chopped scallions
fresh cilantro for garnish (optional)
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the rice noodles according to package directions, or until tender (6-10 minutes). Drain noodles and rise with cold water. Drain again and transfer to a large serving bowl.
While noodles are cooking, whisk together soy sauce, peanut butter, honey, ginger, garlic and chili oil (can substitute red pepper flakes, or use them in addition) until smooth. Adjust amounts of chili oil and honey to taste.
Toss veggies and sauce with the noodles until everything is evenly coated. Chill until ready to serve, at least 1 hour. Garnish with fresh cilantro, if desired.
Serves 4-6 as a main or 8 as a side.