I can remember the first time I made peanut noodles at home, from scratch. I was amazed that something so delicious and seemingly complex could be made with so few ingredients that were so familiar. Since then I’ve made many pans of peanut noodles many different ways, learning along the way, and have pared it down to be as simple as possible. This version has become a family favourite.
The rice noodles need to soak for 30 minutes, but get that started first, and the rest of the recipe (including chopping) comes together in 15 minutes or less. As I explained in my pad Thai recipe, soaking the noodles is key for good flavour and texture. Boiling rice noodles is a fast track to bland, mushy noodles that make you sad.
8 oz medium-width rice noodles (this is half of a 1 lb / 454 gram package)
One package (350 grams) extra firm tofu, cut into thin bite-sized pieces and patted dry (this prevents sticking)
1/4 cup + 1 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 cup peanut butter
2 tbsp rice vinegar
4 heaping cups finely sliced napa cabbage
1 heaping cup sliced mushrooms, any kind
Soak the rice noodles in cold water for at least 30 minutes.
Blend or whisk together the peanut butter, 1/4 cup soy sauce, the rice vinegar, and 1 cup water.
When the rice noodles are nearly finished soaking, heat up a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Sauté tofu in a small amount of cooking oil until browning on most sides. Add 1 tbsp soy sauce to the tofu and stir until absorbed, about 10 seconds.
Add the cabbage and mushrooms and sauté until the cabbage begins to sweat, one minute or less.
Add the rice noodles and peanut sauce. Cook, turning often with tongs, until water is absorbed and noodles are soft (test a bite), 3 to 4 minutes.
If you like, garnish with chili flakes, a squeeze of lime, cilantro, chopped peanuts, finishing salt, or whatever you have and enjoy!
Adding soy sauce to the tofu before adding other ingredients helps make sure the tofu is extra flavourful. This might be a good dish to spring on people who incorrectly think they hate tofu ;)
On that note, cutting the tofu into thin pieces instead of cubes increases the surface area and therefore increases the flavour potential of the tofu.
Add splashes of water towards the end if needed to prevent sticking and maintain a smooth sauce consistency. I don’t typically find I need to, but this can vary based on how much water your veg release and how high your heat is.
You can find napa cabbage in Chinese grocers. I love it because it’s mild and disappears into dishes, making it a perfect cruciferous veggie for kids. If you can’t find it, sub any green that you like to stir fry—if it’s particularly delicate (like bok choy) add it at the same time as the noodles and sauce so you don’t overcook it.
Don’t be tempted to double the recipe unless you have a giant pan. High-heat stir frying like this works best if the ingredients aren’t too crowded. Plus, as much as I’m a fan of cooking enough for planned leftovers, this is one dish that’s much better fresh.