One of the many things I love about warmer weather is putting main dish salads back on the menu. Of all the salads I make, Patty McNalley’s Killer Noodle Salad is our family’s hands-down favorite. The recipe for this Thai-influenced salad came from The Oregonian back in 1997; it won first prize in some contest they held and after tasting it I know why. Wow!
The first ingredient listed is chuka soba. These are dried chow mein noodles produced in Japan, usually sold in 6-ounce packages. If you cannot find chuka soba, spaghetti can be substituted, but I personally think the flavor of the chuka soba is better. None of the other ingredients are difficult to find, and many are things I keep on hand in the pantry. This salad is a great way to use up cilantro, or those last couple of carrots in the produce drawer. The spiciness of the dressing can be adjusted by either leaving out the crushed red pepper or chili sauce, or by adding more (we personally like it kind of spicy).
The original recipe does not contain any meat, but if I have leftover chicken on hand I’ll add it to pump up the protein. Shrimp is a delicious addition as well, and firm tofu works well too (just be sure to let it marinate in the dressing for a while so it soaks up some of the flavor). Leftover steak or roast, thinly sliced, would also work nicely.
Killer Noodle Salad was also my favorite dish to take to potlucks for two reasons: There were never any leftovers, and I always got asked for the recipe!
By the way, back in the day in Portland I complained that while all our local supermarkets carried chuka soba in their Asian food sections, they charged anywhere from $2.50 to $2.75 per package, which I felt was too expensive. Savvy frugal shopper that I was I instead bought them at local Asian markets or at Cost Plus World Imports, where I could find the same product for less than $1.00 per package! But here I am in Hawai’i now, and these days I’d be thrilled if I found the noodles for $2.75 a package in our local stores. I did find some for slightly more than $2/package on Amazon, but those and most other brands (including my favorite) won’t ship to Hawaii for some unknown reason.
PATTY’S KILLER NOODLE SALAD
12 ounces chuka soba noodles
1 1/2 tsp dark sesame oil
1/3 cup rice or white vinegar
Juice and grated peel of one fresh lime
1/2 cup soy sauce
2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes or 2 tsp garlic chili sauce
2 TBSP sugar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup peeled, grated carrot
3/4 cup coarsely chopped dry-roasted peanuts
1/2 chopped fresh cilantro
In a large pot, bring 3 quarts water to a boil and cook noodles according to directions (chuka soba cooks quickly, about 2-3 minutes). Drain and rinse with cold water and let cool in collander.
In a large bowl, combine sesame oil, vinegar, lime juice and grated peel, soy sauce, red pepper flakes or chili sauce, sugar and garlic. Mix until sugar is dissolved. Toss carrots, peanuts and cilantro into dressing (chicken or tofu should be tossed in now; if using shrimp it should be added just before serving).
Cut through the noodles to make them manageable lengths, then toss the noodles in the large bowl with the other ingredients. Chill the salad for at least one hour to let flavors mingle and toss again just before serving. If it seems a little dry, you can add a tiny bit more soy sauce and vinegar. The salad can be served cold or at room temperature.
When I took this salad to a potluck, I would thinly slice a lime or two and make a ring of the slices around the edge of the bowl or platter – very pretty!