Knowing how much I adore Bali (who wouldn’t love that tropical paradise where you can get $4 massages?!), and probably remembering how much I talk about my favorite noodle and nut dish that I eat whenever I’m there (if allowed, I would bathe in this dish), my neighbor Martha and her daughter Jamie shared this fabulous and quick-to-prepare recipe with me. It’s from The Accidental Vegan cookbook and is an elegant vegetarian adaptation of a traditional Indonesian dish that is simply divine. Unlike my other favorite dishes that pretty much explode with flavor, this meal lightly dances on your taste buds with a slightly sweet flavor and a lovely nuttiness. It’s got loads of protein to fill your belly with joy. Plus, it’s quick, simple and delicious! Whether you’re trying to please a carnivore’s tummy, a vegan’s palate or a picky kid’s appetite, this dish delivers.
I learned how to make the traditional version of this dish in the blackened kitchen of an ancient Balinese great-grandmother who used Indonesian candlenuts to make this dish. It can be challenging to find candlenuts outside of Asia, but don’t worry – the other nuts listed below make fantastic substitutes. I’m also happy to report that you can use an actual range to cook this meal instead of the little cooking fire that the ancient great-grandma used. Although I’ll admit it was fun to cook with her, even though she didn’t speak a word of English and my mastery of the Indonesian language is restricted to massage- and surfing-related terms. Unfortunately I didn’t remember almost anything she taught me since she bestowed on me the gift of an aromatic leaf that she indicated I should chew on while cooking. It made my lips numb. Being unable to feel my tongue, I accidentally swallowed the masticated leaf, which made the old lady’s eyes bulge in alarm – apparently you’re just supposed to chew it and spit it out. Who knows what it was – all I know is that I didn’t remember anything else that followed, except that I had monkeys sitting on my shoulder and that the flames in her cooking fire magically transformed into technicolor aliens that waved forks at me. So thank goodness for the Accidental Vegan cookbook for recreating this recipe!
I made a few changes to get the flavor to be a closer approximation to the dish I love eating in Indonesia, and I think the end result is divine. By the way, if you have sweet soy sauce, which is what is typically used in this dish, you can use that instead of the soy/molasses combo. You can find it in most Asian food stores. But I doubt your local Asian food store stocks that weird Indonesian chewing leaf with numbing and hallucinogenic properties. You never know though!
Nutty Indonesian Sweet Noodles
From fridge to table: about 10 minutes
1 pound dry Asian noodles (such as udon or soba)
1/2 cup roasted cashews
1/2 cup roasted peanuts
1/2 cup roasted hazelnuts (aka “filberts”) with the skins rubbed off
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, pushed through a press
1.5 tbsp grated ginger
1 cup bean sprouts (kale is also a great substitute)
3 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
Bring a pot of water to a boil and add the noodles; cook until al dente. Drain noodles well then run under cold water so they don’t get gummy.
Meanwhile, put the nuts in a food processor and pulse a few times to coarsely chop. Heat the olive oil in a wok over medium low heat, add the onions, garlic and ginger and saute for 3-5 minutes, until onion starts to soften. Stir in the nuts, sprouts, soy sauce, molasses and sesame oil and cook for another few minutes until everything is heated through. Add noodles and toss everything with tongs until the noodles absorb the liquid. Serve hot.