I was reading the Sunday San Francisco Chronicle – one of four newspapers we subscribe to – and came across a recipe for a cold noodle dish that sounded pretty good. As luck would have it, we had all the ingredients in the house, so I decided to give it a try.

Final result?!? Meh.

It wasn’t bad… it just wasn’t really good. It was a little too bland. It lacked a punch. Probably the most flavorful part of the dish was one of the chicken meatballs I made the other day.

I used heirloom tomatoes and ground pork. Perhaps a sausage would have helped, but the blandness was in the sauce. I think it needs a bit of help. Some chilis… some ginger… even some nice, salty soy sauce would help.

I really liked the concept, so methinks I’ll be trying this one again.

Oh… and a POUND of noodles for 4 people?!? Waaaaaaaaaaaay too much. A standard serving is supposed to be 2 ounces. Even an overly-generous 3 ounces per person would be really filling!

Cold Noodles With Tomato-Peanut Sauce, Pork & Peppers

adapted from the San Francisco Chronicle

Serves 4

  • 1 pound fresh lo mein, udon or dried spaghetti noodles
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for tossing with noodles
  • Diamond Crystal Kosher salt
  • 1 pound ground pork or sausage
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ pound Jimmy Nardello, red bell or other sweet peppers, stemmed and chopped
  • 1¼ cups unsweetened roasted peanuts
  • ¾ pound Early Girl or Roma tomatoes, chopped (about 3 or 4 large)
  • 5 tablespoons unseasoned rice wine vinegar or lemon juice (or mix of both)
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • ½ cup chopped cilantro and/or mint, plus more if desired

Instructions: Cook noodles in a large pot of boiling water according to package directions then drain and rinse under cold water, then shake off as much water as possible. Transfer the cool noodles to a large bowl and toss with enough olive oil to coat them. Season with salt and set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot and shimmery, add the ground pork, using the back of a spoon or blunt wooden spoon to break the meat into bite-size pieces and crumbles. Cook, tossing and turning every few minutes, until cooked through and you have a mix of crispy browned and tender bits. Season with salt and pepper, then fold in the peppers and cook, tossing and turning until the peppers are softened and tender but still have a fresh pepper taste (taste a piece or two), about 5 minutes. Transfer to a small serving bowl and let cool before serving.

Place ¾ cup of the peanuts, tomatoes, vinegar or lemon juice, garlic, fish sauce and remaining 4 tablespoons olive oil in a blender and blend until smooth. Taste, season with salt, pulse, taste again and season again if needed.

Pour the tomato-peanut sauce into the bowl with the noodles and toss very well to combine. The noodles should look fully coated and there should be some sauce pooling at the bottom of the bowl. If there isn’t, or if the sauce looks too thick, add a few splashes of water at a time, tossing in-between. Season with salt again and taste until it’s sufficiently saucy and delicious.

Chop the remaining ½ cup peanuts. Serve the noodles in bowls with the cooled pork and pepper mix spooned over the top with the chopped herbs and peanuts.