France may be one of the world’s capitals of cuisine, but not a lot of French food gets churned out of my kitchen. Don’t get me wrong, there are the dauphinois when the weather is colder, then clafoutis – both cherry and peach – when it eventually gets warmer again. Toulouse is famous for its sausage which it rather possessively named after itself, and its outrageous double-meat cassoulet, but mid-week, truth be told, Gaylord and I tend to eat noodles. The quicker and easier the better really. So, these 10-minute peanut noodles are unsurprisingly right up our street.
I work as a cookbook editor, and back in May I was consumed by a book. The fact I worked right up until the deadline is no one’s fault but my own, although I will rest some blame on YouTube and ‘analysing the meaning of Penelope from Bridgerton’s yellow dress’ which led me down a deep rabbit hole. However, above all, it was the book’s delicious content that had me dawdling.
You see, the book is titled Oodles and Oodles of Vegan Noodles, written by TikToker Cheynese Khachame (who coincidently is French so we seem to have some cultural overlaps here), so Gaylord and I ate exclusively noodles for the entirety of the job. Which lasted around two weeks.
I just couldn’t control my cravings! As I was checking punctuation and syntax, I was also writing a shopping list. Every single recipe made my mouth water, and once I’d satisfied myself that every comma was in the right place, I’d be boiling some noodles, grabbing the oil, the tahini, the chilli, and I’d be eating lunch out of pan, like a beast grappling with its prey. It could be argued that these were the actions of an editor going above and beyond to ensure the recipes were correct, so be aware if your editor is also greedy, as they will carefully taste test every recipe in your book.
Gaylord and I already have little resistance when it comes to noodles, so we are sitting ducks for this kind of deliciousness to come prowling in our direction. Our preferred lunch to grab in the city is noodle-based, and Gaylord’s favourite restaurant is called N88dles, so what does that tell you? That we’re broken records? I won’t deny it. Even in Lisbon, we watched an episode of Jamie Oliver’s 30 Minute Meals as he cooked noodles and we found ourselves silently and guiltily nursing cravings even as we munched on a chocolate doughnut the size of a small squash.
Even in a country of butter and baguettes, our wandering eyes will be the death of us – or of our waist lines. At least we know we have a type. A long, thin, bendy type. Ideally covered in spicy peanut butter sauce and made in 10 minutes flat.
Quick Cook Noodles: 10-minute peanut noodles
When there is something you’d rather be doing, cooking dinner is a painful experience. And that’s coming from someone who procrastinates by cooking. Working out what to cook for dinner is even worse. I swear, we repeat the same five meals each week. So, coming up with this recipe for 10-minute peanut noodles was, quite frankly, a stroke of genius that I feel doesn’t happen often enough.
Not only is it a really quick and effortless dinner, made in 10 minutes or less, but it produces a meal I could happily eat not only as one of our five rotating dinners, but I could eat these peanut butter noodles every night to be perfectly honest. I won’t because otherwise I won’t have anything new to share for next week’s recipe, and I also might develop scurvy after a while, but still, it’s a tempting option.
If I was reading this, as you are right now dear reader, I would be sceptical. Are these noodles really made, start to finish, in 10 minutes?
I’ve been quite cynical about Jamie Oliver recently – it’s down to those episodes of 30 Minute Meals we watched in Lisbon. He produces two courses, multiple sides, maybe a drink too if he has time, in under 30 minutes, and it just doesn’t seem possible. Someone is clearly washing up for him. And he has time to natter away. Whenever I make Turkish eggs or spaghetti vongole and Gaylord comes into the kitchen to ask about timings or if he can help (he may have heard my muffled swearing), I curtly kick him to the curb, I’m too busy to even think let alone have a conversation!
So, how Jamie manages to lean against his counter and give a monologue about the texture of a coleslaw when there’s a countdown clock ticking down like a bomb is about to go off, proves to me that 30 minutes is a savvy marketing ploy. I’d rather watch that show, the one where Jamie forgot where he put the tea towel and is running around, spatula in hand, swearing like a sailor.
As a result though, my scepticism at Jamie made me vigilantly time myself as I prepared and cooked these peanut butter noodles. And yes, they took 10 minutes. From start to finish.
How could these peanut butter noodles possibly be so quick?
I cannot claim any similarity to them, I will just say that these 10-minute peanut noodles are a distant relation, maybe more like relation by marriage, to You Po Mian – hot oil noodles. The only commonality between the traditional noodle dish from the Shaanxi Province and this 10-minute peanut butter mutant, is the fact that both require shimmering hot oil to create the sauce.
While I appreciate hot oil isn’t exactly one of your five a day, besides the noodles, it is the only form of heat to cook the ingredients in the sauce. Poured over fresh garlic, chilli flakes and spring onions, the flavours and aromas are released without you needing to waste time actually cooking.
As the noodles cook and the oil warms, measure all your sauce ingredients into a heatproof mixing bowl. Pour over the oil, ideally without splashing yourself or anyone nearby, and stir to amalgamate all those delicious flavours in the bowl.
And what are those delicious flavours that make up this patchwork of peanut butter sauce?
Other than its namesake, there is garlic, spring onion, chilli flakes, sugar, soy sauce, and a mere pinch of MSG. As the distant third or fourth cousin twice removed, where You Po Mian reaches for the umami black vinegar, these peanut butter noodles have raided a British/French store cupboard and meekly came up with rice wine vinegar. MSG provides that much missed umami. Combined with creamy nutty peanut butter, along with that emulsifying hot oil, the hot oil noodles are layered with pungent flavour, a good friendly punch to the face really, what we all need from a mid-week dinner.
So, as you can see 10-minute peanut noodles really are what they say on the tin. Stir in some noodles – quickly cooked in boiling water – and dinner is served. Naturally, if you want some colour or possibly some vitamins then we should talk about sides – a great option is to cook some vegetables like beans, sugar snaps, or pak choi in the water with the noodles, adding very little additional time to the 10-minute countdown.
Alternatively peanut butter noodles are beautifully complemented by cooling crunchy cucumber. For a meal as lazy as this, ribboning a cucumber is possibly the most exertion required throughout the entire 10 minutes. Chop up some spring onions if you have the energy.
Beyond that, these peanut butter noodles are vegan, and if you are not vegan, you may want something meaty, something with girth? We ate the noodles twice in a week – yeah we’re practically at the stage of throwing the broken record out the window – and on one occasion we served it with strips of rare steak, cheekily adding an extra 5 minutes to the cooking time, and yes, I actually had to cook something! But the noodles are perfect with or without.
So maybe I should give Jamie Oliver the benefit of the doubt? 10-minute dinners exist, so possibly his 30 minute chat-athons can also deliver the goods.
At the end of the day, French food can wait – pass me the peanut butter as it’s Monday and I have my first of many bowls of 10-minute peanut noodles to make!
10-Minute Peanut Noodles
- 2 nests of noodles if using dried (or vacuum-packed fresh) or 100g fresh noodles
- 75 ml flavourless oil with a high smoking point e.g. sunflower or vegetable
- 2 spring onions chopped
- 1 large clove of garlic crushed
- 1 tsp chilli flakes hot or mild depending on your tolerance
- ½ tsp MSG (optional)
- ½ tsp sugar
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
- 2 tbsp smooth peanut butter
- Cucumber, chopped spring onions, salted peanuts, chilli flakes to garnish
- Bring a saucepan of water to boil over high heat. Meanwhile, warm the oil in a small saucepan over medium heat.
- Measure all the sauce ingredients in a large heatproof mixing bowl – the spring onions, crushed garlic, chilli flakes, MSG, sugar, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar and peanut butter. Roughly stir it together.
- Add the noodles to the boiling water and cook according to packet instructions.
- Once the oil is starting to shimmer and you see the surface is rippling, it is hot enough. Carefully remove it from the heat and gently pour it over the sauce ingredients (take care not to pour it over you too). Stir it all together as you pour to ensure everything is evenly coated.
- Once the noodles are cooked, fish them out with tongs and place them directly in the sauce. Stir to coat and serve with cucumber ribbons, chopped spring onion, chilli flakes and salted crushed peanuts.