Meatless Monday: Indonesian-Style Noodles

A few months ago, I told you how I came ‘round to beets, thanks to an impossibly irresistible beet and greens quesadilla dreamed up by Seattle chef Devra Gartenstein.

I’ve since pulled another trick out of Gartenstein’s magic bag, a noodle-y thing with an Indonesian twist that is so good and so easy it will likely become a staple at Casa Appetite. Like me, Gartenstein is a meat eater who’s got a yen for taking a break from meat on a regular basis.

The must-make recipe in question comes from her book, “The Accidental Vegan” which has just been re-released (available in stores in March) into a handy, bendable 6x8 format.

Of the many reasons why I love this recipe, the vegan-yet-satisfying factor is close to the top of the list. You could serve this to your favorite pork-product buddy and get a thumbs up, thanks the savory mix of nuts that get sweet-talked by a sauce of molasses, soy sauce and sesame oil. Speaking of that molasses, Gartenstein has done a brilliant thing here, by using readily accessible ingredients to mimic authentic Indonesian ingredients. Essentially, what she’s made is a version of Indonesian sweet soy sauce (aka kecap manis). She’s also recognized that candlenuts, a staple of Indonesian cuisine, would be hard to find for American cooks, so she uses hazelnuts instead.

I also found the recipe very forgiving, allowing for adjustments and substitutions along the way. You could most certainly add sauteed chicken or beef tenders or a fried egg here, but I can almost guarantee you'll be plenty engaged as is.

Indonesian Nuts and Noodles
Adapted from “The Accident Vegan” by Devra Gartenstein
KOD notes in parentheses

1 pound Asian noodles or spaghetti
½ cup roasted cashews
½ cup roasted peanuts
½ cup roasted hazelnuts
(I used a mix of cashews, almonds and pecans, based on what was in the pantry)
1 tablespoon olive oil (I decided on using something more neutral-tasting, like safflower oil)
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 ½ tablespoons grated ginger (About 1-inch hunk)
1 cup bean sprouts (I substituted equal amounts of kale, stemmed and chopped)
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon molasses
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil

Bring a pot of water to a boil over medium-high heat, add the noodles and cook until al dente, 8-10 minutes. Drain noodles well. (For Asian noodles, it’s important to run under cold water to avoid gumminess.)

Meanwhile, place nuts in a food processor and pulse a few times to coarsely chop. Heat olive oil in a wok or large skillet over medium-low heat, add onion, garlic and ginger, and sauté 3-5 minutes, or until onion starts to soften.

In a small bowl, combine soy sauce, molasses and sesame oil and pour into wok, with nuts and sprouts, and stir to combine. If using kale or other quick-cooking greens, add now and toss with tongs to combine and coat with the other ingredients. Add noodles and toss to combine. Mixture will be somewhat dry; this is okay.

Serve hot.

Makes 3-5 servings.

By Kim ODonnel |  February 8, 2009; 7:00 AM ET Meatless Monday
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This looks tasty - I understand you're allowing for flexibility and substitution, but what kind of "Asian" noodles are really appropriate here? I'm thinking not something like udon or soba...a rice noodle? Egg noodle?

Posted by: AmaliaAusten | February 9, 2009 8:38 AM

AmaliaAusten, Udon noodles are exactly what I used. They worked great.

Posted by: Kim ODonnel | February 9, 2009 10:48 AM

Kim, the last 2 mondays your meatless recipes have focused heavily on nuts. Can we get a nut-free recipe next week?

Posted by: chiquita2 | February 9, 2009 12:01 PM

I'd bet long thin egg noodles would be great, too. I'd avoid whole-grain pasta, though - when I tried that with peanut sauce, it got awfully sticky.

Posted by: heinpe | February 9, 2009 5:34 PM

I'm doing the prep now and it's SO not complicated. I bought a 11.5 oz. can of mixed nuts instead of 3 cans to use partial. It's closer to 2 cups, but oh well... I also could only find rice noodles, which I'm guessing should work great. Didn't want to use spaghetti first time out, though I like the previous poster's idea of egg noodles for future use.

Posted by: ArlingtonGay | February 9, 2009 6:49 PM

I'd be interested in knowing what Kim and other tasters think of the molasses flavor. I am not a fan of the taste of molasses, although I know sometimes it can be incorporated in such a way that it is not prominent. (Would honey work as a substitute in this recipe? Or a blend of real maple syrup and honey?)

Posted by: Agathist | February 9, 2009 8:22 PM

I buy Kecap Manis in the Asian Market on University Blvd in Wheaton. Also, candlenuts are more like macademia nuts than any other nuts I can think of. This recipe sounds great for this omnivore!

Posted by: tresa_mie | February 9, 2009 8:26 PM

This reminds me of how I accidentally made a vegan recipe from what I had on hand! If you like eggplant, check this out:

Posted by: orchidgirl | February 10, 2009 11:24 AM

I think it might be better to go with Kecap Manis than the soy sauce and molasses (I assume that's actually a substitution as the Kecap Manis is not as readily available). Kecap Manis is soy sauce with palm sugar added. Rice noodles should work, that's what my wife (originally from Jakarta) typically uses when she cooks her native dishes.

Posted by: | February 13, 2009 1:04 PM

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