There aren’t many foods I miss from childhood, nothing remarkable or special to my family anyway. My grandma’s apple pie, perhaps, because we had it, without fail, every time we went to visit. Tuppence-worth of hot chips on a cold night on the way home from Brownies, because the contrast of temperatures, and the vinegary-saltiness, was so delicious. Lemon and sugar pancakes, on Shrove Tuesday, because we never had pancakes any other day. Not much, then. And it’s rare that I have a Proustian, food-related moment, because none of the food I ate was memorable.
So it was odd to be dragged back to school trips and packed lunches by, of all things, a noodle dish by Fuchsia Dunlop. And especially to be dragged back (look away now, Irish friends and Marmite-haters) to a sandwich filling that was the strangest combination ever: Marmite and peanut butter. For those who love and know this, it makes sense: it is savoury and sweet, comforting yet unfamiliar and when I tried this quick noodle dish, I was immediately reminded of it.
But, non-Marmite lovers, don’t let that put you off. This contains no yeast extract, just all the tastes you could ever want: salty soy and sharp vinegar, the crunch of nuts and sesame seeds against soft noodles. After two or three tries, it is now my favourite fast food. Though those chips are a very close second…
Enough for 1, very easily doubled (adapted from here)
Cupboard (or things you may already have)
peanut butter, 1 tbsp (the recipe specifies smooth but I prefer crunchy)
light soy sauce, ¼ tbsp
dark soy sauce, ¼ tsp
dried noodles, about 75g
white sesame seeds 1 tsp
Chinkiang vinegar,¼ tbsp (you can use red wine vinegar if you can’t find/don’t want to buy this)
chilli oil, ½-1½ tbsp, to taste
sesame oil, ¼ tsp
spring onion, just the green tops
1. Dry-fry the sesame seeds in a frying pan, over a gentle heat, until golden. They will go from white to golden, then golden to burnt, very quickly so be careful.
2. Put the peanut butter, soy sauces and vinegar in a bowl and mix together with a spoon. At first, it will seem like the peanut butter will never blend in but persevere and it will.
3. Peel and finely chop the garlic then add to the mixture with a little of the chilli oil and the sesame oil then add a teaspoon or two of water until the sauce is a little thinner (you could use the water you cook the noodles in for this too). Taste and add more chilli oil if you want more of a kick.
4. Finely chop the spring onion greens.
5. Cook the noodles according to the instructions on the packet, then drain and tip into a bowl. Add the sauce (a detail missing from the original recipe, but this is where I add it!) and stir the noodles into it until well coated. Sprinkle with the sesame seeds and greens and eat immediately.