Cabbage and Rice Noodle Salad
sometimes not having a plan is delicious
things you’ll need: brown rice noodles, soy sauce (tamari), rice vinegar, limes, honey, toasted sesame oil, ginger, garlic, cilantro, cabbage (or a bag of pre-cut slaw), carrots, peanuts (or cashews), sriracha or chili flake
I had a lot of cabbage and was a little tired of eating this cabbage and apple salad, which I eat all of the time because it is delicious. I stumbled upon this recipe by Lisa Leake when I searched for “cabbage” on Epicurious’s website, but I doubled the sauce, used a ton of lime, cut a lot of cabbage, and then generally just tasted my way through until I was happy. I served it with a loose variation on this recipe for grilled peanut chicken using lime instead of lemon and a couple other changes, but the noodle salad was really the main show.
incidentally gluten-free (using tamari), vegetarian, and vegan if you sub out the honey
Maybe it’s the time shift or the perpetual greyness or just the many several weeks (years) of stressors, excitements, and actively engaged coping mechanisms, but you are tired and not entirely present. So, you end up on autopilot while wandering the grocery store, filling your cart with all the things you normally buy because you went with no plan and only a basic understanding that you need food (along with justice, compassion, affordable healthcare, and fair/free elections).
This is how you come home from the grocery store to find that you now have an armful of cabbages and an opportunity to try something new and completely unplanned. You say “opportunity” because you are practicing self-kindness and definitely not berating yourself.
Cabbages are worth keeping around (you tell yourself), mostly for the sake of salad making, because cabbage is super crunchy, nutritious, and keeps for so long that you might even forget that you already bought one (or even two) many weeks ago. You can Caesar it, slaw it, or just toss it with some basic bottle vinaigrette and call it lunch, but you don’t want any of those things, which is annoying but surmountable. Turn to your cabinet, and also the internet, for new ways to make use of this humble brassica and find a solution there before you start to collapse under the pressure of hunger and ill-planning.
Start a big pot of hot water for the rice noodles while you whisk up a sauce.
Start with ⅓ - ½ cups soy sauce (or tamari) and add a little rice vinegar (Tablespoon-ish) and sesame oil. Taste. Add the juice from a lime, some ginger, a little garlic, a squeeze of honey and then taste again. Add more lime and a little more rice vinegar, because you love a good hit of acid in your food. Add a little chili flake and let it hang out while you make your noodles in the now hot water (according to the package’s instructions).
Drain and rinse your noodles, toss with about half of the sauce, until well-sauced, and let the noodles soak it up while you slice cabbage and grate carrots.
Toss your sliced cabbage and carrots with a healthy fistful of chopped cilantro, a squeeze of lime, and salt. When you are ready, toss your cabbage mix with the sauced noodles, a little more sauce, and give it a taste. Add a little salt or more lime or more sauce or whatever you think it needs. Top with many crushed peanuts and as much sriracha as you want.
You tend to be a meticulous planner because your natural state is mostly chaos and anxiety and planning is how you exercise control, which is an illusion that you find very comforting. But maybe you are also great when you rely on muscle memory and make it work moments. Maybe you are naturally great and the only difference between anxiously planning and problem-solving on the fly is your own comfort.
If this bowl of cabbage noodles is any indication, then not having a plan is sometimes even more delicious than having one.
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