Anyone who says cold pasta salad is boring has yet to try this one. Glass noodles made from mung bean sprouts become clear after soaking (they’re often called cellophane noodles) and have a springy, bouncy bite that makes them fun to eat. Tossed with crunchy vegetables, our five-spice peanut brittle, and loads of fresh herbs, this salad will totally get you to rethink the “pasta salad” genre.
4 tablespoons (2 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperatur
1/4 cup five-spice powder (see The Num Pang Pantry, page 28
1 1/2 cups roasted salted peanuts
5 ounces mung bean vermicelli noodles
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Heaping 1/4 cup snow pea
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons lightly packed light brown suga
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oi
4 scallions, green parts only, thinly sliced
1/4 medium red bell pepper, very thinly sliced lengthwis
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leave
1/4 cup fresh Thai basil leave
1 tablespoon black sesame seeds, toaste
MAKE THE SPICED PEANUTS: Lightly coat a rimmed baking sheet with nonstick spray. Set a medium skillet over medium heat and add the sugar to the pan, shaking it into an even layer. Melt the sugar, shaking the pan occasionally, until the sugar is melted and golden, 8 to 10 minutes (take care as you swirl or shake the pan—the sugar is very, very hot!). Continue to cook the sugar until it is golden brown, shaking and swirling the pan as needed, to get the sugar to caramelize evenly. Whisk in the butter, then whisk in the five-spice powder. Quickly stir in the peanuts and immediately turn the nuts out onto the prepared baking sheet. Set aside to cool, then coarsely chop the brittle.
MAKE THE NOODLE SALAD: Put the noodles in a large heat-safe bowl, cover with cold water, and set aside for 15 minutes. Bring a saucepan of water to a boil. Drain the noodles, return them to the bowl, and cover with the boiling water. Soak until tender, about 3 minutes, drain, and cool completely.
Fill a bowl with ice and water and set aside. Bring a small saucepan of water to a boil over high heat. Add the salt and snow peas and cook until they are bright green, 45 seconds to 1 minute. Drain and plunge into the ice water. Blot dry and thinly slice lengthwise
In a large bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, brown sugar, and oil until the sugar has dissolved. Add the drained noodles, the scallions, bell peppers, blanched snow peas, cilantro, and basil and toss to combine. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.
To serve, toss the salad, divide among bowls, and sprinkle with the crushed spiced peanuts and the sesame seeds.
HEADS-UP: The dressed noodles need 1 hour to chill in the fridge. This allows the flavors to really mesh. Of course roasted, salted peanuts can stand in for the five-spice caramel nuts, but c’mon . . . do you really want them to?