The soft tinkle of rain is such a lovely sound to wake up to.
It’s somewhat less pleasant when it’s 4AM, the rain is INSIDE and the delicate tinkle is amplified because it’s bouncing off the tile at the threshold of your bedroom as it pours over the molding above the doorway.
Somewhat. Where “somewhat” equals “WHY THE HELL IS IT RAINING INSIDE MY HOUSE?” It’s not raining outside. Only inside. DOES NOT COMPUTE. Also, MY GOD, I HOPE MY CONDO INSURANCE IS UP-TO-DATE. Note to self: when you leap from your bed to run upstairs and determine the source of the leak, take the extra ten seconds to put on pants. You’ll be less chilly.
Once upstairs, I was quickly able to discern the source of the downstairs shower: the water pouring out of the ceiling upstairs. I especially enjoyed the water pouring out of the lighting fixture, and the sudden jolt of horror I had at the prospect of being found electrocuted to death in my drippy apartment with NO PANTS.
After calling our upstairs neighbors seventeen billion times, they awoke to their own internal deluge courtesy of a busted water heater, I put on some pants and emergency plumbers were called. We turned the water to the building off and sat semi-catatonic on the couch, listening to the residual drop-drop-drop of water from the kitchen ceiling as we tried to stay awake, waiting for news of the plumber and hoping the lighting fixture would stay fixed.
None of this has anything to do with the spicy peanut noodles I made for dinner, largely from pantry items. It just happened today and was deeply irritating.
The spicy peanut noodles were much less irritating and did not require a call to an insurance claims adjuster, making them infinitely more enjoyable. They were, in fact, inversely proportional in terms of non-irritatingness with massive ceiling leakage. Because ain’t no one don’t like no spicy peanut sauce.
I started building the flavor with some shallots and garlic in olive oil before adding soy sauce and mirin and letting it reduce to a salty-fragrant syrup and pouring in a can of coconut milk (I like a coconutty peanut sauce m’self). While I whisked, I tried not to stare at the ripped seam cutting across the kitchen ceiling. I failed, and ended up staring at it quite a great deal.
It does not add to the home.
I finished off the sauce with a shitload of peanut butter, a shitload of chili-garlic paste and a shot of rice wine vinegar, and let it simmer to come together, tweaking the flavor now and again, while I sliced up some red pepper, carrot and cucumber.
Conveniently, I remembered that I now own a mandolin for finely slicing vegetables. Inconveniently, I remembered this fact midway through julienning the vegetables, so they were not as finely julienned as they might otherwise have been. Also, my knife skills were not what they usually are what with the constant staring-at-the-ceiling. At least I was wearing pants. While failing to julienne, I put on a pot of water and cooked up some noodles.
I’ll give you two guesses as to what I did while I was waiting for the water the boil and the noodles to cook through.
I decided not to pre-cook the vegetables at all and simply to toss them with the hot noodles and sauce to keep them crunchy; also I didn’t want to spend any more time making dinner than I absolutely had to so I could go back to staring forlornly at my semi-intact ceiling.
I’m harping, I know.
I tossed the noodles into a large bowl with the veg and some of the peanut sauce and tossed vigorously with some tongs. I always have such fun watching the salad guys at the deli tossing my salad (not a euphemism), the lettuce bounces around in the bowl and everything ends up evenly coated with dressing. Okay, maybe I made that sound a little more fun than it really is, it’s more a minor bright spot in my afternoon that will happen anyway than an experience worth seeking out in and of itself. Still, their method looks so effective.
Turns out it’s a lot less effective with a mass of hot, wet noodles than with lightweight salad greens; normally I’d be able to predict something like that, but, you know, my ceiling. Still, after some careful tossing and folding, I got all the noodles coated and the vegetables as evenly distributed as they were going to get. And then?
Because it turned out DELICIOUS and I was TOO ANXIOUS TO EAT. And not even because of the ceiling, which was drying out and the insurance people were a lot nicer than I thought they were going to be; just because. And that makes me say: MOTHERFUCKERRRRR. I had a shitstorm of a day, and life can’t even let me eat a damn bowl of spicy peanut noodles? Life can suck it, that’s what life can do. I had to content myself with watching Brian eat and heartily enjoy his bowl of noodles while I ate a few forkfuls to get a sense of the flavor and then sipped some water.
It’s like that saying, “feed a cold, starve a fever.” Or vice versa, I never remember how that phrase works. In my case, “starve anxiety, feed a depression.” So I couldn’t be depressed on spicy peanut noodle day? GOD DAMN IT.
Anyway, these noodles are really good.
Also I have a tear in my ceiling. The end.
Spicy Peanut Sauce
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 shallot, finely minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 c. soy sauce
3 tbsp. mirin
1 14oz. can coconut milk
1 tbsp. chili-garlic paste
4 tbsp. sweet chili sauce
1-3 tbsp. rice wine vinegar
2/3 c. peanut butter (not the all-natural kind)
2-4 tbsp. sugar
salt to taste
Heat the olive oil in a saucepot over medium heat. Add the shallot and garlic and let sweat for 5-6 minutes.
Add the soy and mirin and let them reduce to a syrupy consistency. Stir in the coconut milk, chili-garlic paste, sweet chili sauce and sugar and whisk together.
Once it comes to a simmer, whisk in the peanut butter until smooth. Taste, and add rice wine vinegar to taste; you want to add brightness without turning the sauce overly acidic. Add sugar to taste; you want some sweetness but you don’t want the sauce to become unbalanced. Salt to taste.
Let simmer for a few minutes and adjust any flavor if necessary – soy or salt if it needs salt, vinegar if it needs brightening, chili-garlic paste if you want heat, and sugar for sweetness. Use on noodles, as a dipping sauce or for whatever the hell else needs some spicy peanut.