This meal was not what I was expecting, but not in a bad way. I was thinking this recipe for chicken on cilantro-ginger noodles would be hot and mushy and would taste like a Thai food takeout dish. Boy, was I wrong. Do you ever eat something so cool, crisp and healthy that you feel clean and refreshed afterwards, like you just stepped out of the shower? I’m not kidding. I usually only feel like that after a salad on a hot summer day.
I wasn’t sure if this was meant to be a hot meal or a cold salad topped with warm chicken. I had intended on making a hot dinner, until I got to step one where it said: cook noodles to package directions. Well, my package had two different options depending on whether or not you were planning on stir-frying the noodles. Scanning the rest of the recipe I saw no reference to stir-frying, so I soaked the noodles, as per package instructions, and finishing by rinsing them in cold water. Plus, when I considered that the cucumber, radishes and mango were not to be heated, I thought it best to forge ahead with cold noodles. I had the noodles soak in hot water and, as directed from the cookbook, added snow peas for the last two minutes of soaking.
My husband helped me prepare this dish and it was nice having two people chop and dice. He prepped the radishes and chicken and I got to do the easy and fun stuff: thinly slicing the cucumbers and scoring the mangoes. I remember when my Irish friend, Aoife, taught me to score mangoes—it was like she had changed my life with one simple trick. I had always struggled to get the flesh from the skin of a mango with a variety of awkward knife strokes, some frustration and a few choice words muttered under my breath. My friend had an absolute genius method: Cut into the flesh in a checkerboard fashion, without cutting through the skin. Next, flip the skin outwards and then you can easily slice the cubes from the skin.
This dish was so multi-textural and flavourful that I thought it was nearly perfect. If only the mangoes I had used had been sweet rather than sour! I had eaten crunchy snow peas before, but never in anything I had made. Warming them for two minutes with the noodles had them turn so bright green and taste so crunchy, unlike the weepy, almost wilted-looking, snow peas that I had extracted from the crisper drawer of my fridge not so long ago.
My husband and I loved this meal: So crisp, fresh and full of Asian flavours. I wouldn’t call toasted sesame seeds optional—I’d call them mandatory. Our 19-year-old student/housemate/sister-in-law wasn’t as much of a fan and admitted, “Umm, the cold noodles are kind of creeping me out.” As for our two year-old, he excitedly shouted “mango” ten times, watched a few diced rice noodles slither off his spoon and then asked us for crackers.
I would recommend this recipe for a refreshing lunch or as a light meal on a hot summer’s day. And, luckily for my husband and me, there was lots left over for lunch the next day.