Asian Herbs & Noodles
Asian Herbs & Noodles is a light summer noodle dish bursting with vibrant fresh herbs and dressed with a refreshing bright flavored peach-ginger dressing. The piquante from the hot pepper and ginger along with the sweetness from the peaches in the Peach-ginger dressing really compliment the minty peppery tastes from the mix of herbs.
Vibrant Asian Herbs (Perilla, Lemon Balm, and Peppermint)
The vibrant herbs used in this Asian herbs & noodles dish each have a distinct flavor and compliment each other. All three herbs are members of the mint (Lamiaceae) family. The broad leafed herb with a purple underside and green topside is called Perilla. Perilla has a flavor with notes of anise, mint and clove. I’ve also noticed other flavors in some of the perilla bunches, like cumin and even peanut. It has such complexity it could almost be it’s own curry.
The green broad leafed herb, Vietnamese Lemon Balm, has a perfumed lemony taste, peppery notes, and slightly minty taste. It is used for tea and adds lemony notes to soups when added just before serving.
Peppermint has a bright minty taste, but is differs from spearmint in both taste and appearance. Peppermint has a smoother softer texture and is a darker green. Peppermint has that menthol mintiness with somewhat of a peppery taste.
These Asian herbs appear at Farmers Markets during the late-spring early summer to early fall. They are also found in Asian grocery stores during the season.
Alternative Herbs (Cilantro, Spearmint, and Arugula)
The more commonly found herbs cilantro, spearmint and arugula are perfect with this noodle dish when you can’t find the perilla, lemon balm, and peppermint. Cilantro offers the lemony taste, spearmint offers the minty taste and the arugula has a peppery flavor. Basil is also a good choice instead of mint.
Noodles and herbs really bring out the best in one another as the textures play well together. For this noodle dish (and many of the noodles dishes I make), I have been using organic whole wheat spaghetti noodles. They hold up really well after being dressed, even overnight they hold up without becoming mushy.
There are also sturdy gluten-free noodles available too. I find whole-grain, like brown rice noodles, as opposed to noodles made from rice flour, are best for this dish. The otherwise somewhat neutral taste of noodles absorbs the dressing flavors and shows off the vibrant taste of each of these mint family herbs. Since this a cold noodle dish served at room temperature it is a good choice for when the temperatures rise.
Good Choice for a Potluck Dish
This Asian herbs & noodles dish is also an easy one to bring to a potluck and it can be made ahead of time. I just put in a serving bowl and cover with a domed plate that fits within the bowl or plastic wrap, a pair of tongs and we are set to go. The noodles have a tendency to absorb the dressing (exactly what we want the noodles to do), but its a good idea to reserve some dressing and bring it along to freshen the dish just before service. If traveling a distance, it is best to put it in a cooler so the herbs stay bright.
Tools Used in this Recipe
- stock pot for boiling the noodles
- Salad spinner or wash bowl for herbs and lettuce
- chef Knife & cutting Board
- serving bowl
- 1 lb noodles with a long shape whole grain spaghetti or linguine shape noodles
- 3 cups Vietnamese Perilla washed and dry
- 2 cups peppermint washed and dry
- 1 cup Vietnamese lemon balm washed and dry
- 8 crisp romaine lettuce leaves
- 2/3 cup Peach-ginger Dressing
- 3 cups arugula will not likely need cutting
- 2 cups spearmint tear or cut as noted in step 4 below for peppermint
- 1 cup cilantro rough cut the cilantro, stems are fine to include if cut small
- Prepare the noodles according to their package. Rinse with cold water, drain well and set aside until ready to add the vinaigrette and herbs.
- During the time the water is coming to a boil for the noodles and the noodles boiling, the Peach-ginger Dressing can be made and the herbs and lettuce cut.
- Cut the Perilla and lemon balm into chiffonade (stack the leaves, roll up and cut into 1/4in ribbons)Tear or cut the peppermint into chiffonade (stack the leaves, roll up and cut into 1/4in ribbons)
- Cut the romaine crosswise into 1/4in ribbons as well.
- Add the cooked and drained noodles to a large serving bowl, Pour about 1/3 cup of the peach-ginger vinaigrette around the rim of the bowl and toss or stir to coat the noodles.
- Add the herbs and lettuce, toss, add more vinaigrette as desired. If you will be serving later, reserve some of the dressing to add just before service to freshen it up.
- Garnish with lots of fresh sliced peaches and toasted almonds.