Ramen Noodle Salad with Cilantro-Ginger Pesto
I am back! The last six weeks have taken me on three trips in a series of rejuvenating, wonder-filled days, and I feel refreshed, ready to dive into the big projects I’ve cleared my schedule for. Travel holds a different purpose for all of us, I think, but to me, being elsewhere presents the opportunity to observe how other people live their lives. I like architecture, art, and museums; I love food; I like biking and walking and sipping wine at lunch. But most of all, I want to watch the people, gauge their routines, and take in the character of a place.
And maybe that’s what’s most refreshing to me, the pop of the bubble of our own habits and outlooks with the reminder that there are so many ways to go about a day, including a whole lot of hanging out in outdoor cafes and squares in the evening, the way people do from Cuba to Marseille. We don’t have enough of that.
Coming home, of course, means a return to routine, and a lot of that is downright good no matter what everyone else around the world is doing. Cooking again is especially good. Last night, our first night back, as we struggled to stay awake, I made my signature braised broccoli with pasta, a dish that’s less pretty than this one but that takes cues from the same everyday need for something simple and rustic that also contains plenty of green. I’ll share that recipe here with you one day–it’s a great one, if ugly. But first, this bowl of slurpy cool ramen, which I made before we left. Half inspired by pesto pasta, half by ginger-scallion noodles, the concoction is rich, bright, spicy, and smooth.
In NYC now, you can buy Sun Noodles’ fresh ramen at some Whole Foods, and that’s what I used here, though any fresh Asian-style wheat (or rice) noodle will work. The “pesto” gets its richness from sesame seeds and oil and its spice from ginger and onion. You can stick to serving noodles with sauce, or you can have fu add toppings like pickled radishes, fried eggs, or shredded chicken, just as you would for peanut noodle bowls.
- About 2 tablespoons very thinly sliced red onion
- 3 tablespoons ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
- 1 garlic clove, peeled
- 3 tablespoons sesame seeds
- 1 small bunch cilantro, stems and leaves, washed well and dried
- ⅓ cup neutral oil, like grape seed
- Juice from ½ a lime, about 1 tablespoon
- ¼ teaspoon soy sauce
- 10 ounces fresh ramen noodles
- Put the sliced onions in a small bowl and cover with cold water. Set aside for about 30 minutes, while you make the rest of the meal. Bring a large pot of water to boil.
- In a mini food processor, combine the ginger, garlic, sesame seeds and ½ teaspoon salt and pulse until finely ground. Add the cilantro, then pulse again. Add the oil, lime juice, and soy sauce, then pulse again to form a sauce-like paste. Taste for seasonings, adding more salt or lime juice as needed.
- Cook the ramen in unsalted boiling water according to package directions, about 3 to 4 minutes. Drain well. You can run cold water over the noodles if you want them truly cold; I usually just serve them warm. Transfer the drained noodles back to the pot or to a large bowl. Toss with the pesto sauce, adding a little more oil to thin if needed. Drain the red onions and toss those in. Serve at room temp.