28 February 2015

Perhaps for emphasis

February the twenty-eighth, worn out, small-bodied, and unseeing. A day that in the confines of the apartment makes no effort to excite, that promises nothing. Lit in late-winter light, half milk, half gold, it means well, to pass quickly, to leave no trace. The lungs, unaccustomed, inexperienced, still burn a little from last night's smoking, and a faint taste of sodium chloride from the salt-encrusted margaritas continues to tingle the lips. 

"I don't always win, but I never get knocked down", said a male voice behind my back. I reluctantly peeled my eyes off the tropic green of Mekhong River Thai Bar signage and turned around to see a short man, barrel-chested, baby-faced. He was talking to me, asked me if I smoke. I said sorry, I don't -- and started to unlock my bike off the bridge railing. He went on to tell me these two guys, dipshits, just robbed him, took all his money, not much, and cigarettes. 

 "They approached me from behind, hit me on the head. If I saw them coming, it just wouldn't go down.

"I like to fight, collect scars and bruises.

"This one" -- he pointed to the knuckles on his right hand and lifted it to his lips -- "this one is my favorite." He elongated the first syllable, almost sang it out, feeeey-vorite, perhaps for emphasis. 

He suggested we maybe have a beer, nodding towards the Mekhong River. It's open till 4 a.m, he said. "Everything else is closing down as I speak." 

I said thank you, but I'd had enough for the night already. I smiled and rode off as fast as I could, the bike lights still in my coat pocket.

February the twenty-eighth. Smoke grey before the night sky and all thoughts are on dinner. And what dinner!

Soba Noodles with Peanut-Citrus Sauce
Adapted from Orangette
Yield: 2-3 servings

This is my new go-to dish. A delicious, filling, slurpy, no-brainer meal, with enough kick, crunch and smoothness to please everybody's tastes. And by everybody I really mean every one who likes peanut butter and noodles, and now please tell me who does not?

For the sauce:
½ cup natural crunchy peanut butter
½ cup fresh lemon juice
1 ½ tsp soy sauce
¼  tsp pressed garlic
½ tsp sriracha or similar hot sauce, or more to taste
½ tsp sambal oelek or similar chili garlic paste, or more to taste
2 tsp olive oil
1 tsp water

For the noodles:
250 g soba noodles
3 red radishes, very thinly sliced
2 small carrots, very thinly sliced
1 celery stalk, thinly sliced
Fresh cilantro (coriander) or chives, for serving

Make the sauce. Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl, and whisk with a fork to blend well. It will look clumpy at first, but keep whisking. It will come together into a smooth, fragrant sauce. Taste, and tweak to your liking. Set aside.

Next, bring a large pot of water to a boil, and place a colander in the sink. When the water boils, add the soba noodles, and cook at a gentle simmer until they are al dente, about four minutes. Don't overcook. 

Drain the noodles into the colander in the sink. Immediately wash them in cold water. Turn on the faucet and, with your hands, take small handfuls of soba and separate them between your fingers, taking care each noodle is rinsed. This helps to remove any starchy residues and keeps the noodles from clumping.

Shake any excess water from the noodles, and pour them into the bowl of sauce. Manually or with forks, gently toss until the noodles are evenly coated. Add the carrots, radishes, and celery, and serve, topped with fresh cilantro (coriander) or chives.