A forceful kick from behind you sends the chair launching forward. Another blow immediately follows, and somewhere a child starts to scream. You feel the anger swelling inside of you as you start to plot your revenge. The hunger is taking control...
This may sound like the beginning of a horror movie, but in reality it's just another day on a plane. Travel can do a number on anyone's diet: airports are littered with fast food, pubs, and ice cream stores. On the plane it is even worse. Complimentary peanuts are little more than a joke, and $20 "snack packs" featuring processed cheese spread and Oreos are just plain offensive.
And then you see your smug neighbor the aisle over happily munching on a homemade picnic lunch and it makes you want to scream. Or steal it. Or both. But if you take a few minutes the day before your travels to plan ahead, you can be smug too. Packing a creative "sky meal" is so satisfying. Even better, it gives you something to look forward to mid-flight. (As long as you did it right. I don't think a pb&j really counts.)
A pasta salad is my ideal travel dish because it holds up at room temperature, holds me over even longer, and still fills a little indulgent, which is sometimes all that we really want. This version of cold noodles with creamy peanut sauce perfectly fits the bill. The carbs fill me up, the protein gives me energy, and the vegetables balance it all out. It's rich without making me feel guilty.
Whip this recipe up the night before, then adjust any seasonings before you head out the door. I enjoyed this cold salad en route to Vegas, and it was enough to make my seat mates stop and stare. But instead of being smug, I happily whipped out a second box. Because it's times like this when it tastes even better to share.
Cold Noodle Salad with Creamy Peanut Sauce
6 cups low-sodium beef, chicken, or vegetable stock (See Recipe Note)
1 tablespoon kosher salt
12 ounces Chinese wheat noodles or other flat-style noodles
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
Red pepper flakes, to taste (optional)
1-2 bell peppers, cut into thin slices, divided (See Recipe Note)
1/2 cup roughly chopped peanuts, divided
Cilantro leaves and lime wedges for garnish
In a large pot, bring the stock and salt to a boil. Add the noodles and cook until al dente, 3 to 4 minutes. Reserve two cups of the cooking broth before straining. Run the noodles under cold water and shake to remove excess liquid before returning them to the empty pot.
In another bowl, combine the peanut butter, soy sauce, vinegar, sesame oil, and 1/4 cup hot cooking broth and whisk vigorously until mixed. (It will be quite thick.) Toss the peanut sauce with the noodles until coated. Stir in additional hot cooking broth — a few splashes at a time — until the dish is smooth and creamy. (You will probably not need all of the reserved broth.) Taste and season with red pepper, additional soy sauce, and rice vinegar if desired.
Fold in 2/3 of the bell peppers and 1/4 cup peanuts. Transfer noodles to serving dish and garnish with remaining peppers and peanuts. Garnish with cilantro leaves and lime wedges. This can be served warm, cold, or at room temperature.
You can use a combination of stock and water, if desired.
I used a mix of green, orange, and yellow bell peppers because that's what I had on hand. Carrots, cucumbers, and green onions would work equally well.