I recently dined at a new local restaurant and overheard the manager responding to a customer’s question about the fat content of her noodle bowl. “Nope, not a drop of oil is in the peanut sauce,” he said cheerfully, “It’s made with peanut butter, an Asian dressing and coconut milk with our special spice blend.” With that he gave her a chummy wink and went on clearing the table next to hers. I asked to try some of the peanut sauce and confirmed my worst fears… it was loaded with fat.
Peanut oils from the peanut butter, sesame and vegetable oils from the Asian dressing and the rather “health unfriendly” saturated fats from the coconut milk, were separating from the rest of the pale brown mixture and floating to the top of my sample. I don’t think he had misinformed her intentionally, they almost certainly had not added additional oil to the sauce, he just did not know enough about the ingredients to answer the question correctly.
Market pressure will soon allow us a little more confidence when we dine out. You can see it all around you. Carbonated high-calorie beverages are being taken out of our children’s schools, dressings and sauces are being served on the side, nutritional information is being posted in fast food restaurants and smaller portion entrees are popping up on menus everywhere.
But, it will be a while before you can blindly trust food producers to have your health in mind. For years chefs have thrived on the addition of fat and calories to keep their customers coming back for more and that pattern is deeply ingrained in the restaurant industry. So, for now we will let market pressure do the work and … if the sauce looks and tastes “oily”… I can assure you, IT IS.
Japanese Noodle Salad
1/4 cup reduced fat peanut butter
2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 1/4 tablespoons sesame oil
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoons minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 pound soba noodles
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1 medium carrot, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 cup snow peas
Mix the peanut butter in a large bowl with the soy sauce, lemon juice, sesame oil, ginger, garlic and red pepper. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the noodles and cook stirring constantly until the water returns to a boil. Cook until the noodles are al dente. Soba noodles are sold fresh so this will only take four to five minutes. With a pair of tongs, lift the noodles out of the pot. Shake and place directly into the bowl with the peanut butter mixture. If needed, add 1 to 2 tablespoons pasta water to loosen up the sauce. Add the vegetables and toss well. Let cool. Cover and refrigerate. Makes four servings.
Per serving: 24g carbs; 4g fiber 10g fat; 210 calories