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  • Writer's pictureCRAIG BRYAN

Healthy Recipe, Chilled Spicy Noodles with Cucumbers, Avocado, and Bell Peppers

Somen noodles are white, straw-thin Japanese wheat noodles with a delicate texture that are typically served chilled with a soy sauce-based dipping sauce and in summer, and hot in light umami-rich soups in winter. Here’s an easy and extra-flavorful way to turn the chilled version into a hearty and healthy whole meal sure to hit to spot on any sultry night. It’s adapted from award-winning Philadelphia chef Peter Serpico’s new cookbook, “Learning Korean: Recipes for Home Cooking” (Norton, $35).

Gochujang, the spicy fermented condiment popular in Korean cooking now found in most supermarkets, is the basis for the simple sauce it’s tossed with. Sliced cucumbers are “cured” in a flash, by tossing them in a little salt and sugar to extract moisture, then added as a cooling garnish to temper the heat of the sauce, along with chunks of avocado and strips of bell pepper. A soft-boiled egg (or hard-boiled if you prefer) fortifies the dish with just enough lean protein. Cooked shrimp pair perfectly with these flavors and textures as well. Serves 4. RECIPE HERE. -- Susan Puckett

Korean Chili Sauce:

½ cup gochujang (Korean chili paste)

1 garlic clove, minced

2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil

2 tablespoon honey or maple syrup (or 1 tablespoon of each)

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

2 tablespoons water

1 tablespoon white sesame seeds

Quick-Cured Cucumbers:

1 seedless English cucumber, sliced into ¼-inch rounds

2 teaspoons kosher salt

2 teaspoons cane or raw sugar

Noodles and Extras:

8 ounces dried somen noodles (4 two-ounce bundles)

1 yellow, red, or orange bell pepper, cut in thin strips

1 large avocado, diced

2 scallions, trimmed and sliced

4 soft-boiled or hard-boiled eggs, halved (or ½ pound cooked shrimp)

1 tablespoon black or toasted white sesame seeds (optional)

A few shots of soy sauce (optional)

  1. Make the Korean Chili Sauce: In a medium bowl, whisk together the gochujang, garlic, sesame oil, honey and/or maple syrup, vinegar, water, and sesame seeds. If not using immediately, store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

  1. Prepare the cucumbers: Place the cucumbers in a medium bowl, sprinkle with the salt and sugar, and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Drain off the liquid and reserve. (Though best eaten immediately, they’ll keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.)

  1. Prepare noodles and assemble the dish: Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add the noodles (don’t forget to remove paper wrappers holding the bundles together), and cook until tender for about 3 minutes, or according to package directions.

  1. Drain the noodles in a colander and run them under cold running water until cool.

  1. Place the cooled and well-drained noodles in a large bowl and toss with about 4 tablespoons of the Korean Chili Sauce, or to taste.

  1. Divide the noodles among 4 bowls. Top with cucumbers, bell pepper, avocado, scallions, eggs or shrimp, and sesame seeds. Sprinkle with a little soy sauce, if desired. Serve immediately, with extra chili sauce at the table, if desired.

  1. Noodles will keep up to 1 day in the refrigerator.

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