Orchard Road is one of my favorite streets in Singapore. A drive or walk takes one past various eateries and numerous small stores. It is full of life and activity and beautiful trees and flowers. It was along this street, in a small restaurant, where I first met Li Wei and tasted a Chinese noodle salad.
Li Wei was the establishment’s owner and chef and within a minute of my arrival, he was out of the kitchen to welcome his newest diner. He did not speak English. I did not speak Chinese, but as always in my travels, a love of food between two people overcomes any language barrier. I would point to a dish on the menu and he would shake his head, say something in Chinese, and then point to a specific noodle dish. Regardless of the number of entrées I attempted to order, he would smile and point to the noodle dish. I finally decided the chef knew best and agreed to the noodle dish.
Truth be told, I was expecting a traditional noodle bowl and was a bit disappointed when it arrived at my table. A beautiful bowl of noodles accented with colorful fresh vegetables and orange peel but there was not one drop of broth! One bite and all of my reservations disappeared. The dressing was light but intense; full of ginger and garlic flavors. Li Wei brought a side dish of crispy shrimp and was quick to let me know I was not to combine the two.
By my third visit to Li Wei’s restaurant in three consecutive days, I was invited into the kitchen, a busy room of organized chaos and incredible aromas; and I was in my element. While the staff giggled at my clumsy attempts at Chinese food preparation and we all laughed at our attempts to surpass the language miscues, Li Wei managed to teach me the nuances of cooking in a wok.
Each return visit to Singapore resulted in a subsequent “cooking lesson” from Li Wei and his staff until the time I arrived to learn he had sold the restaurant. It then occurred to me he had neglected to teach me how to create his fabulous noodle salad and I set out on my own personal mission to develop a recipe that replicated his dish as closely as possible. Orchard Road Ginger Glass Noodle Salad does just this.
Colorful and tasty, this is a quickly prepared side for any meal. The most difficult part is chopping the vegetables. The dressing can be prepared up to two days ahead and the noodles cook by simply soaking in boiling water for a few minutes.
The noodles needed here should be sweet potato starch glass noodles; wheat or bean based noodles add a heaviness to the dish without increasing the flavor. Besides, these glass noodles are simply spectacular in appearance.
As for the vegetables; whatever you have on hand. This recipe uses tomatoes, zucchini and green onions but cucumbers, broccoli, asparagus and whatever else is in season works just as well. What cannot be changed, though, is the dressing. The ratio of each ingredient provides the perfect balance of intensity and lightness. Remember to add the orange peel and toasted sesame seeds. They provide that final flavor tier boost!
½ c soy sauce, low sodium
¼ c olive oil
2 T toasted sesame seed oil
2 T green onions, thinly sliced
1 T garlic, minced
1 T fresh ginger, shredded
¼ t black pepper, freshly ground
¼ t red pepper flakes
pinch kosher salt
8 oz sweet potato starch glass noodles such as Rom America Vermicelli Glass Noodles
1 T toasted sesame oil
20 cherry tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 small zucchini, peeled & chopped
¼ c thinly sliced green onions
¼ t kosker salt
2 T thinly sliced orange peel
2 T toasted sesame seeds
Place all of the dressing ingredients in a pint jar or bowl with lid. Place lid on jar or bowl and shake to blend. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour and for up to 2 days.
Place half of the package of glass noodles into a large glass bowl. Save remaining noodles for another dish. Cover noodles with boiling water. Let rest 1 minute, stir then to separate. Continue to stir every 1 – 2 minutes to separate the noodles. Noodles should be “cooked” within 15 – 20 minutes. (Cooking directions and times may vary according to brand. Check package and cook accordingly.) Drain and rinse with cool water.
Heat toasted sesame oil in medium skillet over medium heat. Add noodles and heat noodles in the oil, tossing continually to coat completely. Remove from heat and place in serving bowl.
Place tomatoes, zucchini, and green onions into a medium bowl. Sprinkle with salt and stir to blend. Add to the noodle bowl.
Toss noodles and vegetables to combine. Add toasted orange peel. Toss to combine. Add 3/4 of the dressing and toss to completely coat. Add additional dressing if needed.
Evening divide salad between 4 salad plates and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Serve.