No longer is the food of Southeast Asia simply the product of mom and pop, family-run small establishments. General Tso long ago lost the battle to Morimoto and Benihana has given way to Nobu. The culinary weight and influence of Southeast Asia has never been more apparent in the United States. Gourmands and foodies everywhere revel in the distinct flavor-profiles of the Far East, either celebrating their original and traditional form or now more commonly, fusing them with more Western-types of cuisine. And while we may describe these once exotic flavors as a unique combination of sweet, salty, sour and sometimes bitter, the reality is there is only one term that most accurately describes what our taste buds are truly sensing, and that is umami. The so-called, fifth taste.
It’s umami that permeates most all of your favorite Southeast Asian dishes. Technically speaking, umami is sensed when the protein molecule, L-glutamate, binds to receptors on your tongue, causing a chain reaction of chemical processes resulting in its unique and unexplainable flavor. But, as elusive as it may be, in Japanese, umami translates to “beautiful taste”… and so, I think we should just leave it at that.
In this dish we use the sweet, spicy and tangy flavors in the sauce to dress up noodles and spiralized veggies. When combined the aroma and warmth of this dish hits your palate in a most satisfying and “beautiful” way.
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
1 lb bucatini pasta, cooked according to directions
2 large zucchini
4 large carrots
1 large cucumber
1/2 cup roughly chopped almonds (optional)
1 block tofu, cubed and sautéed with a bit of oil and soy sauce (optional – I did not include)
1/2 cup roughly chopped cilantro
6 slices of lime
For the sauce:
2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce (or tamari)
1/2 cup unpasturized miso paste
2/3 cup water
4 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
4 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons ginger, peeled and grated
1/2 cup tahini
For the sauce, place all ingredients in a high speed blender and blend until creamy and smooth.
Spiralize (or very thinly slice into pasta-like ribbons) the zucchini, carrots and cucumber. Set aside.
(Spiralizer can purchased on amazon for $30, see link below)
In a pan on medium heat, toss the pasta, zucchini and carrots (and tofu if using) together with the sauce until heated through. Transfer to a serving dish and garnish with cucumber, almonds, cilantro and lime wedges.