When Colin and I were just dating we would have Thai food and Vietnamese food once a week at least (sometimes more!). It was definitely a big part of our dating life, as the people who worked in these restaurants got to know us pretty well—or our orders at least. It was fun for us, and made us feel a little important, that we could sit down and they already knew what we were having. We would joke that it would be awesome if when we walked in, everyone would yell, “Colin! Mishelle!” Just like on “Cheers.” One of our favorite guys was always working at the local Pho joint. We call him “Ma’am Sir” because this is how he greets everyone: “Hello, Ma’am, Sir. Good to see you! Please sit here. Ok, Ma’am, Sir, the usual? Thank you, Ma’am, Sir.”) We love him! At one point, he was seeing us so often that he said: “You no come here two times a week. Too expensive! I tell you how to make; easy.” We had to explain to him that we liked to come in and looked forward to it every week. Also working there was another of our favorites, Harry. This was his really name—I fell in love with his flamboyant personality and mannerisms and had to ask. Harry was really fun and always told us about his days off and how busy he was, in an exasperated way.
At the local Thai place we named the teeny-tiny busboy Pablo (he is SO cute!) and the woman who always serves us, Jan. We love the way Jan speaks: “Pad Thai with Shriiiiiiiiiiiiimp???? And a Crying Tigeeeeeerrrrr????” The ends of her sentences are always extended and melodic, as she at the same time seems unsure but also totally confident in our order. Her voice is soothing. I actually noticed that I speak the same way to my dog: “Do you want to go pottyyyyyyyy??” Interesting.
A lot of time has passed since these early days that were filled with our familiar stops and with seeing these regular faces. Just like when I was a kid and thought I would like cartoons forever, we’ve stopped going to these restaurants as often. And time, with all its changes, took some of these people with them. Harry no longer works at the Pho joint, and Ma’am Sir is not there as much. Jan still remembers our order, but it is just not the same. We’ve moved on and are in another stage of our lives, and so have they. We’ve moved on from holding hands throughout our whole dinner (not always easy to do!) and from making out in these parking lots. While at times it is sad and we mourn these changes—I hear this from my friends with kids all the time—I really like to look at each stage we are in and appreciate and savor every minute of it. With each stage comes a deeper love, connection, respect, and understanding of each other. Our dating stage was so much fun! But it was also filled with unknowing, and, at times, nervousness—as we were learning how to read each other and communicate effectively. I wish these moments and feelings, every single one, were more tangible, as time slowly starts to wither the myriad of memories that I want to hold onto so tightly. But every single moment we share and milestone that we accomplish together adds to the wonderfully intricate tapestry of our lives and of our love. At the end of our lives, I hope this tapestry will be warm enough and big enough to comfort our family and loved ones for many years, leaving behind a legacy of love, understanding, humor…and really good recipes.
Vegan Thai Noodles
1 package zucchini Trader Joe’s (or about 1.5 pounds), peeled using an apple peeler to make ribbons
¼ scant teaspoon sesame oil
1/3 cup olive oil (you can add more if noodles seem dry)
4 pinches red pepper flakes (this made it medium-high spicy)
4 tablespoons rice vinegar
*2 stalks green onions (white and green separate)
2 stalk green onions (green parts only)
1 ½ inch ginger grated or processed in food processor
2 pinches of salt
2 rounded tablespoons brown sugar
*2 cloves garlic diced (optional)
Black sesame seeds for garnish
**If you have IBS, and especially if you are in the elimination stage of the FODMAPs diet, leave the white parts of the green onions out. These will hurt your stomach. Also, you should leave the garlic out as well. I didn’t use either and the noodles were very flavorful!
In a large pot, bring salted water to a boil for your noodles. Meanwhile, add the olive oil, ¼ cup of the tamari, red pepper, salt, grated ginger rice vinegar, brown sugar, sesame oil, and the white parts of the green onions (if using—see note above) to a large saucepan—not over any heat. Then, prepare your zucchini ribbons, and set aside.
Once the water is boiling, add your noodles and cook until al dente. Be very careful you don’t overcook these! You don’t want them mushy. I cooked my rice noodles for about 6-7 minutes. Taste a few strands as you go. If you are using rice noodles, once they are done, strain them and then rinse with cold water—they will turn into mush otherwise!
Once noodles are drained and waiting, turn on the heat for your sauce. Cook the sauce for a few minutes, or to let the ginger become fragrant. Then, carefully add your noodles, and the last ¼ cup soy sauce, and cook while turning in the sauce a few minutes (if your pasta went in REALLY al dente, you may need more time here. Play with it and taste them as you go). Then add your zucchini ribbons and cook a few minutes more—not too long; the zucchini can get mushy quickly.
Plate your noodles and top with the sesame seeds and a small handful of the green onions. Enjoy!
-You can add a handful of chopped almonds or peanuts to give it more of a crunch.
-You can add some shredded carrots as well.
-You could easily add 2 scrambled eggs to the dish for added protein and to make it more like a fried noodles dish.
-If you want to add garlic, do that in the beginning before you mix all the sauce ingredients together. So I would add the olive oil, then the garlic and cook for 3 minutes or so before adding the other ingredients.
-You can add more olive oil. I did 2/3 cup and the noodles were a tad too oily. Maybe 1/3 + ¼ would work?
Inspired by www.chowdivine.com