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Comfort me with noodles

posted on Thursday, November 7th, 2019

As soon as I started to think about comfort food, the phrase “comfort me with apples” popped into my head.

Photo by Kyla Winchester

I remembered it as the title of a book of food writing by a former Toronto Star columnist. However, it turns out it’s also the title of a food critic’s memoir and a quote from the Old Testament’s Song of Solomon: “Stay me with flagons, comfort me with apples: for I am sick of love.” The exact translation varies—sometimes it’s “refresh me with apples”, sometimes it’s “strengthen,” or “apricots.” Once it’s even, “Support me with citrons,” which I find especially interesting because I learned a citron is actually one of the citrus fruits that the other types were derived from—but also because I find citrus far more refreshing than apples.

All this to say: I don’t find apples especially comforting. 

There are a few things we probably universally associate with comfort: something warm or hot, full of carbs, with nostalgic or sentimental feelings. It’s what we want when we’re sick, or tired, or homesick, or just having a bad day. It’s the thing we want to magically appear before us when it’s January and snowy and we have to get groceries but we’d rather not. It’s the thing we want when nothing else will do. 

And yet, I find my comfort foods are changing. When I was a kid, my dad’s chicken noodle soup and my mom’s homemade muffins, fresh from the oven, were the perfect comfort foods. As an adult with the flavours of the world at my door, I now crave things I didn’t even know existed when I went to high school in small-town Ontario: sushi, pho and ramen, dumplings, panini, tamales, and anything with peanut sauce. 

My go-to for peanut sauce is thick rice noodles with baby bok choy and grilled tofu, but it’s a delight on many things: dumplings, summer rolls, even a fusion burrito… and if you dipped raw veggies in it, I’m sure no one would object. If you’re being responsible, add the sauce to your favourite noodles with a veg and a protein and you can have a healthy, filling meal. If you’re not, just pour the sauce on cooked noodles and delight in the saucey goodness.

I make no claims as to the authenticity of this peanut sauce: the original recipe may have been, but since I started making it from the recipe in my head with the ingredients I usually have on hand, it may have strayed. Fortunately, the recipe is flexible: use whatever soy sauce you have around, you can skip the ginger if necessary, make it thinner or thicker as you see fit. The beauty of comfort food is that it only needs to make you happy. 

Peanut sauce

Attributes: Vegan, can be gluten-free with tamari instead of soy sauce (check the label to confirm)
Time: 15 minutes
Difficulty level: Easy

½ cup peanut butter
2 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
1 tablespoon rice vinegar (or substitute with 1 tablespoon lime juice)
Grated or chopped garlic to taste (start with a half a large clove or 1 small clove, then add more as desired)
Approx. a 1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and grated or chopped
Chili flakes or chili sauce to taste
Cold water to thin sauce, if needed

Add all ingredients except water to a bowl and whisk to combine. Add water to achieve desired consistency. It will thicken in the fridge, so if you’re saving it for later, check consistency before adding to noodles, etc. 

Submitted by Kyla Winchester