Asian Noodle Stir-Fry with Kale & Bell Peppers

Asian Noodle Stir-fry with Kale & LeeksMy well of wanderlust has always been deeper than my pocketbook.  While there’s nothing I love more than traveling the globe, exploring far-flung places, the money I’ve had for these adventures has been more limited.  I’ve done lots of traveling domestically and some internationally, but in my dreams for my life, I would have done considerably more globetrotting by now.

To feed the wanderer inside of me, I visit international grocery stores.  I still remember going inside an Asian market for the first time at eleven or twelve.  I was mesmerized by the colorful packages and candies that were unlike any I’d seen before.  At the time I had a pen-pal in Japan, and I felt somehow closer to her there.  In reality I was on the south side of Des Moines, Iowa, but I felt like I was getting a little touch into her world.

Asian Noodle Stir-fry with Kale & LeeksAs I grew older, I had other pen pals, like my Iranian pen pal.  When I moved to Los Angeles, I sought out Persian Square to put my hands on packages of rice printed in Farsi.

I trekked across Little Tokyo and Chinatown, hit up the British imports store for tea, and bought bags of dried peppers in Mexican markets.  I paid regular visits to India Sweets & Spices to wander the rows full of amchoor, asafetida, and anise, and debated how many metal tiffins I could justify owning.  (Probably just one more.  Always just one more.)

Asian Noodle Stir-fry with Kale & LeeksFood is emotional for all of us, and not a small reason for this is that it reminds us of home.  Sometimes home is the place of our childhood or the state where we grew up.  It can be the town that we adopted as our own or the country that we visited and instantly felt like a part of us.  So it makes sense that a simple visit to a grocery store with packages written in other languages seems somehow transportive.  It takes us to the belly of someone else’s homeland.Asian Noodle Stir-fry with Kale & Leeks

ChopsticksWhile I travel the aisles instead of isles, I pick up souvenirs in the form of chopsticks and sauce dishes.  I linger over rice noodles of varying widths, and grab a jar of thick, sweet soy sauce.  In my mind I imagine a feast in the form of a bowlful of savory noodles topped with a hearty helping of vegetables and baked tofu.  It’s topped with cilantro and dashes of Sriracha for an added kick.  No new ink for my passport today, but you can’t beat the price of the ticket.

Asian Noodle Stir-fry with Kale & Leeks

Asian Noodle Stir-fry with Kale & Bell Pepper

Serving Size: 1-2

Asian Noodle Stir-fry with Kale & Bell Pepper

This savory rice noodle stir-fry is chock-full of kale, bell pepper, celery, and leeks for a filling and healthy lunch or dinner.


  • 3 ounces wide rice noodles
  • 3-4 dashes toasted sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon organic canola oil or other neutral-flavored, high heat oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 stalk celery, sliced
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, chopped medium
  • 1/2 leek, white part only, thinly sliced in half moons with end and dark green parts removed
  • 2 leaves of kale, roughly chopped with thick stems removed
  • 1 Tablespoon low-sodium tamari
  • 1 teaspoon sweet soy sauce (I use the Healthy Boy brand)
  • Optional: Baked tofu, chopped peanuts or cashews, Sriracha, fresh cilantro garnish


  1. Boil rice noodles according to package directions, drain, and add 3 or 4 dashes of toasted sesame oil to keep them from sticking. Toss lightly and set aside.
  2. In a large skillet or wok, bring canola oil to a medium high heat. Add garlic, celery, bell pepper, and leek to skillet and sauté for a couple of minutes, until softened and fragrant. Add kale to the skillet and sauté for a couple of minutes more, until the kale has wilted. Remove skillet from heat and set aside.
  3. In a small bowl combine tamari and sweet soy sauce. Add the mixture to the skillet along with the rice noodles. Combine all of the ingredients until evenly coated.
  4. Serve topped with baked tofu*, chopped peanuts or cashews, Sriracha, and a garnish of cilantro, if desired.


*My favorite baked tofu for this recipe is the Savory Baked Tofu from Vegan Eats World. My Easy Baked Tofu with lime juice instead of lemon juice also works well.

Disclaimer: This post contains an Amazon affiliate link.


  1. says

    Beautifully written! Have you read the Mistress of Spices? Reminded me of visiting international grocery stores. I am grateful to live in a mecca of foods. I wish I could globetrot as well, sigh. I am going to pick out the cooked celery and put this enticing dish in my recipe box.

    • says

      No, I haven’t read that! I’ll have to see if they have it at my library. I meant to mention with you in mind that I also made this with bok choy instead of celery, and that works equally well. I tried my hand at your quiz very unsuccessfully, but the distaste for cooked celery was one that I knew for sure!

  2. says

    This post is so so lovely! It made me really nostalgic for the times we would explore our ethnic markets. We have so many Korean, Chinese, Japanese and Indian stores as well as a wealth of Hispanic food stores, and we rarely visit any of them. Though I did go to a few yesterday in search of some Japanese needs!

    Also, we used to go to India Sweets and Spices too! We would spend more time than necessary there picking up “staples”. Because we obviously needed three different kinds of cumin.

    • says

      Thank you, Hannah! That’s so funny about buying three different kinds of cumin. I still have some spices in my cupboard from India Sweets and Spices that I felt a tremendous urge to buy without having a recipe in mind. I know that you’re supposed to throw away spices after 6 months, but I don’t have the heart to throw away still unopened bags of spices, even if I continue to have no plans of using it! At least cumin has tons of uses! :)

  3. says

    I’m lucky that I’ve always lived in places that had access to International food stores — lots of Asian markets to choose from. My pantry is stocked with omany packages of noodles, because like you, I’d rather have noodles in my bowl than anything else. I have to say, though, that none of the tasty noodles I’ve tried here compares to the taste and texture of the handmade noodles I bought in Thailand at a Chinese Buddhist temple.

    Your dish looks wonderful — so fresh and colorful!

  4. acookinthemaking says

    Beautiful post, Cadry! I too have a bad case of wanderlust, but it’s so hard to find the money or especially the TIME to be able to travel…

    • says

      Yes, it’s a balancing act for sure trying to have time for every need/want. I recently went to a poetry party, where we shared a poem, and I read this one by Don Blanding called The Double Life. It really sums it up for me!

  5. says

    How cute that you have pen pals from around the world! I’ve always experienced nostalgia when I was staying in Oregon for awhile and I have to admit, I can’t stop traveling! The stir-fry noodle dish looks pretty tasty, I love Healthy Boy brands 😉

  6. says

    international pen pal.. so cool :) except for the 2 years studying in a college town, i have mostly lived in the heart of big cities, so there is always access to amazing stuff. Amazingly I never felt like exploring much when I was in India. There is just so much local and regional food variety to explore that the thought of international food comes up very few times.

    • says

      That’s one of the best parts of living in a larger city – all of the cool amenities like ethnic restaurants, international grocery stores, museums, live music…

  7. says

    Such wistful and lovely words! I especially enjoyed the ‘traveling the aisles/isles’ thing. Made me smile :) You know I love wordplay! I hope that you get to do more traveling. In the meantime, experiencing the food of other cultures is still the best thing to do! That tofu looks perfect.

  8. says

    I too have big dreams of traveling the globe, but for now that will consist of doing it online, hahaha. I love India Sweets & Spices :) Thank you for sharing this beautiful post and recipe!

  9. says

    I sometimes dream of just selling everything and globetrotting with nothing more than a backpack…but then I think about the pups :-( But you’re absolutely right, we can totally “travel” places with our food. One of my favorite places to go is this international farmer’s market (it’s called Buford Highway Farmer’s market) and it’s HUGE. The aisles are all separated by country/culture. I could easily spend a whole day there were it not so packed.

    This stir fry looks delicious and like something I could make with whatever we had on hand.

    • says

      Yes, I’d have a hard time leaving our cats for too long too! When we went on our honeymoon for a month, I craved hugging them!

      That farmer’s market sounds amazing. How awesome too to have it as a resource for whenever you’re cooking something that requires specialty ingredients.

      This stir-fry can absolutely be made with whatever ingredients you have on hand! I often just mix it up with whatever is in the crisper drawer (or would be in the crisper drawer if it wasn’t overflowing). Then depending on how big of a serving I’m making, for the sauce I just do one part sweet soy sauce to three parts tamari.

  10. says

    yes, I completely emphathise – I can’t go past an Asian, or Polish, or what have you, supermarket without going in and seeking some new vegan thing I’ve never cooked with before. It’s travelling in my kitchen! And if you ever need some more British tea, drop me an email!

  11. says

    Beautifully written post, every time i enter a specialty food store I’m overcome with a sense of excitement and wonder. So many new foods to explore with just a taste of someone else’s culture to take in. It still amazes me how nostalgic food can be, I left my home province over 10 years ago and even now when I stumble upon a box of Purity brand cookies, I get a little homesick.

    • says

      That’s really sweet about the cookies! It is lovely how emotional/nostalgic food can make a person. It is so intertwined into our lives and memories.

  12. says

    I love all the colors in that bowl! It’s so beautiful! I have constant wanderlust too. I’ve been blessed to have been able to do a lot of traveling but there’s so many more places I want to go and there’s places I miss and want to revisit. Cooking does do a good job, though, of holding me over until I can get back out there. :-)


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