Friday night, chopsticks and Chinese? Yes on the chopsticks. No on the carry-out (budget + gross 10pm feeling, etc.) I was in the mood for something easy and fun… and any excuse for cold sesame noodles. Once you make them yourself, you won’t need a Friday excuse to enjoy them at your table.
Besides that these are easy (and quick) to make, the ingredients are often in your cupboard—only have to pick up scallions if I’m making these! I hope you have sesame seeds in your cabinet anyhow, because they’re packed with manganese and copper, and a good source of calcium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, vitamin B1, zinc and dietary fiber—whew! This dish has so many sesame seeds on top of sesame oil, it’s a nutritious dish that feels indulgent.
Unfortunately, the recipe off of which I base my version is for 24 servings. This is a great party dish (and fantastic leftovers—no re-heating!), but don’t let the numbers stop you. I’ll divide the amounts for you here to make 10 servings. Too many, still, I realize, but the numbers will be too teeny and confusing if I divide any further!
COLD SESAME NOODLES, 10 servings
- 1 (10 oz.) package dried Chinese noodles (Andrew actually found some fantastic Chinese noodles at Giant that were great for this dish, they look like pale linguine)
- 1/4 cup Asian sesame oil
- 3/4 cup smooth peanut-butter at room temperature (I always use natural peanut-butter, and certainly prefer it for this dish. ALL TIME FAVORITE: Organic, unsalted creamy from Woodstock Farms—find it in the “natural foods” aisle of Giant. don’t get me started on what they must be stocking in the remaining “non-natural” aisles…)
- 1/4 cup soy sauce (low-sodium goes without saying)
- 1/6 cup rice vinegar
- 1/6 cup packed dark brown sugar
- 1 garlic clove, crushed through a press (or grated on your microplane!!)
- 1/2 tsp. crushed hot red pepper
- 1/3 cup minced scallions
- 1/8 cup toasted sesame seeds
If you’re cooking for two, don’t be dismayed by the sauce proportions! When I’m just cooking for two, I simply add the ingredients (tablespoon here, teaspoon there—using these proportions as a guide) until it tastes phenomenal.
Toast your sesame seeds in a dry skillet on medium low until fragrant and golden, set aside.
Cook pasta just until tender, about two minutes, separating with a fork. Drain (reserving some pasta water) and rinse under cold water. (I have used a variety of asian noodles, rice noodles, udon noodles, etc. and all work well. Substituting regular pasta? Too heavy for this dish.)
In a large bowl, toss the noodles with half the sesame oil, cover and refrigerate. (Do this as far in advance as you like, the colder the better!)
In a blender or food processor (if cooking for two, a 2-cup mini food processor is perfect to make the sauce), combine remaining sesame oil with the peanut butter, soy sauce, rice vinegar, brown sugar, garlic, and hot pepper. Whir until blended—and TASTE at this point to see if it needs adjustment. Once it tastes flavorful and bold, thin with 1/4 cup hot (pasta) water. I don’t use much water, the consistency just needs to be smooth and creamy.
Pour the sauce over the cold noodles, adding the scallions and the sesame seeds. Toss well. Note: if you’re serving the dish later, keep the noodles in the fridge, but do not refrigerate the sauce. Mix the sauce in before serving. Serve chilled or at room temperature, with chopsticks for extra fun 😉
And by all means, add in some peppers or edamame, extra scallions or onions. This is a delicious meal with the potential for endless variations. This is the first time I added peppers (handy to have some in the freezer!) and it just brought so much character to my bowl of sesame delight. I never, ever, ever steam veggies (dull, flavorless), but here was the perfect exception: this noodle dish has sufficient fat from the sesame oil and peanut butter, no need to compete with added fats or flavors. In this instance, I found steamed veggies (and potstickers, what a pleasant surprise!) to be just right. Andrew and I were full with just half a bowl.
And then I had the leftovers for Saturday’s breakfast. True story.
What are your ideas for tasty accompaniments?