Thursday, September 20, 2007

Takeout-Style Sesame Noodles

1 pound Chinese egg noodles (1/8,-inch-thick), frozen or (preferably) fresh, available in Asian markets
2 tablespoons sesame oil, plus a splash
3½ tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons Chinese rice vinegar
2 tablespoons Chinese sesame paste
1 tablespoon smooth peanut butter
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon finely grated ginger
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 teaspoons chili-garlic paste, or to taste
Half a cucumber, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/8,-by- 1/8,-by-2-inch sticks
¼ cup chopped roasted peanuts.

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add noodles and cook until
barely tender, about 5 minutes; they should retain a hint of
chewiness. Drain, rinse with cold water, drain again and toss with a
splash of sesame oil.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the remaining 2 tablespoons sesame
oil, the soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame paste, peanut butter, sugar,
ginger, garlic and chili-garlic paste.

3. Pour the sauce over the noodles and toss. Transfer to a serving
bowl, and garnish with cucumber and peanuts. Serves 4. Adapted from
Martin Yan, Marian Burros, and memory.


1. The "Chinese sesame paste," above, is made of toasted sesame seeds;
it is not the same as tahini, the Middle Eastern paste made of plain,
untoasted sesame. But you could use tahini in a pinch. You need only
add a little toasted sesame oil to compensate for flavor, and perhaps
some peanut butter to keep the sauce emulsified.

2. On which subject, the whole point of cold sesame noodles is what's
called in the food trade its "mouth feel," the velvety smooth feeling
of perfectly combined ingredients. That's why you find so much peanut
butter in preparations of cold sesame noodles. Peanut butter
emulsifies better than sesame paste.

3. Hey, where are the Sichuan peppercorns? Sichuan food depends on
their tingly numbing power! Perhaps, but the little fruits were banned
from the United States from 1968 until 2005 by the Food and Drug
Administration because they were feared to carry citrus canker, a
bacterial disease. And while you could always find them in Chinatowns
somewhere (sitting, dry and baleful, in a pile), there are few in the
true cult of sesame noodles who use them in their recipes. By all
means, add some if you like: toast a tablespoon's worth in a dry pan,
crush lightly and whisk the resulting mess into your sauce.

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