I don’t think I had ever heard about sesame noodles before I came to New York City. Maybe they were on the Chinese menus in Houston and my family was too excited about egg rolls, spare ribs, fried rice, General Tso, and beef with broccoli to notice. Maybe they were put in front of me several times and my childish disdain for cold noodles of any kind led me to turn up my nose. But in my adult life I somehow became aware that a delicious and highly craveable dish had slipped past me, and my interest was duly piqued.
After trying a couple of dud recipes, I found one that I like in The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook. That might not seem the likeliest source for an excellent sesame noodle recipe, so please speak up if this looks wrong to you. This is one of the rare cases where I do not have a specific memory or Platonic taste ideal guiding my experience of a home-cooked dish (which is nice sometimes, because you get to enjoy what you’ve prepared for what it is rather than despair over what it is not). Cold sesame noodles make a great lunch on a hot day and are also good to take on car, train, or plane trips.
Last year Ed linked to Sam Sifton’s much better informed and memory-laden recipe in The New York Times Magazine, and a few months ago Smitten Kitchen gave us sesame noodles the way she likes them. Now that I’m on the bandwagon, I’d like to try both of these recipes, too.
- Yield:4 generously, 6 as a side dish
- 5 tablespoons sesame seeds
- 5 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1/4 cup peanut butter, preferably chunky
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon grated ginger
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 teaspoon Tabasco
- 1/2 cup hot water
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 pound fresh Chinese egg noodles (see above)
- 4 scallions, sliced thin
- 1 medium carrot, peeled and grated
- 1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and sliced thin
Toast the sesame seeds in a small skillet over medium heat, stirring, until golden and fragrant, about 10 minutes. Reserve 1 tablespoon of the sesame seeds. Puree the remaining 4 tablespoons sesame seeds with the soy sauce, peanut butter, vinegar, sugar, ginger, garlic, and Tabasco in a blender or food processor until smooth, about 30 seconds. With the machine running, add the hot water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the sauce has the consistency of heavy cream (you may not need all the water).
Cook the noodles in 6 quarts boiling water seasoned with the salt until tender, about 4 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water until cool. Shake out the excess water and transfer to a large bowl. Add the scallions, carrot, red pepper, and sesame sauce and toss to combine. Arrange on a serving platter (or divide among individual bowls) and sprinkle with the reserved sesame seeds.