I was in the mood for some Chinese noodles, and nothing was going to stop me. At first I settled on this recipe from Fuchsia Dunlop's Land of Plenty, and luckily had just about everything it called for: sesame paste (tahini works too), chili oil, two kinds of soy sauce, and sesame oil. Altogether it creates a shockingly quick and filling meal—there was only one problem.
The recipe calls for a garnish of Sichuan preserved vegetables. They sounded delightful but I didn't have any, nor did my local grocery store. Dunlop's recipe for them (in the same book) would have taken a whole day to prepare, so that was ruled out. I thought about leaving them out completely, but figured some kind of pickled vegetable would really help balance the thick and robust sauce. That's when I remembered this amazingly simple recipe from David Chang.
In the Momofuku cookbook, Chang notes that giving a recipe for this seems "excessive" since it "is so simple." He's right. Just combine salt and sugar with vegetables, and ten minutes later they're ready to go. I used carrots; it's what I had ready to go. It's certainly not the same as the preserved vegetables, but works extremely well with this fiercely spicy dish.
- For the Quick Pickled Carrots
- 2 carrots, peeled, ends trimmed
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- For the Noodles
- 1 pound firm tofu, cut into ½-inch cubes
- 10 ounces dried Chinese flat noodles
- 3 tablespoons sesame paste (or tahini)
- 3 tablespoons chili oil
- 2 tablespoons light soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons sesame oil
- 3 scallions, green parts only, thinly sliced
- ¼ cup roasted peanuts
For the quick pickled carrots: Slice carrots in half lengthwise, and then thinly slice crosswise. Place in medium-sized bowl with salt and sugar. Toss well with fingers, and set aside for at least 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. When ready, drain away any liquid that has collected.
For the noodles: Fill medium-sized saucepan halfway up with water. Bring to simmer, add tofu. Cook until tofu is hot, about 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and drain tofu.
Bring large pot of water to boil. Add dried Chinese flat noodles and cook according to directions on packaging, usually about four minutes. Drain noodles when done.
Meanwhile, combine sesame paste (or tahini), chili oil, light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, and sesame oil in large bowl. Whisk until smooth.
Transfer noodles to large bowl with sauce. Toss well. Add carrots, tofu, peanuts, and scallions. Serve immediately.