While many of you could recognize cold sesame noodles and have probably eaten them more than a couple times, there seems to be little consensus about what goes into this popular dish. It should be a simple affair, but many recipes tend to overcomplicate things and lose the appeal of the dish's simplicity. It should be made with Chinese noodles—the kind that retain more chewiness than regular Italian pasta—and the sauce should be creamy, salty, tart, and fiery.
I'm particularly taken with this version from Mad Hungry by Lucinda Scala Quinn, which is the first I've seen that relies completely on tahini rather than using peanut butter and excessive amounts of sesame oil. The result isn't heavy or gummy—it's lighter and creamier than any version I've tried. Along with the usual suspects in this dish—soy sauce, ginger, garlic—it's got the hallmark balance of flavors that make cold sesame noodles so pleasing.
- 1 pound Chinese egg noodles, such as lo mein
- 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
- 6 tablespoons tahini (sesame paste)
- 3/4 cup water, plus more as needed
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 4 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 scallion, thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon minced ginger
- Sriracha hot sauce or chili oil (to taste)
Bring a large pot of water to boil and add the noodles. When the water returns to a boil, turn down to a simmer and cook until just tender according to package directions. Drain well, rinse with cold water, then toss with sesame oil.
In the meantime, combine the sesame paste with water and whisk to combine, thinning into the consistency of thick cream. In a second bowl, whisk together the vinegar, soy sauce, sugar, and garlic until the sugar is dissolved. Combine the mixtures, then stir in the ginger and almost all the scallion.
Toss noodles with sauce and season to taste with more soy sauce and hot sauce or chile oil. Garnish with remaining scallion.