Cold Sesame Noodles

Chewy, slippery, cold noodles come together in a flash thanks to the superior binding properties of potato starch.

Bowl of cold sesame noodles topped with cucumber, celery, and cilantro

Vicky Wasik

Why It Works

  • A blend of potato starch and low-protein wheat flour produces a noodle with a chewy, bouncy quality that isn’t rubbery.
  • Potato starch inhibits gluten development, which means you don’t have to wait around for your dough to relax; you can roll, cut, and cook the noodles right away. 
  • Boiled water partially gelatinizes the flour and starch mixture, which makes the dough cohesive and easy to handle.
  • Shocking the noodles in cold water removes excess starch and amplifies the bouncy, chewy texture.

Starch-based noodles are commonplace all over East Asia—mung bean starch noodles, sweet potato starch noodles, and flat rice starch noodles are just a few popular examples. Many of these noodles are served cold, in the style of Sichuan liang pi or Korean japchae. They’re chewy, slippery, and delicious.

This recipe is a riff on those styles, but using potato starch. Initially, I wanted to make a noodle of 100 percent potato starch. I tried mixing a dry dough of potato starch and water, rolling it, and cutting it. Unfortunately, this method produced noodles with a texture approaching rubber. And while I appreciate a chewy noodle, I needed to dial it back a little, so I decided to incorporate wheat flour into the dough.

As it turns out, adding potato starch to a wheat flour noodle dough does some weird things: According to this study, in high enough increments, potato starch increases the water absorption of a dough, reduces elasticity, and inhibits gluten formation almost completely in some cases; at the same time, it increases the springiness of cooked noodles, making them chewier; finally, the noodles are smoother, almost slippery, and more uniform in color than traditional wheat flour noodles.

I found that all of these statements were correct. A blend of low-protein wheat flour and potato starch produces a smooth, supple dough with a playdough-like consistency, and it rolls out with minimal effort. When cooked, the noodles have a bouncy, chewy texture, but they also have a tender bite, thanks to the wheat flour. Shocking the noodles in cold water stops cooking and allows the noodles to both firm up and hydrate slightly, enhancing both that chewiness and the subsequent tenderness.

The best part? These noodles come together in less than 20 minutes—no real kneading, resting, or serious pasta skills required. They’re served simply, with some basic vegetables and an intense sesame dressing. But feel free to style them however you want.

Recipe Facts

3.5

(10)

Prep: 40 mins
Cook: 40 mins
Total: 80 mins
Serves: 4 servings

Rate & Comment

Ingredients

  • For the sauce:
  • 2 tablespoons (30ml) vegetable oil
  • 3 medium garlic cloves (15g), thinly sliced 
  • One 1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced 
  • 2 pieces whole star anise
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 2 tablespoons (30ml) toasted sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons (30ml) cold water
  • 1 tablespoon (15g) sugar
  • 2 teaspoons (10ml) rice wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons (8g) Diamond Crystal kosher salt; if using table salt, use half as much by volume or same weight
  • 1 teaspoon (5ml) soy sauce
  • ¾ teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1 tablespoon (9g) toasted sesame seeds
  • For the noodles:
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 ¼ cups (6 ⅛ ounces; 175g) pastry or cake flour such as Bob’s Red Mill (see note)
  • ¾ cup (5 ounces; 145g) potato starch (see note)
  • ¾ cup (180ml) boiling water
  • Vegetable oil, for greasing
  • To serve:
  • 6 ounces (170g) celery (about 2 large ribs), cut cross-wise on a slight bias into 1/8-inch thick strips
  • 4 ounces (115g) English cucumber (about ½ of an English cucumber), cut into matchsticks
  • ½ ounce (15g) fresh cilantro sprigs, trimmed and cut into 2-inch lengths

Directions

  1. For the Sauce: In a small saucepan, heat oil, garlic, ginger, star anise, and cloves over medium heat until garlic begins to sizzle. Continue to cook, swirling pot occasionally, until garlic begins to brown, about 4 minutes. Strain oil into a medium heat-proof bowl; discard solids. Let cool for 2 minutes. Whisk in sesame oil, water, sugar, rice vinegar, salt, soy sauce, and white pepper until smooth, about 30 seconds. Whisk in sesame seeds and set aside.

    Heating oil, garlic, ginger, star anise, and cloves in a sauce pan and then straining before whisking in sesame oil, water, sugar, rice vinegar, salt, soy sauce, white pepper, and sesame seeds.

    Vicky Wasik

  2. For the Noodles: Fill a large bowl with cold water. In a large pot, bring 4 quarts (4L) water along with a healthy pinch of salt to boil over high heat. Meanwhile, in the bowl of a food processor, pulse together pastry flour, potato starch, and 1 teaspoon (3g) kosher salt (if using table salt, use half as much by volume or same weight) until well combined. With processor running, add all the boiling water at once and process until dough forms and runs around processor blade, 30 seconds to 1 minute.

    Preparing the dough for noodles by adding pastry flour, potato starch, and salt to a food processor, then adding boiling water while the processor is running until the dough forms

    Vicky Wasik

  3. Transfer dough to a clean work surface. Knead dough until smooth and cohesive (dough should not stick to hands or resist kneading), about 30 seconds. Divide dough evenly into two portions and cover one portion loosely with plastic wrap. Lightly grease work surface with vegetable oil, making sure surface is well coated.

    Kneading the dough until smooth and dividing it into two portions

    Vicky Wasik

  4. Set one portion of dough onto oiled work surface and press to flatten. Flip and press again to coat both sides in oil. Using a rolling pin, gently roll dough to a roughly 13-inch square, measuring 1/32- to 1/16-inch thick. Using a bench knife or pizza cutter, cut dough into 3/8-inch-thick strips.

    Pressing and rolling out the dough, then cutting it into strips

    Vicky Wasik

  5. Carefully peel strips off counter and add to pot of boiling water. Cook, stirring occasionally, until noodles are opaque and chewy, about 8 to 10 minutes. Using a spider or fine-mesh strainer, transfer noodles to prepared bowl of cold water. Rinse noodles under cold running water until noodles are cool and water runs clear, about 60 seconds (you can expedite this step by draining the noodles once or twice while rinsing). Let noodles sit in water until ready to serve. Repeat with remaining dough.

    Cooking the noodles in boiling water before transferring them to a bowl of cold water and then rinsing them until water runs clear.

    Vicky Wasik

  6. To Serve: Drain noodles well and transfer to a large bowl. Add cucumbers, celery, and sauce, and toss gently until combined and noodles are well dressed. Divide between bowls, sprinkle with cilantro, and serve.

    Tossing noodles with cucumbers, celery, and sauce before serving.

    Vicky Wasik

Notes

Low-protein flours such as pastry or cake flour work best for this recipe. If you substitute with all-purpose flour, the color will be slightly yellow and the dough will be less smooth.

Be sure to use unmodified potato starch such as Bob’s Red Mill Premium Quality Unmodified Potato Starch. Using modified potato starch may produce slightly different results in texture and appearance.

Make Ahead and Storage

The noodles are best made right before serving.