Cold Sesame Noodles
YIELD - Serves 4 (I usually double this recipe for leftovers!)
TIME - 10 minutes
This is the closest to the cold noodles at Empire Szechuan, New York, I've ever been able to find. I lived on these when I first moved to NYC in 1985. Cold noodles and a beer, dinner for about $8.00!
Noodles dressed with sesame are popular in many parts of China, but this particular style, made with peanut butter and served cold, became a Chinese-American staple in the United States in the 1970s. The family of Shorty Tang — an ambitious restaurateur who emigrated from Sichuan to Taipei to New York — firmly believes that he invented the dish and still serve it at Hwa Yuan, the restaurant he opened in 1967 in Manhattan’s Chinatown. They have never divulged the exact recipe; this is our own lush but refreshing version. —Sam Sifton
Featured in: Cold Sesame Noodles: Without The Wait For Takeout.
1 pound noodles, frozen or (preferably) fresh (I like to use these authentic Chinese egg noodles)
2 tablespoons sesame oil, plus a splash
3 ½ tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons Chinese rice vinegar
2 tablespoons Chinese sesame paste
1 tablespoon smooth peanut butter
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 tablespoon finely grated ginger
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 teaspoons chile-garlic paste, chile crisp or chile oil, or to taste
Half a cucumber, peeled, seeded and cut into 1/8-inch by 1/8-inch by 2-inch sticks
¼ cup chopped roasted peanuts
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.
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.
Pour the sauce over the noodles and toss. Transfer to a serving bowl, and garnish with cucumber and peanuts.
Tip: The Chinese sesame paste called for here is made of toasted sesame seeds; it is not the same as tahini, the Middle Eastern paste made of plain, un-toasted 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.