Getting noodles — especially Asian-style noodles — just right has always been a bit of a mystery to me. In fact, nailing the consistency of noodles — just a smidge over al dente — is so daunting that I tend to avoid making pad thais and Southeast Asian mee gorengs at home. (My first pad thai attempt years ago, after all, resulted in me using chopsticks to pull apart gummy ropes of noodles that had been welded together into a mound. I’ve never tried to make this dish again.)
After a recent lunch at a Sichuan restaurant in New York where I had a fiery and ginger-speckled dish of spicy chilled sesame noodles, however, I simply couldn’t stop thinking about them.
So when my Let’s Lunch group of bloggers around the world who gather for a monthly lunch date suggested making cold entrees for August, I decided to get back on that horse …
To start, there are numerous recipes for spicy Sichuan noodles floating around the Internet. After looking at about a dozen, I took a little bit from each of a few and pieced my noodles together.
Now, the backbone of this recipe is New York Times restaurant critic Sam Sifton’s “Takeout-Style Sesame Noodles” recipe — but I added a few other ingredients and doubled the amounts for the fixings after noticing that several Chinese home cooks (including a woman who grew up in Sichuan) tend to use about that amount of flavoring in their noodles.
And how did my noodles taste? Not as delicious as my lunch at Famous Sichuan — although I suspect those cooks have had far more notches on their noodle-making belts than I have.
But served chilled with a tall glass of iced Oolong tea, my Sichuan noodles made for the perfect summer lunch. Each bite was laced with a hint of Sichuan pepper powder, slick with the earthy combination of sesame paste and peanut butter and had a delightful crunch from toasted sesame seeds. I’d eat these any hot summer day — in fact, I made such a large batch that I did just that for almost a week. My one beef with it was that it could probably have been a little oilier — I may up the amount of oil I add the next time.
The one thing this experience made me feel, however, was regret. I had been too chicken to fathom making these noodles before. Well, never again. I’m already plotting the next Asian noodle adventure in my Brooklyn kitchen…
Don’t forget to check out the Let’s Lunchers’ cold entrees below! And if you’d like to join Let’s Lunch, go to Twitter and post a message with the hashtag #Letslunch — or, post a comment below.
Cathy‘s Jasmine Tea-Poached Shrimp Summer Rolls at Showfood Chef
Charissa‘s Smoked Salmon BLT with Dill-Horseradish Aioli at Zest Bakery
Charles‘s Cold Olive Oil-Poached Chicken, Potato & Watercress Salad with Buttermilk at The Taste of Oregon
Danielle‘s Cous Cous with Cilantro Pesto & Halloumi at Beyond The Plate
Eleanor‘s Cold Noodles with Stir-Fried Vegetables, Hoisin Pork & Spicy Shrimp at Be A Wok Star
Emma‘s Korean Ice-Water Noodles (Mul Naengmyun) at Dreaming of Pots and Pans
Linda‘s Gazpacho Rolls Gone Wrong at Free Range Cookies
Lisa‘s Byron Sprout Salad with Chargrilled Chicken at Monday Morning Cooking Club
Mai‘s Strawberry Soup at Cooking in The Fruit Bowl
Maria‘s Croque Monsieur with Bechamel at Maria’s Good Things
Rashda‘s Indian-Style Gazpacho at Hot Curries & Cold Beer
Rebecca‘s Cold Roasted Lamb with Mustard & Rosemary at Grongar Blog
Victor‘s Seafood Napoleon at The Taste of Oregon
Chilled Spicy Sichuan Sesame Noodles
1 pound Shanghai noodles (1/8,-inch-thick), preferably fresh
4 TB Asian rice vinegar
1 to 1.5 TB sugar (to taste)
3 TB sesame oil
6 tsp chopped green onion
3 tsp toasted sesame seeds
4 TB minced garlic
4 tsp minced ginger
1.5 to 2 tsp ground Sichuan peppercorns (You can also use Sichuan peppercorn powder)
2 TB Sichuan peppercorn oil (to taste)
6 to 7 TB soy sauce
1 to 2 TB peanut butter
4 TB Chinese sesame paste
Bring a pot of water to boil then add noodles and cook for about five minutes. Drain and run cold water through the noodles and toss with a little bit of sesame oil.
Combine the rest of the ingredients in a bowl, whisking to mix them well. Pour gravy over noodles and toss. Serve chilled.