Cold Sesame Noodles

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cold sesame noodlesStarting in the late 1960s, Sichuan restaurants took New York (and later the rest of the country) by storm. A standby appetizer—cold noodles coated with sesame paste and peanut butter, and spiked with chili—became one of the most beloved Chinese dishes in the city. With this recipe, you can make the same savory-sweet noodles you love from the Chinese takeout, with less grease and no MSG. The best noodles to use are Chinese egg noodles or spaghetti; they hold their firmness best and allow the sauce to coat the noodles instead of seeping in. They should be round and not too thin or too thick (the width of a spaghetti strand is perfect). A pinch of spicy Sichuan pepper enhances the flavor of the noodles, but you can certainly leave it out. The velvety noodles are as satisfying freshly made as they are eaten from the fridge at 3:00 a.m.

  • Yield: 6 Servings


  • 2 teaspoons white sesame seeds
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
  • 3 tablespoons tahini or other sesame paste
  • 2 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons white rice vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons chili sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • ½ teaspoon ground Sichuan pepper (optional)
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1 cucumber, halved, seeded, and julienned
  • 2 carrots, julienned
  • 2 scallions, green parts only, thinly sliced
How to Make It
  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the rinse with cold water, and drain again. Put the noodles back into the original pot or a large bowl, toss with 1 tablespoon of the peanut oil, and set aside.
  2. In a small dry pan, toast the sesame seeds for about 1 minute, or until they become lightly brown and aromatic. Transfer to a dish and set aside.
  3. Heat the remaining ½ tablespoon peanut oil in a small pan over medium-low heat. Gently cook the garlic and ginger until just fragrant, 30 to 40 seconds. Remove from the heat and set aside.
  4. Prepare the sauce: In a medium bowl, combine the tahini, peanut butter, soy sauce, sesame oil, rice vinegar, chili sauce, sugar, and Sichuan pepper (if using). Add the water and whisk until the mixture is smooth. Stir in the cooked garlic and ginger.
  5. Pour the sauce over the noodles, add the cucumbers and carrots, and toss. Transfer to a large bowl or deep serving dish and sprinkle the toasted sesame seeds and scallions on top. You can serve the sesame noodles at room temperature or chill in the fridge for 1 to 2 hours before serving.

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