A very long time ago in another place and life, I was introduced to sesame noodles. I wasn’t won over immediately, possibly because I only knew sesame as the decoration on hamburger buns. I didn’t know about halvah or tahini or benne cookies. After a few false starts, I found a restaurant serving sesame noodles warm (not cold, as I’d been trying them) and was converted, yea verily the scales fell from my eyes.
Since then I’ve made a lotta versions of sesame noodles, but they always fell short because the only sesame I had was oil and seeds. I rarely saw sesame paste for sale where I lived and when I did see it, it was a giant can that would take years to finish up. So I’d substitute peanut butter, which had a certain appeal but wasn’t really the same thing as what I was after.
The best variation I tried was from Sheila Lukins in The Silver Palate Cookbook, where she made a sesame mayonnaise to be mixed with pasta. It was delicious BUT it made 3 cups – which is a LOT – and I felt rather guilty eating all that pasta lavished with mayonnaise. Not guilty enough to stop eating it, though.
Now I live where tahini (that’s sesame paste) is available in nearly every store. It isn’t the cheapest ingredient on the supermarket shelf but unless you’re making gallons of hummus, it’ll last a while. If you can’t find it, there are directions online for making your own. I’ve decided there are some things – like sushi and filo dough – that I am just not interested in making at home, but have at it if you’re so inclined.
This recipe is a mashup of versions, one from the Lucky Peach Cookbook, one from a cooking blog, plus my own preferences.
SESAME NOODLES WITH VEGETABLES
Combine in a bowl
- 1/3 cup soy sauce (I use low-salt and think you should too)
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce (optional)
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil (find at Asian market or well-stocked grocery store)
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar (use the unseasoned)
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
- 2 tablespoons tahini plus some of the oil which will have separated from the paste
- 1 tablespoon sweet chili sauce (find at Asian market or well-stocked grocery store)
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 1/2 – 1 teaspoon chili garlic sauce, depending on how hot you want it (find at Asian market or well-stocked grocery store)
- 2 tablespoons Shaoxing rice wine (optional) (find at Asian market or well-stocked grocery store)
You may need to warm the sauce (microwave is fine) to soften the tahini and get everything mixed.
It won’t look very impressive.
Now this part is optional, but if you do this, it becomes a one-dish meal. or you can leave the noodles vegetable-free. Up to you.
Prep some vegetables. How much and which is up to you.
I sliced a small red onion, some celery, carrots, and red bell pepper, all to be cooked. Raw toppings are some chopped green onions, cilantro, peas, and cucumbers cut into matchsticks; alongside are some edible-pod peas. I chose these veggies because that’s what was in the refrigerator but just about any veg works here.
I sauteed some veggies until they were almost but not quite tender.
Then I cooked 1 pound linguine until almost but not quite al dente in NONsalted water with a little vegetable oil added. If I’d had rice noodles on hand, that’s what I would have used, but Ronzoni it was. Before the linguine was done, I scooped out 1 cup of the boiling water.
Tossed sauce with the noodles along with about 1/3 cup of the cooking water, then stirred in the cooked veggies plus some leftover cooked chicken that had been lurking in the refrigerator. Scraped everything out onto a serving platter and topped it with the uncooked vegetables plus some peanuts and Slug Slime (though toasted sesame seeds would have been fine).
We let this sit for a while as we listened to the San Francisco Giants lose badly to the Los Angeles Dodgers, then ate this warm-not-hot. It’s good hot, warm, or cold.