COLD SESAME NOODLES!!!!!!!

Dear Sam Sifton,

You are the best person ever.

Love,

Julie

I just made his cold sesame noodles and then I died because they were SO GOOD and I was SO EXCITED THAT I MADE SOMETHING THAT TASTES GOOD. I AM GOING TO EAT THESE NONSTOP FOREVER.

Anyway, so it is ridiculously hot in New York these days and I decided I should try making cold sesame noodles, even though I’ve never actually eaten them. After extensive research I settled on this recipe, mostly because I love Sam Sifton (ah, the roller coaster of emotions when he was appointed restaurant critic, and then again when he stopped being the restaurant critic).

To go with them, I decided on an Asian-ish vegetable stir-fry with tofu. The stir-fry was made up; I figured it should involve snap peas, because I love snap peas, and baby bok choy. I also bought scallions and then discovered they weren’t in the sesame noodle recipe, so I included them in the stir fry. For the bok choy, I cut the ends off and then just sliced them; I broke up the stems a bit more so I wouldn’t have huge bites of them. (See note below.) For the snap peas, I de-stringed them—you just pull the little string thingy and they sort of unzip; it’s very satisfying—and broke them in half.

I stir-fried the baby bok choy, scallions, and snap peas with garlic, ginger, and a little soy sauce and toasted sesame oil (not enough of either, actually). I pan-fried the tofu until golden. For some reason I thought it would mingle with the vegetables, which would impart their flavor to it; but then I just ate it plain, which was sort of gross, but serviceable, I guess.

After the vegetables had stir-fried and the tofu was sitting in the pan browning, I put the water up to boil and began assembling the sauce: sesame oil, soy sauce, rice vinegar (mine happens to be seasoned, because back when I bought it I couldn’t find the plain variety; this just gave it an extra spicy kick, which I liked), sesame paste (I used tahini, which is not the same as Chinese sesame paste because the sesame seeds are not toasted first; I just added some extra toasted sesame oil to make up for it, as Sam suggests), peanut butter, sugar, ginger, garlic, chili-garlic paste (mine is this sort of sketchy “Chili Sauce” that I got forever ago at a Japanese grocery store on a whim).

I should note that God punished me for buying pre-grated ginger by making it so hard to open that I almost injured myself. It took  forever, and was painful. But at least I didn’t have to grate ginger. (Ditto the garlic, and the tahini, and the peanut butter. Everything was impossible to open. It was weird and stressful.) (Actually, for the peanut butter, I ran it under very hot water for a while to loosen it. When I finally got it open—it’s a glass jar, by the way—there was all this liquid on top, and I was like, ew, the hot water somehow got in, so I drained it. This was a mistake; it was just peanut oil, and now the rest of my peanut butter is dessicated and thick and lumpy.)

I whisked it together. The lo mein noodles cooked. (Fairway always has lots of Roland brand stuff. I’m not necessarily endorsing Roland; it’s just what I usually buy because it is there.) Things were mixed together. I waited until after I’d eaten most of the vegetables to try the sesame noodles because I was scared they would be bad, but then I tried it and pretty much went AAAAAAHAG;LRIGU AAAAAA. They were good. I want a lot more.

Sesame Noodles—not adapted at all from Sam Sifton’s recipe, unless you count inaccurate measuring to be adapting

Bok Choy stir-fry—there’s really no recipe. I used Steamy Kitchen’s guide to bok choy because I don’t know much about bok choy (I should read her blog more). Basically I just put things in a very large nonstick pan, because I do not own a single stick pan, which I think is bad, and stirred for a while. If you’re curious and want to make this better, read The Kitchn’s extensive tutorial on stir-frying. I think I’ll add something spicy to the rest of the week’s portions—would chili oil be overkill?? It just needs something.

One note: I have a bizarrely well-stocked pantry in terms of Asian ingredients, as I may have mentioned before. I think the most important things to keep around are soy sauce, rice vinegar and toasted sesame oil; a lot of recipes call for different types of soy sauce (light and dark—NOT lite, just “light”), but I don’t, though I guess I don’t know how badly that impacts my recipes. Ginger can be purchased as needed—I have in the past snapped a knob of ginger off a larger root at the grocery store. I suppose some of the more obscure sauces are useful to have if your life goal is to master Chinese food, as mine is—chili-garlic sauce, black bean sauce, hoisin sauce. I’ve also been meaning to buy actual rice wine, but have yet to do so.

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2 thoughts on “COLD SESAME NOODLES!!!!!!!

  1. A somewhat (un)related anecdote inspired by worries about tofu just not picking up the flavor of the stuff it’s cooked with, damnit:

    One time, the marinade I was throwing together ended up spicier than I’d intended. The first thing to catch my eye when I went to the pantry to pretend to reason about what might taste good was some honey. “Sweet and spicy,” I thought, “that’s a thing, right?”

    I added some honey, and it more or less did the balancing job I’d hoped it would. But, there was an unintended benefit, too. It thickened the marinade and made it a bit sticky, such that upon browning it formed something approximating a glaze. This ensured that over and above whatever flavor the tofu managed to absorb from the marinade, it’d also have a tasty coating. It seems plausible that this could be combined with some other stuff to work up some kind of multipronged attack on tofu blandness.

    So, yeah, try that shit.

    Cheers.
    -Cory

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