Sesame Noodle Recipes for Holiday Cocktail Party
I'd like to serve sesame noodles in small chinese takeout boxes at my holiday cocktail party. I'm looking for a good recipe. I've tried Ina Garden's but I don't like the peanut butter - I think it is too thick. And I'd like to serve them cold or at room temp.
Any suggested recipes?
A very basic vinaigrette of rice wine or white balsamic vinegar, minced onion, neutral oil, toasted sesame oil, sriracha, sugar, and toasted sesame seeds (preferably black) is really good on al dente soba noodles. Last time I threw in some zucchini matchsticks for crunch. Serve cold/room temp.
Would you like the peanut butter if there was just less of it, and the other ingredients diluted it more?
After decades of trying to master sesame noodles at home, I recently cracked the code. It's quite a wonderful feeling. I'm not going to spill all my secrets, but I will share enough with you to hopefully point you in the right direction.
Chinese American restaurants (and Indian American restaurants) are all about efficiency. They may have 100+ items on a menu, but they don't make 100+ sauces. It's all about the bases. Most restaurants have 4 bases. The base that they use for sesame noodles is brown sauce base. In other words, chicken and broccoli and sesame noodles have more in common than you might have previously thought.
I'm not going to go into specific ingredients, but I can promise you that this base is cooked before using in any dish. When it's combined with corn starch for something like chicken and broccoli, it's only heated long enough to thicken the starch- this is nowhere near long enough to cook/mellow the garlic. Chinese restaurants across the land would go out of business if they offered meat and veggie dishes with raw garlic sauces.
So, any recipe that uses only raw ingredients- I'm not saying they're bad, but if you're looking for a similar flavor to your favorite restaurant, avoid them. The garlic and the ginger (I'm saying too much! ;) ) must be simmered.
In the whole of the western culinary universe, I don't think any single ingredient is more misunderstood than toasted sesame oil. Perhaps cloves- anyway, that's another conversation. Toasted sesame oil is very very powerful stuff. If you see a recipe that measures it in teaspoons (or greater) run away- as fast as you can. Toasted sesame oil should always be measured in drops. In case you didn't hear me, let me repeat myself. Sesame oil should always be measured in drops.
The name 'sesame noodles' is a complete misnomer. I guess whoever came up with it probably thought it sounded better than peanut butter noodles, but that's really what these are. I'm not saying these should be an in your face pb flavor, but out of all the flavor notes in this dish, PB should be one of the more prominent.
Lastly, speaking of PB- choosing the right one can be tricky. Brown sauce base is salty- there's nothing you can do about that. If you go with a salted PB, you're asking for trouble in the palatability department. Quite a few unsalted PBs have integrity issues when it comes to labeling. They may say creamy on the label, but the actually product can be gritty (it takes very expensive equipment to make perfectly creamy PB). Gritty PB kills sesame sauce. I probably went through 20 different brands of creamy unsalted PB until I found sesame sauce bliss. If you have a Trader Joes in your area, you're in luck (organic creamy unsalted- NOT the non organic), but if you're one of the many that don't, expect to spend some time trying to find one that works.
Bear in mind that this entire treatise is based on the premise that your favorite noodle dish comes from a restaurant. If that's not the case, then... never mind :)
Here's one I got from a colleague once that is a good starting point for adjusting to your taste: for each pound of noodles, make a dressing from:
3 Tbsp tahini (or more- possibly much more)
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
2 Tbsp sesame oil
6 Tbsp soy sauce (or less; add incrementally to taste)
1 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 Tbsp red pepper oil (or a smaller amount of sriracha)
2 Tbsp chopped scallions
1/2 Tbsp chopped ginger
1/2 Tbsp chopped garlic
ground pepper to taste.
If you add it to the hot noodles, they'll absorb the sauce but get a bit sticky, and need more dressing later. You can either add some initially and some once they're cool, or simply toss them in the oil when they're hot and add the rest of the dressing ingredients once they're cool. (I think the latter is the intended way, but I feel like it doesn't let the noodles absorb the flavors very well!)