My new neighbor is having a tough time assimilating to Los Angeles. He has been trying to find a Chinese restaurant that serves cold sesame noodles.
"In New York," he said, "you can't help ordering them. But they don't have them anywhere around here. It's a bad sign. Maybe I shouldn't have moved!"
Coming from someone who has made himself a regular at my place, it sounded like a hint. I obliged, using the following recipe, which betrays a secret I learned in one of the New York establishments he claims to regret having left behind: some of the better so-called sesame noodles are actually made with peanuts.
COLD "SESAME" NOODLES
1 cup chunky peanut butter
1/2 cup soy sauce
6 tablespoons dark sesame oil
1/4 cup rice vinegar
4 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons chili paste with garlic
1/2 cup hot water, about
1 pound spaghetti, cooked
3/4 cup minced green onions
Chopped roasted peanuts, optional
Combine peanut butter, soy sauce, sesame oil, vinegar, sugar and chili paste with garlic. Add 1/2 cup water 1 tablespoon at time, stirring, until well blended. Add drained, rinsed noodles to sauce, along with half of green onions. Toss until noodles are well-coated with sauce. If mixture is too sticky, add more hot water and toss again.
Turn into serving bowl and sprinkle with remaining green onions and chopped peanuts. Serve at room temperature. Makes 4 servings.
Note: Use peanut butter with no added sugar or oils. Chili paste with garlic is available in Asian markets and in Asian specialty section of most supermarkets and health food stores.
Here is another Szechuan-inspired dressing for cold pasta. It also works well on lightly steamed broccoli, snow peas, carrots or green beans.
2/3 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons dark sesame oil
1/2 cup rice vinegar
3 tablespoons light soy sauce
2 tablespoons chili paste with garlic
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon grated ginger root
1 clove garlic, crushed and minced
Combine vegetable oil, sesame oil, vinegar, soy sauce, chili paste, sugar, ginger and garlic, blending well. Refrigerate until ready to use. Makes 1 1/2 cups.