For a year after high school and before I trucked off to college, I had a glorious break hanging with family and their new little dude. It was the late eighties and the food trends were things like California rolls, blooming onions, 7 layer dip, dips in bread bowls (haha this is still a staple of our Thanksgiving weekend), and blackened anything. And there were also yuppies. And yuppies who ate things like cold sesame noodles. And so this is where I first knew of this dish’s existence – in a yuppie house (said with love) in NJ with a baby after high school. Sounds vaguely like a twisted children’s book – but I digress.
Cold sesame noodles, sometimes called cold peanut noodles, sometimes with sesame paste (aka tahini), sometimes peanut butter, sometimes both. Often with cucumber, sometimes carrots, sometimes spicy, sometimes not, now just as likely with zoodles or squoodles or sprouted things. Sometimes udon, sometimes, soba, sometimes regular old linguini. No matter, though, because it is all about the sauce. Unctious, umami-rich, a little salt, a little tang, a lotta yum, the sauce is the dish. That makes it expansively adaptable, as long as you’ve got that tasty sauce. I actually hadn’t had or thought of these cold noodles in quite a while and I am not sure what brought them back to me these last weeks – perhaps the recent visit from that baby who is now (yikes, what?!) 30, a stellar chef and star creator of all things smoked, or perhaps the constant search for non-hot things to serve in these dog days – but I am sure glad to have gotten reacquainted. What follows is my current version. Enjoy with or without neon jellies and a Tab.
8 oz package of udon noodles (can sub any other long pasta)
8 oz vegetable noodles – zucchini, carrot, squash, etc
½ cup peanut butter
2 tbsps tahini (ok to omit)
4 tbsps soy sauce
2 tbsps rice vinegar
2 tbsps sesame oil
2 tbsps brown sugar
5-6 tbsps hot water
1 tsp sriracha or hot sauce of choice
1 tbsp sesame seeds
Boil water for the noodles. While the pasta noodles cook (don’t put the veg noodles in the water yet), prepare the sauce by placing the peanut butter, tahini, soy sauce, vinegar, sesame oil, brown sugar, water, and hot sauce in a blender. Blend on high until well incorporated. If it seems too thick add more water. When the noodles are close to done, after 8-10 minutes, depending on your noodles, add the vegetable noodles to the same boiling water. Cook these for 1-2 minutes, until they just soften a bit but don’t get mushy. Drain all into a colander. In a large bowl, toss the noodles and sauce together until all the noodles are well covered with sauce. Top with sesame seeds before serving.