Cold Noodles with Peanut Sauce
Peanut butter, water, and seasonings make the simplest sauce on the planet.
TIME: 30 minutes
MAKES: 2 main-course or 4 side-dish servings
1 medium or 2 small cucumbers
1/2 cup peanut butter
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons soy sauce, or more to taste
1 teaspoon grated or minced fresh ginger, optional
1 tablespoon rice vinegar or fresh lemon juice, or more to taste
3 drops hot sauce (like Tabasco), or more to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
12 ounces fresh or dried Chinese egg noodles
1/2 cup chopped scallions for garnish
1. Bring a stockpot of water to a boil and salt it. Peel the cucumbers, cut them in half lengthwise, and scoop out and discard the seeds with a spoon. Grate the cucumber with a box grater or the grating disk of a food processor.
2. Whisk together the peanut butter, sesame oil, sugar, soy sauce, ginger, vinegar, hot sauce, and pepper in a small bowl. Add ¼ cup of the hot water from the stockpot and continue to whisk. The sauce should be about the consistency of heavy cream; if it isn’t, whisk in more hot water 1 tablespoon at a time.
3. When the water is boiling, cook the noodles until they are tender but not mushy; start tasting after 1 minute for fresh or 3 minutes for dried noodles. When the noodles are done, drain them and rinse with cold running water, then drain them again.
4. Toss the noodles with the sauce and cucumbers in a large bowl. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding small amounts of salt, soy sauce, vinegar, hot sauce, or pepper as you like. (The noodles can be made up to 2 hours ahead and refrigerated; let sit at room temperature for a few minutes before serving.) Garnish with the scallions and serve.
- You can make the peanut sauce—without the hot water— up to a day in advance; cover or transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate. When you’re ready to serve, prepare the cucumber, whisk the hot water into the sauce, cook the noodles, toss, and serve.
- To make this a meal, add up to 1 cup sliced cooked chicken, beef, or pork; cooked whole shrimp or crabmeat; or cubes of firm tofu.
- Cold Noodles with Sesame Sauce: Use tahini (sesame paste) instead of peanut butter and add sesame seeds to the garnish.
- Cold Noodles with Cashew Sauce: Whirl ½ cup raw or roasted cashews in the food processor until they’re puréed into a paste—it might take up to a few minutes, so be patient— and use that instead of the peanut butter. Add a sprinkle of salt if you used unseasoned nuts.
Photos by Romulo Yanes