How to Cook: Cold Noodles with Peanut Sauce

Recipe from How to Cook Everything: The Basics. Photos by Romulo Yanes.

Recipe from How to Cook Everything: The Basics. Photos by Romulo Yanes.

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

Salt
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.

GRATING SOFT VEGETABLES: When you grate watery vegetables like cucumber, you get a silkier texture than with chopping but retain some of the crunch.

GRATING SOFT VEGETABLES: When you grate watery vegetables like cucumber, you get a silkier texture than with chopping but retain some of the crunch.

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.

WHISKING SOMETHING THICK WITH SOMETHING THIN: Hot water and peanut butter reluctantly make a sauce. Keep at it and the mixture will eventually get smooth.

WHISKING SOMETHING THICK WITH SOMETHING THIN: Hot water and peanut butter reluctantly make a sauce. Keep at it and the mixture will eventually get smooth.

TESTING THE TEXTURE OF A CREAMY SAUCE: The mixture should coat the back of a spoon but remain thick enough so that a line drawn down the spoon with your finger holds its shape. This clean swipe is the best way to test the thickness of all sorts of creamy sauces.

TESTING THE TEXTURE OF A CREAMY SAUCE: The mixture should coat the back of a spoon but remain thick enough so that a line drawn down the spoon with your finger holds its shape. This clean swipe is the best way to test the thickness of all sorts of creamy sauces.

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.

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Tips

  • 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.

Variations

  • 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

Posted in cooking.how, Mark Bittman Books, Produce, Recipes

4 Comments

  1. Chun said...

    Wow!
    Hi Mark, Thanks for you a great recipe!
    I would have never thought of mixing peanut butter with soy sauce!
    Another ways to cook!
    Thank!

  2. Sam said...

    Great recipe, very simple and looks really tasty! Will give it a try
    Thank you 🙂

  3. Sara said...

    Hello!
    I love your site and your cookbooks.
    Question on this recipe…would you recommend using natural peanut butter or a “Skippy” type peanut butter?

  4. Helen said...

    My mom makes this all the time, albeit a little differently….but they look pretty much the same. Sure they both taste great too, lol.

    I nicknamed it “Quicksand Noodles” because the peanut butter sauce looked like mud. XD

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