Monday, July 6, 2009
Love of Eating and Cooking: Pop's Cold Sesame Noodles
My father developed my foodie tendencies and from them, my love for cooking. From Pop, I learned to love to cook for my love to eat! Alas, I don't prepare fancy, home cooked dinners much anymore - and never got up to Pop's standard of preparing gourmet Chinese cuisine - but I still enjoy preparing specialty dishes for gourmet cocktail parties, picnics, and dinners at friends' homes. Having grown up with so many happy memories of home cooked meals, it's been wonderful to recreate these dishes - some that I haven't had for decades.
I usually carry around a camera to catch pictures of dishes I've eaten and enjoyed sharing them in my holiday letters and more recently online. The pictures help me remember the wonderful meals I've had and let me recommend specific dishes and restaurants.
My friend Kaity Tong's blog has inspired me to go further and share the recipes of my favorite dishes. I've enjoyed reading her stories about her mother's recipes and salivated in anticipation of trying them out.
I recently learned how important it is to share recipes, even amongst family members. While visiting my sister, I found she didn't know Pop's recipe for cold sesame noodles; she had been using Mom's recipe. While I love my Mom, she's not the great cook that Pop was! The simple cold sesame noodle recipe proves this.
So here's the first of what I plan to be a series sharing the recipes I use - recipes I've collected from watching Pop cook (and taking measurements as he did, since he never had to measure anything), to others I've collected from the Internet. I've tweaked these recipes along the way (with great hubris, in some cases, daring to modify recipes by chefs as legendary as Thomas Keller of French Laundry fame), to make them what I think is clearer and more foolproof. While those modifications make the recipes longer and look more imposing, I've found they help me avoid mistakes that I've made in trying to follow the original recipes. Enjoy!
Norton Chu's Cold Sesame Noodles
1 lb dried noodles or thin spaghetti
2 T sesame oil
¼ c sesame paste (tahini) or peanut butter - or both
¼ c sesame oil
1 T sugar
¼ c soy sauce
¼ c Worchestershire sauce
1 peeled, julienned cucumber
2 c shredded chicken
1 c dried shredded pork
2 T toasted sesame seeds
1. Cook noodles in salted water until tender, but still slightly firm.
2. Drain and rinse cooked noodles in cold water to stop cooking.
3. If serving immediately, chill noodles in ice water. Drain well.
4. Toss noodles in sesame oil. Chill in refrigerator.
5. Put sesame paste and/or peanut butter in mixing bowl.
6. Stir in sesame oil to make a smooth paste.
7. Slowly stir in sugar, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, making a smooth sauce. Chill.
8. Toss chilled noodles in sauce, thoroughly coating the noodles.
9. Serve with optional toppings.
This recipe is so quick and easy, it makes a terrific snack even just for one serving, after cutting down the proportions.
I prefer the texture of plain white Chinese noodles, available in Asian grocery stores in 5 pound boxes. Spaghetti also works well, though.
In addition to adding flavor, the sesame paste and peanut butter act as binders. Mixed with the watery soy and Worcestershire, the resulting sauce clings to the noodles and prevent the ingredients from dripping onto diners' clothing.
If you use the long English cucumbers, you can julienne the skin too. It adds an interesting textural difference (a little tougher, but still tender), and beautiful color.
Using a mandolin makes easy work of julienning long strips of cucumber that make a wonderful presentation (they look like green noodles).
The optional toppings add interesting textural and visual contrast to the noodles, but for a snack, the noodles don't need any toppings.
This dish works very well for tailgating. The ingredients are less prone to spoiling, so they keep well in a cooler for an after-game snack while waiting for the traffic to clear out.