Friday, May 06, 2005

Sesame noodles

I have this perfect fantasy of sesame noodles. I envision a bowl of steaming golden noodles, like really good beef yakisoba, imbued with the aroma and flavor of sesame. It would be the most wonderful thing, at least it would be if I could create something like that.

In real life, I’m not much of a peanut butter fan, and sesame paste’s resemblance to peanut butter in texture and (surprisingly) flavor puts me off. My first try at sesame noodles was Marnie Henricksson’s recipe of the same name from Everyday Asian. It was fine, but the strong nutty flavor of the sesame paste and the peanut-butter consistency of the sauce was not what I expected. Why can’t sesame noodles taste more like sesame chicken? I know, maybe the radical differences in cooking technique used to reach each destination have something to do with it. (It was a rhetorical question.)

Last night, I decided to give sesame noodles another try. This time I used the Frugal Gourmet’s recipe for “Chowed Noodles with Pork and Sesame Sauce” from The Frugal Gourmet Cooks Three Ancient Cuisines. Interestingly, his recipe for the sesame sauce (from his “Shredded Sesame Chicken”) is not too different from Henricksson’s sauce; the main difference is The Frug’s addition of Chinese red vinegar and chopped scallions to the mix of sesame paste, garlic, ginger, light soy sauce, sesame oil, pepper oil and sugar. The dishes are also assembled differently, which I discovered when I really read the directions for pan-browning the noodles. Once I realized that those noodles were not going to be given two hours to dry on an oiled broiling rack, it was clear some changes would be made. When I read further and saw how many ingredients were supposed to be cooked in the pan, taken out, then returned to the pan later, it was even clearer that I was going to take the lazy cook’s path to sesame noodles.

So I cooked some Chinese egg noodles, then pan-fried them. I extricated most of them from the skillet, then poured in a bit more oil and stir-fried the chopped garlic and salt upon a steadily browning bed of noodle fragments which had stuck to the bottom of the skillet. I added chicken pieces (I discovered at the last moment that the only pork I currently have is a lonely pork chop) and stir-fried them. Then I put the noodles back in, along with some chicken broth ice cubes. Once the broth was assimilated by the noodles, I poured everything into a bowl, added the sesame sauce (which I had made separately) and mixed well.

Given the similarities in the sauce ingredients, it wasn’t that different from the Henricksson version. Again, it was good, but did not approach my fantasy of the perfect bowl of sesame noodles. I’m starting to think my fantasy is more trouble than it’s worth.


Anonymous said...

we couldn't find unsalted peanuts to make satay recently, so used roasted cashews instead. the flavor was gentler and rather nice, and might offer a solution for your noodles if you don't like peanuts.

Winslow said...

Hi lala,

My mother mentioned cashew butter as having a nice taste compared to some of the other nut butters, so I may give that a try next time. I've used roasted cashews in other dishes with good results. Thanks for the feedback.