One of my favorite appetizers, Sesame Cold Noodles, was inspired by frequent visits to Kingdom of Vegetarians and New Harmony Restaurant, both vegetarian Chinese places in Philadelphia. I used to work long hours in my studio loft in downtown Philly Chinatown and take a break for some excellent food. It got to be quite a habit. When my family visited from Jersey, a visit to one of Ming’s restaurants was almost certain. Especially from the dim sum menu, this was one of my must-order dishes. Eventually I figured out how to make it at home, which was practical because by the next year I wasn’t in Philadelphia anymore and visiting Ming sadly became an annual treat.
While we’re on the subject of New Harmony and Ming – if you don’t know him and his place, you should! Drive/ride/swim/walk to Philly, if you have to! There’s a reason why his place is so famous. His dedication and kindness are incredible.
About a decade ago, just before I left to travel in China he sat me down and hand-wrote a special note for me in Chinese: “I only eat vegetarian food. Do you have something good for me?” He taught me how to say it and we practiced a bit, both of us laughing. I folded it up, put it in my wallet and brought it on the trip.
It was an effective good luck charm! Many vegetarian and vegan friends traveling in China have told me terrible stories of communication and culinary mishaps. Or struggles to find veggie-friendly fare. For the three weeks I was there, I never had a single problem! And I still have the note, folded up in my old passport.
Back to these cold noodles. On a warm summer day, with chopsticks this is a real treat and great starter. It’s also excellent for picnics and parties and can be kept in the fridge in a closed container. Like many noodle dishes it’s usually even better the next day. If there’s any left.
Sesame Cold Noodles
serves 3-4 / time: 20 minutes
200g Asian wheat noodles
1 Tbs tahini
2 Tbs peanut butter or cashew butter
1 tspn sesame oil
1/4 cup soy sauce / tamari
2 Tbs rice vinegar or lemon juice
3-4 Tbs water
1-2 Tbs agave / sugar
1 Tbs sesame seeds toasted
1/4 cup spring onions diced
1/2 cup bean sprouts
- Cook noodles according to package instructions, rinse with cold water, drain, toss with a bit of oil, cover and refrigerate for 30 min.
- In a mixing bowl or measuring cup mix tahini, nut butter, sesame oil, soy sauce, vinegar, water, agave with a whisk or fork until smooth and creamy. Refrigerate sauce for minimum of 30 min.
- Arrange noodles on plate or in bowl and top with sauce. Alternately, mix sauce with noodles with sauce before chilling.
- Garnish with fresh sprouts, spring onions, seeds and serve.
Meaty? Slice thin strips of smoked tofu or seitan and put on top of noodles before adding sauce. Spicy? Add some hot sauce to the sauce before mixing. Peanutty? Replace the tahini with another tablespoon of peanut butter.