This was my signature dish back in the late seventies and early eighties – but don’t let that stop you from reading further. These are not the sweet Thai sesame noodles we’ve come to crave on dateless Saturday nights over the last three decades. There is no peanut butter or sweetness to this dish. If you like Thai sesame or peanut noodles, try the Spicy Szechuan Noodles here, which I also love. This recipe makes a heavier, garlicky sauce. It calls for tahini, otherwise known as sesame paste. Tahini is a traditional middle eastern sauce made from sesame seeds and is the base for many Middle Eastern specialities, including hummus and baba ghanoush. (If you can’t get it or are adventurous, you can make it yourself with this recipe. I always buy it and keep it as a basic kitchen supply.) Over the years, I developed or discovered new sesame noodle recipes and abandoned this one to the past. but it rose again. My son’s father was coming to the ranch for graduation weekend so I asked if he had any requests. Without missing a beat, he enthusiastically replied, “Sesame Noodles!” I was surprised he remembered it after two decades. He inspired me to revisit it and I’m glad. It was a huge hit at the graduation party. Kyle couldn’t stop eating it either. When our annual rural ‘Road Party’ rolled around, my rural neighbors requested this dish for the potluck. I never imagined these rural old-timers would be fans but they ate every last bite. So, here it is….the old classic.
The recipe is from my first real cookbook, The 60-Minute Gournet by Pierre Franey. It was my culinary bible when learning to cook. Unlike other women I knew, I could barely fry an egg until my twenties. When my young professional friends in Manhattan were serving up delicious gourmet delights, I seriously doubted I’d ever have the courage to cook a meal for others. A good friend and excellent cook, Leslie Long, kindly trying to boost my confidence, shared two tips which have remained with me all these years and repeatedly proven true. She said, “There are two tricks to cooking well. 1. Follow the directions, and 2. Learn how to pick good recipes.” These two directives were the guiding light of my early culinary path. Granted, I haven’t always been successful, probably due to lack of vigilance to these two wise tips. I get cocky now and then, and venture out on my own…and it’s probably about time.
If you’re vegan, omit the chicken. I liked the whole wheat pasta in this dish. I serve it with julienned cucumber slices, sesame seeds, and/or steamed broccoli when I have it on hand. The cucumber gives it a nice freshness and crunch which I think this dish needs. The broccoli is just good for me. The sesame seeds are a sprinkle of vanity for the plate. What noodle doesn’t want to look pretty? I also recommend a tin of Altoids after dinner. And for the record, the noodles and sauce are very happy together when they’re alone.
I usually quadruple this recipe and make a lot for leftovers..it goes quick.
Here’s how you make it:
1 large chicken breast
2 crowns broccoli, optional
1 cucumber, peeled and julienned, optional
6 oz fine egg noodles or
angel hair or whole wheat pasta
¼ cup sesame paste (tahini)
3 Tablespoons water
2 teaspoons hot chili oil
3 Tablespoons soy sauce
2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon plus 2 tablespoons sesame oil
¼ cup peanut or canola oil (I don’t usually use all this – add this to taste)
2 Tablespoons finely chopped garlic
Note: The original recipe calls for spaghetti, if I recall correctly, but I have always used angel hair. This time I tried it with whole wheat pasta and liked it. Whole wheat pasta takes some getting used to, but it’s worth it for the nutritional value it offers. That said, nothing beats the white stuff…except my health – and yours.
1. Bring about 6 cups of water to boil and add the breast. Do not add salt. When the water returns to the boil, simmer about 10 – 15 minutes. Remove the breast but save the broth. (You can skip this step if you are using leftover chicken breast.)
2. Bring the broth to the boil (or use water if using leftovers) and add the noodles. Cook, stirring occasionally, about 5-7 minutes. Drain and run cold water over until chilled. Drain thoroughly and add to a mixing bowl. Add a teaspoon of sesame oil and toss.
3. With a knife or your fingers, cut or pull the chicken into fine shreds.
4. Add the sesame paste to a bowl and add the water, stirring. (I love this step – when you mix the water with the tahini, it first looks gross and then it suddenly….
… transforms into a light, whipped-like substance. It reminds me that order comes out of chaos. I love watching it go from an ugly, coagulated mess to a light, airy creation.
5. Add the chili oil, soy sauce, wine vinegar, the two tablespoons of sesame oil, and garlic. Now mix in the canola (or peanut) oil to your liking. I don’t usually add much. It seems unnecessary to me.
5. Arrange the noodles in a serving dish or bowl. Cover with the chicken, cucumber, and whatever other garnishes you choose, spoon the sauce over and serve..
Note: If you made extra sauce and noodles, store them separately and mix immediately before serving. You know how it is. Absence makes the heart grow fonder.
Note 2: I find if you drizzle some of the sauce on a prepared plate with all the trimmings, and refrigerate it prior to serving, the flavors blend and chill simultaneously. Immediately prior to serving, I drizzled a touch more sauce on top and voila. So good…if you aren’t expecting Thai food. Life is so often about managing expectations.
Yield: 4 servings