The Perfect Cold Sesame Noodles

With an endless number of ways to prepare cold sesame noodles, practice makes perfect—and makes for the perfect meal.

09.29.09 9:28 PM ET

“The most astonishing part of the 1960s on the New York restaurant scene was the awesome debut of restaurants of numerous nationalities,” wrote Craig Claiborne in The New York Times on Jan. 15, 1970. “Not only did Chinese restaurants multiply like loaves, fishes, and bean sprouts, but the public became enthusiastically aware of new dishes in that vast repertory, particularly the fiery delights of Szechuan cooking.” So enthusiastic were they, in fact, that now traditional Szechuan dishes can be found at nearly every Chinese restaurant across America. And of all the Szechuan dishes to earn a place in Americans’ hearts, cold sesame noodles might be the most loved. The dish—thin egg noodles tossed in a spicy sauce of peanut oil and peanut butter, sesame oil, and hot chile—could not be more simple or palate-pleasing.

Here are five recipes for classic and revamped cold sesame noodles:

Lee’s Cold Sesame Noodles by Molly O’Neill
The classic recipe for cold sesame noodles, this recipe can be easily tripled and made ahead of time, refrigerated, and served to a crowd that will surely come back for seconds.

Cold Sesame Noodles 66 by Jean-Georges Vongerichten
Traditional sesame noodles have a tendency to be heavy; this is a light and refreshing take on the dish that is half noodles, half garnish. Packed with vegetables and unlikely spices, it’s “more like a kind of chopped salad, really, than a typical goopy noodle dish,” says Jean-Georges.

Cold Noodles with Sesame Sauce by Arthur Schwartz
Offered by “The Food Maven,” this recipe is another classic take on cold sesame noodles, adapted from the departed New York restaurant Hwa Yuan Szechuan Inn, one of the first (and most fondly remembered) Szechuan restaurants in America.

Soy-Bean and Mung Bean Sprouts Seasoned with Sesame Oil by Madhur Jaffrey
This is sesame noodles without the noodles. Mung bean sprouts are light and crunchy, and with a drizzle of soy sauce and sesame oil, this salad is crisp and refreshing.

Chile Peanut Sauce by Lou Seibert Pappas 
Light on the sesame, heavy on the peanut, this spicy sauce would be perfect on cold noodles as well as steamed vegetables, stir-fried chicken or shrimp, and even roast duck.

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