Category Archives: Cookbooks

Cold Sesame Noodles

I’m a huge fan of cold sesame noodles.  I have two packages of it sitting in my fridge right now, courtesy of my local Asian market.  Those have peanut butter as a main ingredient.  Fine with me, but the debate rages on as to peanut butter versus sesame paste.  Most recipes do feature peanut butter, but here’s one today with nary a peanut in sight courtesy of Serious Eats.

Serious Eats: Recipes

Dinner Tonight: Cold Sesame Noodles

Posted by Blake Royer, June 2, 2011

[Photograph: Blake Royer]

While many of you could recognize cold sesame noodles and have probably eaten them more than a couple times, there seems to be little consensus about what goes into this popular dish. It should be a simple affair, but many recipes tend to overcomplicate things and lose the appeal of the dish’s simplicity. It should be made with Chinese noodles—the kind that retain more chewiness than regular Italian pasta—and the sauce should be creamy, salty, tart, and fiery.

I’m particularly taken with this version from Mad Hungry by Lucinda Scala Quinn,which is the first I’ve seen that relies completely on tahini rather than using peanut butter and excessive amounts of sesame oil. The result isn’t heavy or gummy—it’s lighter and creamier than any version I’ve tried. Along with the usual suspects in this dish—soy sauce, ginger, garlic—it’s got the hallmark balance of flavors that make cold sesame noodles so pleasing.


serves serves 4, active time 5 minutes, total time 15 minutes

  • 1 pound Chinese egg noodles, such as lo mein
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 6 tablespoons tahini (sesame paste)
  • 3/4 cup water, plus more as needed
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 4 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 scallion, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger
  • Sriracha hot sauce or chili oil (to taste)


  1.  Bring a large pot of water to boil and add the noodles. When the water returns to a boil, turn down to a simmer and cook until just tender according to package directions. Drain well, rinse with cold water, then toss with sesame oil.

  2.  In the meantime, combine the sesame paste with water and whisk to combine, thinning into the consistency of thick cream. In a second bowl, whisk together the vinegar, soy sauce, sugar, and garlic until the sugar is dissolved. Combine the mixtures, then stir in the ginger and almost all the scallion.

  3.  Toss noodles with sauce and season to taste with more soy sauce and hot sauce or chile oil. Garnish with remaining scallion.

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© Serious Eats


Everywhere a cookbook….

Have I mentioned I am obsessed with cookbooks?  I love to read them, especially old ones, because they give you a glimpse into the lifestyle of that era in much the same way as fashions of the times do.  But new ones can make my heart go pitter patter just as well.

I guess you could say I am something of a cookbook connoisseur.

I have my preferences and my dislikes.  I love cookbooks that are ethnic, regional, or favorites in other countries that have been translated into English and include a cultural context. I adore love stories to a particular cuisine of one’s heritage.  I love chef-centric cookbooks that are written without pretension and have a point of view.  I enjoy cookbooks that explore one food in all it’s glories…whether it’s a book about risotto, soups, or an ode to zucchini.

I am not a fan of overly complicated cookbooks, where each recipe has 20 or more ingredients, and an equal number of steps.  Save me from compendiums, with generic recipes that can be found in dozens of others.

I prefer ingredients listed in the order they are referred to in the recipe instructions.  I like it when nutrition values are given, and when suggested accompaniments appear.  Photos are nice, but not so many that it turns the cookbook into a coffee table book.

I want the index to list recipes by ingredients, and not (as in one book I own) by cute recipe titles. If it’s important to use a certain size or type of pan, pot or baking dish–tell me so.  I want the layout of the book to make sense.  I prefer it by course, rather than by season or menu.  And I admit to a fondness for sidebars with tips, tricks and substitutions.

When I read through a cookbook, I am looking for inspiration, new ideas, unique use of common ingredients, or simple use of ingredients that are new to me.

Most of all, I want a cookbook to be user-friendly.  I want the recipes to be accurate, easy to follow, and for the most part, not take all day to make (although cooking all day without the need for my intervention, as in a crockpot, is fine with me.)  Yes, I am perfectly capable of making a Beef Wellington from scratch (pastry, pate, duxelles and all…) but I prefer dishes that I can prepare after a busy day and put on the table at a reasonable hour.

People often ask me why I don’t write a cookbook.  It’s on my bucket list.  But for now, I’ll share some of my favorite recipes and cookbooks with you here.