Cold Sesame Noodles (or: I Ate a Vegan Meal And Lived to Tell the Tale)

Have you ever read through a recipe where the ingredients just didn’t make any sense together, but you took a chance, made it anyway, and it was awesome?

Because I’m not made of money I don’t try this out too often, but since this Sam Sifton recipe for takeout-style sesame noodles would only involve buying pretty cheap ingredients, I went for it. I highly recommend you do the same, especially now that it’s hotter than the fires of Hell outside with no signs of stopping, and you serve this vegetarian dish cold.  It involves no actual cooking aside from boiling noodles, so it doesn’t heat up the entire house, either. It seems that, at long last, I’ve learned how to cook something that’s suitable for outdoor temperatures over 60 degrees. Hooray!

I’m being a little dishonest: I had this before I made it myself. My dad makes it every so often, but he lives in Central Jersey, where you can go to Asian markets to find the authentic Chinese sesame paste and egg noodles the recipe recommends. I live at the Jersey shore. There are no Asian markets here and DON’T THINK I HAVEN’T NOTICED, MONMOUTH COUNTY. So with that in mind, I set off to find suitable substitute ingredients (read: tahini , as indicated in the recipe, and lo-mein noodles in the international section) at my local Shoprite, built in the seventies with terrifyingly narrow aisles and definitely structurally sound enough to be used as a shelter in some kind of nuclear apocalypse.

The recipe indicates that the chili garlic paste goes right into the sauce, but I left it out so the various eaters in my house could pick their own spice level, and that works out okay because if you have leftovers, the chili garlic sauce just makes them spicier as they sit in the fridge. (Side note: my friend dumped a whole bunch onto his serving by accident, ate it anyway, and I haven’t heard from him since. I hope he’s okay.) The cucumber  and peanuts are a must, because they provides crunch and color in an otherwise mushy meal and also make a great compliment to the chili sauce.

Here’s the recipe with my adjustments to accommodate a super-white spice tolerance and grocery shopping population. Again, this recipe is from the New York Times cooking section, and definitely head over there to read the recipe description- it’s seriously the most poetic food description I’ve ever heard.

Cold Sesame Noodles


  • 1 pound lo-mein noodles
  • 2 tbsp roasted sesame oil, plus a splash
  • 3 1/2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 2 tbsp tahini
  • 2 tbsp smooth peanut butter
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp finely grated ginger
  • 2 tsp minced garlic

Serve with:

  • Chili sauce (sriracha, chili-garlic sauce, sweet chili sauce… it’s up to you)
  • Peeled and seeded cucumber matchsticks, sliced thin and short (see photo)
  •  Chopped roasted peanuts


  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
  2. Add noodles and cook until barely tender; they should still be a little bit chewy. Depending on the type of noodles you use, this could be anywhere between 2 and 5 minutes- just keep an eye on them.
  3. Drain, rinse with cold water, drain again and toss with a splash of sesame oil. This keeps the noodles from sticking to themselves as they cool down. Transfer the noodles to a bowl.
  4. In a medium bowl, whisk together the remaining sesame oil, soy sauce, rice vinegar, tahini, peanut butter, sugar, ginger, and garlic. If you’re choosing to add the chili-garlic paste right into your dish, whisk it into here as well. Even though it’s made of thick, dense ingredients, it’s not really a thick sauce, so if it seems liquidy, you haven’t done anything wrong!
  5. Pour the sauce over the noodles and toss.


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