Sesame Noodles, As You Like ‘Em

Noodles, Chinese Style

We were walking through one of the markets here a few weeks ago and noticed a bunch of bags of pasta, on a table by the entrance. The items here are placed for quick sale, usually because they are getting close to their ‘use by’ date. I looked closely at the label—“Spicy Sesame Linguine Noodles—my first thought was ‘fusion’! The ‘best by’ date was a good month away, but as long as it’s kept dry, the package should a last fairly long time past that date.

Thrilled nearly to death at the low price, I grabbed a couple of bags. It’s not easy finding any kind of gourmet food here to start with, and finding it at a great price was icing on the proverbial cake.

I know I love eating that which is known as ‘fusion food’, though I wasn’t too sure where to begin to make it myself. Looking at the back of the bag while perusing ingredients, I found a recipe. That’s where I started. I made this recipe as a hot dish, (though it can also be served cold like a pasta salad, as it’s touted on the package) so my method is bit different that what’s on the bag. What I actually did differently is cooked the veggies in the dressing.

Having made this three times now, I’ve adapted from that suggested recipe, adding more veggies and some pre-seasoned, pre-prepared frozen garlic shrimp. We can’t get fresh shrimp here, and sometimes we can’t even get frozen. Most of the frozen shrimp here has the texture of having been been in that state since the last Ice Age, so it’s rare that we even think about buying it. But this is one of the good ones, so I get it for such meals that it gets mixed into something—like this. Beyond using a prepared product, I can just imagine how wonderful this would be with some good, much fresher shrimp!

Since there is no garlic used in the original recipe, I added a few cloves—I love garlic anyway, and if you use plain fresh shrimp, it would definitely add to the flavor. The recipe also calls for toasted sesame oil, and since we only had sesame chili oil, I bought some to add in. I think using a bit of both is a great idea!

It originally calls for just red bell peppers and broccoli florets as veggies, and I wanted to increase that, so I added in half of a small head of thinly sliced cabbage and some sliced yellow onion. It works well with the other vegetables and adds additional fiber and nutrients.

I also added chopped cilantro, but since that’s an ingredient that many seem to despise, it can be optional. Personally, I love it!

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Before I start cooking, I start prepping (usually much earlier in the day). I blanch the broccoli (boil just until brilliant green then plunge into ice water) and toast the slivered almonds in a small pan, over medium heat. I store these in the fridge until they’re ready to be used.

You’ll also need a large skillet or pan to make this, since there are quite a few ingredients.

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Spicy Sesame Pasta Sauté

  • 2 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil (I used olive; it worked fine)
  • 1 small onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 3 Tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 3 Tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon sesame chili oil
  • 1 Tablespoon grated ginger
  • 1 head of broccoli, cut into florets and blanched
  • ½ small head of cabbage, sliced thin
  • 2 red bell peppers, (or other colors) sliced thin
  • 4 green onions, sliced thin
  • ½ bunch (you decide how much!) cilantro, chopped
  • ½ cup slivered almonds, toasted
  • 1 bag (I used a bit less—there’s only 2 of us) spicy sesame noodles
  • 1 pound shelled shrimp, fresh or otherwise

In a small bowl or cup, combine the vinegar, soy, sugar, and sesame oils; set aside.

Cook the pasta in a large pan of boiling, salted water (I also add a tablespoon of olive oil to keep it from sticking) for 3 minutes. Drain and set aside.

In a large pan or skillet, sauté onion in oil over medium heat to soften and release the flavor and sweetness. Add in the ginger and garlic and allow to cook for about a minute. Add in the peppers and cabbage; continue to sauté for another two minutes or so.

Add in the vinegar mixture and stir to combine. Add in the shrimp, cooking until it just turns pink, stirring to mix it in. Add in the prepared blanched broccoli and toasted almonds; gently fold in the drained pasta, combining so as not to break up the noodles.

Top with the green onions and cilantro, if using.

Serves about 4-6.

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Clearly, this recipe is a starting point, and you can probably figure out a dozen other things to add or substitute, just like I did. That’s half the fun of cooking. This dish is also so colorful, it is delightful to photograph—a pleasure to see, as well as to eat!

In making this dish and desiring to photograph it, I tried out a style of photography that I’ve long admired—dark and moody. I was pleased to see that this dish lends itself well to styling it that way. My posting three similar images at the end might be a bit redundant to you, but it’s great learning for me. Here are some of my attempts at ‘dark and moody’:

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