Simple Chinese Cold Noodles
This recipe was originally inspired by what my mom used to make for me and my brother on hot summer weekends. This is the perfect dish to make when you're short on time, and don't have too many ingredients in the fridge—which is why I adopted this recipe as a college student, and even now, as a working adult. I don't know if this is true for all Chinese families, but my family in particular likes to make complicated lunches, but keep dinners very simple. We'll usually have rice and several dishes for lunch and then have dumplings or noodles for dinner. For weekend dinners, my mom literally tosses this up in 10-15 minutes. As for me—well, I still have a long ways to go to get to her level.
This later transitioned from a family dinner item to an item I would always bring with me to school for lunch. You may consider this a risky option, based on what other kids might think. After all, I went to a high school located in Scripps Ranch, which is a neighborhood that's 70% white. Luckily for lunch I always either hung out in the band room or in my math teacher's classroom with the friends I met in Japanese class. They did not make fun of my lunch. In fact, they usually ended up eating half of whatever I brought.
Maybe half is exaggerating, but they did really enjoy it. I ended up making this for my friends whenever we hung out after school because it was just so simple. Making this once again for the blog made me feel really nostalgic. I realized just how much I missed hanging out with my high school friends in San Diego... and spending relaxing summer nights with my family without having to worry about the stress of work the next day.
The noodles are tossed in a simple "dressing" made with soy sauce, chili oil, sesame oil, and—if you're feeling fancy—a little bit of peanut butter. I like to microwave the soy sauce for around 20 seconds before adding the peanut butter. This helps the peanut butter dissolve and mix well with the rest of sauce.
As for the chili oil, I was actually lucky enough to use one that my dad made from scratch. He fries dried red peppers, Sichuan peppercorns, star anise, and bayleaves together with vegetable oil, and then drains out all the other ingredients until only the oil is left. This chili oil can then be used for all sorts of dishes—mapo tofu, as a dipping sauce for dumplings, noodles, soups, and more.
The toppings can be anything you have in the fridge, really—but my mom and I usually top the noodles off with a spicy stir fry made with ground pork as the main ingredient. Usually if I want to be healthy—or if I want to make this dish vegetarian—I will chop up some oyster mushrooms and stir fry it with tofu instead. Get creative and make the most out of whatever you have left in the fridge. Day after Thanksgiving? Use your leftover Turkey! I would just advise to cut up whatever ingredients you decide to use into small pieces so that they can evenly distribute in the noodles once you mix them in.
And that's basically it! If you want to create a "noodle bar" of some sort, you can skip the step of adding the toppings directly to the noodles. If you want to make everything vegetarian friendly, and let your guests decide what they want to top the noodles off with, just give everyone a bowl of noodles and let them decide what to add. You can also chop up some cucumbers and lay out some cilantro for your guests if they'd like to garnish. Chopped peanuts are good options too!
Does the above photo look a little naked (or "nood") to you? See what I did there? :-) It's because it's missing an egg, of course! Honestly, I've never met someone who, when asked, "do you want this dish topped off with an egg?" (free of charge), responded with "no thank you". Also, noodles and eggs go together like peanut butter and jelly. If ramen can have a soft boiled egg, and bibim naengmyun can have a hard boiled egg, then these Chinese cold noodles can have a sunny-side-up egg as well. In fact, it doesn't even have to be sunny-side-up. Top this off with a poached egg to take it out of Chinatown and make it restaurant quality.
Simple Chinese Cold Noodles
- 500g egg noodles or soba noodles
- 1 egg (optional)
- Sesame Seeds for garnish
- 1 lb (around 450g) ground pork or ground beef
- 1 tbsp cornstarch
- 1 tbsp oyster sauce
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tsp Chinese black vinegar
- 1 slice of baked tofu
- 2/3 cup light soy sauce
- 1/4 cup Sichuan chili oil
- 1 tbsp sesame oil
- 2 tbsp peanut butter
- 1 egg
The stir fry on top:
Sauce for the noodles:
Takes , Makes 4 bowls.
- Bring a pot of water to a boil and add in the noodles. Cook until the noodles are al dente (cooking time might differ based on the type of noodle used)
- Strain the noodles and run them under cold water while they are still in the strainer. The cold water will stop the cooking process and make sure that the noodles stay al dente and do not become soggy. Place the noodles in the fridge to chill while you make the sauce and toppings
- For the stir fry topping, combine the ground pork with the oyster sauce, soy sauce, vinegar, and cornstarch (adding corn starch to the meat will make the stir fry gooey and create a sauce underneath, which is perfect for topping off the noodles). Set aside to marinate
- Heat oil in a frying pan and add the meat when the pan becomes hot. Stir fry until the meat is cooked and a gooey sauce has formed underneath. Add more water mixed with cornstarch if you want the stir fry to produce a thicker sauce. Add the chopped baked tofu and scallions and stir fry until everything is well combined and cooked through
- To make the dressing for the noodles, first heat up the soy sauce for 20 seconds in the microwave. After it's heated, allow the peanut butter to dissolve in the soy sauce. Mix in the chili oil and sesame oil. Top off with sesame seeds and chopped scallions if desired
- Take the chilled noodles out of the fridge and add the sauce. Toss the noodles in the sauce and make sure it's well combined
- Fill a bowl with 1/4 of the noodles and top it off with the stir fry. Add a sunny-side-up egg and garnish with sesame seeds and leftover scallions
If you're a bit weirded out by the peanut butter in the sauce, I want to point out that the chili oil + peanut butter combination makes these noodles reminiscent of dan dan mian. Feel free to replace the peanut butter with sesame paste as well if you don't like the idea of Jif being in your noodles.
Shout out to my mom for giving me the inspiration to steal one of her dishes and taking my own spin on it. And shout out to my high school friends whom I miss so so much. I'll make this again for y'all someday :')