Cold Noodles with Peanut Sauce

Peanut butter, water, and seasonings make the simplest sauce on the planet.
TIME 30 minutes
MAKES 2 main-course or 4 side-dish servings
1 medium or 2 small cucumbers
½ cup peanut butter
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons soy sauce, or more to taste
1 teaspoon grated or minced fresh ginger, optional
1 tablespoon rice vinegar or fresh lemon juice, or more to taste
3 drops hot sauce (like Tabasco), or more to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
12 ounces fresh or dried Chinese egg noodles
½ cup chopped scallions for garnish

1 Bring a stockpot of water to a boil and salt it. Peel the cucumbers, cut them in half lengthwise, and scoop out and discard the seeds with a spoon. Grate the cucumber with a box grater or the grating disk of a food processor.

2 Whisk together the peanut butter, sesame oil, sugar, soy sauce, ginger, vinegar, hot sauce, and pepper in a small bowl. Add ¼ cup of the hot water from the stockpot and continue to whisk. The sauce should be about the consistency of heavy cream; if it isn’t, whisk in more hot water 1 tablespoon at a time.

3 When the water is boiling, cook the noodles until they are tender but not mushy; start tasting after 1 minute for fresh or 3 minutes for dried noodles. When the noodles are done, drain them and rinse with cold running water, then drain them again.

4 Toss the noodles with the sauce and cucumbers in a large bowl. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding small amounts of salt, soy sauce, vinegar, hot sauce, or pepper as you like. (The noodles can be made up to 2 hours ahead and refrigerated; let sit at room temperature for a few minutes before serving.) Garnish with the scallions and serve.

  • To make this a meal, add up to 1 cup sliced cooked chicken, beef, or pork; cooked whole shrimp or crabmeat; or cubes of firm tofu.
  • Cold Noodles with Sesame Sauce Use tahini (sesame paste) instead of peanut butter and add sesame seeds to the garnish.
  • Cold Noodles with Cashew Sauce Whirl ½ cup raw or roasted cashews in the food processor until they’re puréed into a paste—it might take up to a few minutes, so be patient—and use that instead of the peanut butter. Add a sprinkle of salt if you used unseasoned nuts.

  • You can make the peanut sauce—without the hot water—up to a day in advance; cover or transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate. When you’re ready to serve, prepare the cucumber, whisk the hot water into the sauce, cook the noodles, toss, and serve.

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