So this is liang mian (凉面), literally “cold noodles,” a simple but wonderful dish that has its origin in Sichuan Province. It’s one of those foods where every street vendor, every restaurant, every Sichuanese cook will have their own recipe. So you should experiment and make it your own. The ingredients that you can’t do without are sesame oil, peanut butter and/or sesame paste, some black vinegar, and something to add a bit of heat. Always served chilled, it makes an ideal meal for steamy summer days.
For the noodles:
- Chinese egg noodles (substitute soba), 2-3 oz, or a bundle about the diameter of a penny or nickel, per person
- 1-3 tsp sesame oil
For the sauce:
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 Tbsp peanut butter
- 1 Tbsp Chinese sesame paste (substitute tahini if you must, but note that the taste is quite different since tahini isn’t made from seeds that have been roasted)
- 1 Tbsp sesame oil
- 1 Tbsp Lao Gan Ma black bean chili sauce
- 1 Tbsp dark soy sauce
- 1-2 tsp light soy sauce
- 2 tsp Shanxi black vinegar (or substitute Chinkiang vinegar)
- 2/3 cup stock (chicken or vegetable)
For the garnish:
- Cucumber and carrot, peeled and sliced into thin strips
- 1 Tbsp scallion, green parts, very thinly sliced
- 2-3 Tbsp cilantro, coarsely chopped
- Cook the noodles in boiling water for about 4 minutes until al dente, then drain off the hot water and soak the noodles in plenty of cold water to stop them from cooking further; then drain in a colander.
- When the noodles are well drained, put them in a bowl and mix with 1-3 tsp sesame oil until the oil is well distributed and the noodles aren’t sticking to one another. Then chill in the refrigerator while preparing the rest of the recipe, or up to an hour.
- Make the sauce. It will be effortlessly smooth if you mix the oily things first, so start by putting the garlic in a bowl, then add the peanut butter and/or the sesame paste. Then add the sesame oil and the black bean chili sauce. At this point, stir everything together until it’s smooth.
- Next, add the soy sauces and the vinegar and stir. Finally, add the stock and stir until smooth.
- Put the chilled noodles in a serving bowl and pour the sauce over the center. Then garnish with the carrot, cucumber, scallion, and cilantro.
Variations: Blanching the carrot slivers for 30 seconds and then cooling them immediately in an ice-water bath will give them a brighter color and a texture almost identical to the cucumbers.