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Patricia Yeo's Sesame Noodles

September 18, 2013

Every week -- often with your help -- Food52's Senior Editor Kristen Miglore is unearthing recipes that are nothing short of genius.

Today: A salad that will be even better packed up for lunch tomorrow -- with a creamy, yet vegan, sesame dressing. (If you're thinking secret ingredient, you're right!)

Patricia Yeo's Sesame Noodles from Food52

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Rare is the salad that holds up on day two. Greens wilt, alliums go afoul, grains get weathered and dry. And improving with age seems out of the question, like asking salad to not be a salad.

Patricia Yeo's Sesame Noodles on Food52

So when we find a good one, we should hold it tight, and imprint it on our animal brains as a template to repeat and riff on -- to make our lives easier in all the brown bag lunches, picnics, and potlucks that will come our way.

More: 10 more dishes that taste better the next day.

Here's your next imprint-worthy model for next-day salad success, from chef Patricia Yeo via Fine Cooking. It hinges on a sultry sesame dressing. It's creamy despite being vegan (we'll get to that) and it puts other nutty noodle salads to shame.

Patricia Yeo
Food52er ecrossi, who tipped me off to this recipe, explained our noodle salad problem best: "Most sesame and peanut noodle recipes are a real disappointment. They usually end up with a gloppy, too-sweet dressing that tastes like thinned-out peanut butter." Not this one.

Yeo puts more care into hers -- it might be a little more work than watering down peanut butter, but you won't be sorry you did it.

Photo by James Ransom  Photo by James Ransom

You'll toast sesame seeds. You'll sauté some shallots and garlic. Then you'll put those into a blender with a little sugar and a few bottled goods -- sesame oil, soy sauce, rice vinegar, and chile paste -- from your pantry. This will give you a dark, delicious slurry.

sesame dressing

Then, whenever you're ready to dress, you'll whisk in water -- which loosens the sauce, and unlocks the creaminess of the broken sesame seeds.

Patricia Yeo's Sesame Noodles form Food52

It's one of those secret miracles of vegan cooking that makes you wish you listened to vegans more -- like nut milks, you get something milky-smooth and richly flavored where you'd least expect it.

Patricia Yeo's Sesame Noodles from Food52

Yeo's salad has strips of red pepper, daikon, and snow pea, but you could put in whatever vegetables you want. I can see broccoli and celery in winter, radishes and scapes in spring.

If you've been listening, and you're planning on keeping this salad around for lunch, it helps if they're crudité-like and built to last.

Patricia Yeo's Sesame Noodles from Food52

Patricia Yeo's Sesame Noodles

Adapted slightly from Fine Cooking

Serves 6 as a main dish, 8 to 10 as a side dish

For the sesame dressing:

3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon (4 ounces) sesame seeds
7 tablespoons peanut oil
3 medium or 2 large shallots (about 2 ounces total), sliced
1 large clove garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup sugar (or to taste -- if making vegan, use cane sugar)
1 teaspoon hot chile paste
3/4 to 1 cup water (or less)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves

For the noodles:

12 ounces fresh Chinese egg noodles (sometimes called wonton noodles) or other long, thin noodles
3 tablespoons peanut oil
1 cup blanched snow peas, thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 cup thinly sliced daikon radish
1 cup fresh cilantro leaves
1/2 cup chopped peanuts
1 cup thinly sliced scallions (cut on the bias on a sharp angle)

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photos by James Ransom

Got a genius recipe to share -- from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected]

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Karen
  • Catie B
    Catie B
  • DGE
  • tigerlille
  • Pavla
I'm an ex-economist, lifelong-Californian who moved to New York to work in food media in 2007, before returning to the land of Dutch Crunch bread and tri-tip barbecues in 2020. Dodgy career choices aside, I can't help but apply the rational tendencies of my former life to things like: recipe tweaking, digging up obscure facts about pizza, and deciding how many pastries to put in my purse for "later."


Karen September 23, 2013
May I ask what you mean by "hot chile paste"? Is it "sambal oelek" or something else? Thanks!
Kristen M. September 23, 2013
Yes, I used sambal oelek but other chile pastes could work here too.
Catie B. September 22, 2013
As I am allergic to wheat, what would be the best substitute for me to make this salad? It sounds delicious, but I cannot take a chance on 'cheating'.
I_Fortuna September 22, 2013
Maybe you could use any of the noodles you are already used to using. Bean noodles and rice noodles too. This looks like it would be good with any noodle. : )
DGE September 20, 2013
I made this for supper tonight. Used fresh wonton noodles and added sauteed chicken just because I needed to use it up. This was amazing!!! I toasted the sesame seeds in a fry pan so I didn't have to heat up the oven. Used seasoned rice vinegar. Thanks for posting! Wonderful flavors. I love peanut sauce, but this was just different and refreshing.
tigerlille September 18, 2013
Oops, I meant pantry ingredients, not recipe!
tigerlille September 18, 2013
Actually, I'm quite happy with Nina Simonds Chinese Peanut Noodle Sauce, which does NOT taste like watered down peanut butter, and is quick, cheap, and delicious. You can get all your stand by pantry recipes very inexpensively at a good Asian grocery (be sure to use black vinegar instead of worstershire sauce, so much cheaper),and the only fresh ingredients you need are ginger root and garlic, spring onions optional. This recipe is genius enough for me. I do love Patricia Yeo's recipes, but why complicate things?
Pavla September 18, 2013
Any suggestions for those of us allergic to peanuts?
Kristen M. September 18, 2013
Sub for another neutral oil like grapeseed or canola (or even lightly flavored olive oil), and either skip the peanut garnish, or sub a nut that works for you. Cashews would be great.
Susie September 18, 2013
Thanks all.
SeaGrey September 18, 2013
I’m wondering how long this would be good un-refrigerated? I’d like to make something like this to take to school.
Kristen M. September 18, 2013
A few hours is totally fine -- this is a great lunch to take with you.
foodblimp September 18, 2013
1/4 cup sugar sounds like a lot for a salad dressing. Any ideas for substitutions on the sugar?
Kristen M. September 18, 2013
Just add to taste whatever sugar you prefer, or even a little honey could be good.
pamela J. September 18, 2013
I understood that tahini was made from raw sesame seeds, while sesame paste was made from roasted seeds. Also, I'm fairly certain that cane sugar is what vegans avoid, as it is filtered using animal bone, so for vegans, you'd want to use beet sugar.
amysarah September 18, 2013
I believe tahini is made with raw sesame seeds, and Asian sesame paste is toasted. Yes, they do taste different - the latter has a deeper, more, well...roasted flavor. I buy jars of it at the Asian market and use it to make Sesame Noodles (but will give this recipe a go too.)
semsaD September 20, 2013
In Turkey we have tahini made out of toasted sesame seeds, but it isn't mass produced, so you can't find any in supermarkets. Very small very artisanal producers still produce it, but they also are diminishing.
HapppyBee September 18, 2013
I love the idea of tahini for ease of use, so sub 3/4 C right? Also, is tahini made with toasted sesame seeds or raw? I'm wondering if there is much difference in taste between the tahini/toasted sesame seed version. Anyone compared the two? Thanks for the tips! This sounds amazing.
blmcmp September 18, 2013
Yeo's version sounds yummy, I have not compared the two. I only use 3 tablespoons of tahini. I would guess the toasted seeds have a wonderful flavor--I use toasted sesame oil.
SusanR September 18, 2013
This recipe looks great. I do have to ask though, are those ramen noodles in the pictures?
Kristen M. September 18, 2013
No, not exactly! They're dried Chinese wheat noodles -- like this:

Fresh egg wonton noodles would be great if you can find them, but other long, thin noodles work well too. (Ecrossi uses dried capellini.)
I_Fortuna September 18, 2013
I make this a lot and don't need a blender. A mortar and pestle are easily used to make a paste of the sesame seeds and sesame oil. Instead of chile paste, try hot seame oil. It is a more subtle flavor with just the right amount of heat so as not to mask the other flavors. Also, these sure look like ramen noodles which is what I use. I have other noodles but ramen is best for this. Ramen is a cheap versatile noodle. I cook them to package directions then fry them in sesame oil for chow mein recipes. This is how the Chinese restaurant we used to go to when I was a child many years ago made them, Mr. Gee's Pagoda. When you walked in the door there was a huge bronze Ho Tai Buddha sitting in the waiting area. I would always put a penny in his mouth, rub his tummy and make a wish. I think this was the pinnacle of the experience along with the noodles of course. I sure miss Chinese American food from the 50's and 60's and the kindly Mr. Gee. : )
blmcmp September 18, 2013
Susie, I use the tahini in place of the toasted sesame seeds. Yeo's version sounds wonderful--toasted sesame seeds ground up in the blender--but a quicker version (sans blender) is to stir in tahini, which is made of sesame seeds already ground into a seed butter (similar to peanut butter).
Susie September 18, 2013
blmcmp, you use the Tahini to replace what specifically??
Alexandra S. September 18, 2013
This is so much fun! I love Patricia Yeo. A million years ago I worked with her for The Book and the Cook in Philadelphia at Fork — her braised oxtails were amazing. I used to cook from her Everyday Asian cookbook all the time. Totally trying this sesame dressing! Thanks!
Kenzi W. September 18, 2013
So I want to write a poem that starts with your first sentence. Can I?
blmcmp September 18, 2013
Yum! This is one of my favorite top ten go-to recipes--you can use almost any veggies, any noodles, and serve it warm or cold. My version is made with a few tablespoons of tahini (sesame butter), much quicker. I keep the sauce separate until I'm ready to toss noodles and veggies together for a meal.
emcsull September 18, 2013
same here, tahin works for me too.
Allison L. September 18, 2013
So, what are you replacing with the Tahini? The toasted sesame seeds? Thanks!
blmcmp September 18, 2013
Allison, yes, I use the tahini in place of the toasted sesame seeds. Yeo's version sounds wonderful--toasted sesame seeds ground up in the blender--but a quicker version (sans blender) is to stir in tahini, which is made of sesame seeds already ground into a seed butter (similar to peanut butter).
emcsull September 18, 2013
I can only second this. you don't need peanut oil then, but you can top it up with a bit more sesame oil if needs be. All the other ingredients I use. Old recipe from the NYT ages ago.
blmcmp September 18, 2013
emcsull, thank you, yes, I reread the recipe--no need for the 7 tablespoons of peanut oil (if you use the tahini). I only use 1T of the toasted sesame oil. And, only use a small amount of water, if needed, to thin the sauce.
beejay45 September 18, 2013
I'll go you one better! I use tahini, too, but I use bottled *gasp* Kikkoman Teriyaki Marinade instead of most of the other ingredients. When I was catering I did it all from scratch, then I found this and got lazy. I sometimes add some chili oil, if the veggies warrant it. Best tip of all, echoing blmcmp, is not to dress more than you will eat/serve and keep the veggies separate. This way it will last 2-3 days in the fridge. Think Bento.