Asian Noodle Salad w/Salmon Recipe -- Needs Help!

I'm just beginning to dabble in Asian cooking -- I bought my first packet of bean threads last week, started with something simple, and followed the recipe for the dressing exactly, with good quality ingredients. The result -- under-whelming. Edible, but cloying. The Friend is visiting again soon - he's in West Africa; I'm in the Middle East -- and we're both craving good Asian food, but neither of us can find a work-related reason to meet in Singapore. My spice drawer is loaded with Indian, Mediterranean, and American spices and seasonings, and a jar of 5-spice powder. I haven't a clue how to correct the seasoning in Asian recipes, though. Suggestions?

Noodle Dressing:

¼ cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
3 tablespoons Asian sesame oil
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons peeled and minced fresh ginger



Nate T. August 28, 2011
That's awesome that you are starting to cook Asian food. Once you get a pantry full of the basic spices/ingredients and have them on-hand, you'll have fun experimenting. I can see how your noodle dressing tasted underwhelming but with the addition of two more ingredients (Asian sesame paste and garlic), you can turn it into the amazing-tasting dressing used in the Chinese dish "Bang Bang Chicken". In the dish, the dressing is tossed with bean thread noodles, slivered cucumbers, chopped green onions, fresh cilantro, and shredded chicken breasts-- but the dressing really tastes fantastic on anything and would work with Salmon too. Asian sesame paste is made of roasted and ground sesame seeds and tastes similar to peanut butter only with a more delicate flavor. When you buy the sesame paste, make sure are buying the Asian variety (sometimes labeled "Asian Salad Dressing" at Asian grocery stores) and not the Middle-Eastern variety that is made with un-roasted sesame seeds--it tastes completely different.

To make the dressing, whisk these ingredients together in a bowl:

1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
2 tablespoons clear rice vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup Asian sesame paste
1/3 cup water

If you want to make Bang Bang Chicken, you toss the dressing with the other ingredients until everything is slick and coated and then sprinkle with crushed dry-roasted Sichuan peppercorns.

Note: You shouldn't have trouble finding the Asian sesame paste, but if you do, you can show the Chinese name to the grocer at an Asian grocery store: ??? (zh? ma jiàng)
Melusine August 19, 2011
Thank you all for the suggestions -- I was (obviously) clueless. Take 2 this weekend.
amysarah August 17, 2011
wssmom's suggestion looks good to me - your recipe seems to be missing an acidic element, and rice wine vinegar and/or a squeeze of citrus would fix that. What mostly strikes me as off is the almost equal amounts of sesame oil (3 T) and soy sauce (4 T) - big fan of sesame oil, but a little goes a long way. That's probably adding to the heavy cloying taste you mentioned. (I might add a dash of hot chili oil too.) Also, consider substituting honey and/or mirin (the 'unseasoned' kind) for the sugar - it will blend better too. I'd also add some minced scallion and a bit of finely chopped garlic.

I think this is the kind of dressing you simply need to taste often while making, and adjust to get the right balance.
SKK August 17, 2011 This is a great recipe, if you want to try something new.
Author Comment
Have you tried using some fish sauce and maybe fresh lime/lemon juice? Maybe some palm sugar or honey? Experiment to get the balance that will work for you.
wssmom August 17, 2011
Perhaps cut down on the soy sauce, sugar and sesame oil? Try 1 teaspoon sesame oil, 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar, 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 3 tablespoons neutral oil (grapeseed, canola, etc). along with the ginger. Some lime juice and/or lime zest would be nice, as well. Then taste and add sugar, if you wish.
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