Sichuan Mouth-Numbing Cold Noodles

February 23, 2015
4 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Prep time 4 hours 15 minutes
  • Cook time 10 minutes
  • Serves 2
Author Notes

My grandma is from the Sichuan (Szechuan) province in China, and because of that, I've always claimed that spicy food is as normal to me as bread. Of course, when I've got tears streaming down my face and am chugging ice-cold water by the gallon, it's less believable. However, I actually really enjoy that feeling. What marks the signature of the Sichuan spicy is the 麻辣 part -- the mouth numbing part. It's really hard for me to find dishes that are spicy and numbing enough in restaurants, so I make my own Sichuan chili oil.

This is one of my favorite dishes for the summertime. Yes, my face will most likely turn red, and yes, I will probably take breaks because my mouth will be numb, but it's cold, it's yummy, and it satisfies my spicy cravings. The main ingredient is the chili oil, which you can make at home. There are so many variations of chili oil, but my favorite is a triple-garlic Sichuan oil with peppers, chili flakes, garlic, ginger, and star anise. There's half a head of garlic to infuse, minced toasted garlic, and fresh minced garlic. I've seen variations with cumin, cloves, fennel, and cinnamon sticks -- it's really up to you! You can find all of these ingredients at your local Asian grocery market. —Betty

Test Kitchen Notes

These noodles were everything I hoped they would be. The triple garlic Sichuan chili oil was fantastic!!! Spicy and flavorful and simple to make! I absolutely loved it! I'm so happy to have a nice amount leftover - my brain is spinning on all the great things I can do with it! The only minor critique with the recipe is it lists dried chiles in the ingredients, but doesn't specify how to use them. I assumed to keep them whole and add in with ginger etc and take them out before jarring. The triple garlic chili oil is really what makes this dish so special. The sauce for the noodles worked very well too. The tahini, peanut butter and vinegar were flavored nicely with the garlic chili oil. I couldn't find Chinese black vinegar, but I read that a good substitution is balsamic vinegar diluted with a bit of water which is what I did. I felt like the noodles needed more sauce than what the recipe specified. After I mixed the sauce with the noodles I made some more sauce and added it in. The end result was great, however, next time I make this I would prefer to use Soba noodles. The ramen noodles get a little clumpy, I think soba would actually work better. It still tasted great and the noodles were a minor issue, it was excellent as is. —audrey kasindorf

What You'll Need
  • For the triple-garlic Sichuan chili oil:
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 head garlic, or about 4 to 5 whole cloves
  • 1 1-inch nub of fresh ginger
  • 4 tablespoons chili flakes
  • 5 dried red chilies
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons red Sichuan peppercorns, finely ground
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • For the Sichuan cold noodles:
  • 2 packets dry ramen noodles
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 3 tablespoons triple-garlic Sichuan chili oil (above)
  • 2 tablespoons Chinese black vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 teaspoon tahini
  • 1 teaspoon peanut butter
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs, beaten with 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 handful Thinly sliced cucumber, for garnish
  • 1 handful Chopped scallions, for garnish
  1. For the triple-garlic Sichuan chili oil:
  2. In a saucepan, heat up 4 cloves of minced garlic, the half head of garlic, ginger, chili flakes, dried red chilies, star anise, and vegetable oil over medium heat, until sizzling. Stir to prevent burning and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, watching the garlic to make sure it doesn’t burn. The garlic should be lightly browned.
  3. Turn off heat and add the ground red Sichuan peppercorns and 1 more tablespoon of chili flakes. Stir until the oil stops sizzling.
  4. Add the soy sauce and the remaining 2 cloves of minced garlic, and transfer a jar. Let it sit for 3 to 4 hours. Then, put the jar in the fridge. Remove star anise, ginger, and whole garlic cloves from the jar.
  1. For the Sichuan cold noodles:
  2. Cook noodles according to directions until al dente. Drain, rinse with cold water, and toss with the sesame oil. Place in the fridge until ready.
  3. To make the sauce, in a small bowl, whisk the chili oil, black vinegar, soy sauce, brown sugar, water, tahini, and peanut butter together. Taste-test this sauce beforehand to see if you can handle the amount of heat! Adjust as necessary.
  4. Heat up a large skillet with the vegetable oil. Spread a thin layer of eggs across surface, swirling to reach the entire surface. Cook on low heat until cooked through. Cool. Cut into thin strips.
  5. Mix noodles with the sauce until well-combined, and garnish with cucumbers, egg strips, and scallions. Serve cold or at room temperature.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

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  • Betty
betty is a food blogger and wedding photographer based in Boston, MA.

34 Reviews

Lisa December 15, 2018
This recipe is like comfort food to me. I have to make it every so often or I feel a sense of emptiness. :)
Eli December 23, 2017
I tried adding a head of sliced leek to the sauce and it was delicious :)
lesliewill July 13, 2016
How long can you store the triple-garlic Sichuan chili oil—if making extra?
Eli December 23, 2017
Mine stayed good for a good 4 months, however I did leave it out of the fridge once, so my guess is 5 months kept in the fridge.
Jeri S. January 15, 2016
PS: Sichuan peppercorns make the heat from the chilies linger longer in your mouth, especially on your gums and tongue. It's a slow roll on the burn that blooms as you eat, and continues after you have finished your food for several minutes (depending on how much is in the recipe). LOVE.
Jeri S. January 15, 2016
A note to the heat shy: Sichuan peppercorns numb your mouth but their heat is relatively low on the scale compared to all the chilies in the recipe. If the chili oil is too hot (vs. mouth numbing, which I also adore, hence my passion for real mapo tofu), try cutting down on the amount of chilies first. If it is the lingering numbing that disturbs you, then cut the amount of Sichuan peppercorns.
pidgeon92 June 28, 2015
So, I made this for the second time last night.... The first time I made it pretty much to the recipe, last night I made a few adjustments for our taste:

• I used udon noodles instead of ramen. I really like the Amy Chun's noodles that are in the refrigerated section of Costco.

• I doubled the amount of noodle sauce so I would have plenty to coat the shrimp I boiled to go with the pasta. For the shrimp, after I tossed them in the sauce, I added a few more spoons of the hot oil. I made extra shrimp so there would be leftovers in the fridge.

• I put a lot more peanut butter in the noodle sauce, perhaps 2 or more tablespoons after doubling the rest of the sauce ingredients.

• We have lots of basil in the garden, so I sliced up some leaves and garnished the noodles with basil. The basil and sauce worked well together. I also had crushed peanuts and lime wedges on the side to sprinkle on the noodles.

This is an excellent recipe that is very easy to customize. Thanks for sharing, Betty!
Betty July 1, 2015
You just made my day (and my mouth water). Thank you so much for sharing!
Hollis R. June 3, 2020
I will definitely double the noodle sauce, crush instead of chop the peanuts, add ~2 T. peanut butter, and have lime wedges on the side. Excellent suggestions!
pidgeon92 June 10, 2015
I've been reading up on Sichuan peppercorns, and many people advise to toast them before grinding. Should that be done in this recipe?

Also, what is the best way to grind them? I put them in a pepper grinder, but that isn't going very well. I'm thinking I'll use the coffee grinder I use for grinding spices.
Betty June 11, 2015
I always use my coffee grinder when grinding up the sichuan peppercorns. I don't toast them, but I am sure you can if you want to!
pidgeon92 June 11, 2015
... and just for my own edification, is it two tablespoons of unground peppercorns, or two tablespoons of ground peppercorns. I suspect it will make a big difference.
Betty June 11, 2015
I took two tablespoons of unground peppercorns and then ground it. That would make a big difference, you're right! But one great thing about this recipe; so much is customizable - so if you want more heat, you can make it two tablespoons of ground peppercorns :).
Dana M. May 30, 2015
This was soooooo good! I only did 2 tablespoons of the chili oil and I felt it was the perfect level of spice. It was definitely hot, but I wasn't dying for water. I am allergic to cucumber so I sliced some romaine lettuce, and for my carnivorous husband I grilled up some Vietnamese style beef. His only complaint: make five times as much next time! Thanks for sharing this wonderful recipe!
Betty June 1, 2015
YAY so happy to hear that!
Hayleilei April 30, 2015
Oops, I meant to say, double noodle sauce, not the chilli sauce!
Hayleilei April 30, 2015
I made this last night - so good! Halved the recipe for the chilli sauce but used the same quantity of sichuan peppercorns, because I love the numbing ma la burn. I really recommend doubling the sauce recipe, as it doesn't make a ton and it's really tasty. Also, we used glass noodles as that's what we had - and they were lovely. Served with shredded cabbage, poached chicken, sliced omelette, thinly sliced cucumber, green onions, and coriander. Very, very good. Thank you!
Betty May 13, 2015
YAY so glad to hear it! I love the numbing part too - I can't believe you basically doubled the sichuan peppercorns!!! But I'm also envious because that burn must've been DELICIOUS, so I think I'm going to go do that :).
katharinec March 29, 2015
OMG--this was WAY TOO hot, and that's even after I left out half the 2 tablespoons Sichuan peppercorns and used only a third of the third of the sauce on the noodles. This left us gasping for water. I had to make sandwiches for dinner instead.
Betty March 29, 2015
Oh Kitty I'm so sorry to hear that!!!! Yes, it is quite hot. I always forget that different people have different tolerances for spicy heat!! This dish leaves myself gasping for water, red faced as well, but I love it!! It's what makes sichuan dishes... well, sichuan. For next time, I'd recommend using more of the other ingredients in the sauce and less of the chili, and probably not topping it with more chili sauce! That should dial down the heat :). I'm going to add to the recipe to taste-test the sauce first before adding it to the noodles!
Eli December 23, 2017
I mean, it's not that hot and I live in Minnesota..
Hollis R. June 3, 2020
Betty, you warned us in the intro exactly how hot it is. So katherinec shouldn’t have been surprised. In fact, you stressed that it was ... well, Sichuan! Several times! That’s what has me SO excited!!!

About the ingredients:

What can I substitute for the Chinese black vinegar? I have Shanxi Superior Mature Vinegar. Will that work?

What kind of dried red chilies — I have Chao Tian Jiao and Xiao Mi La chili peppers; does it matter?

I want to eat this cold, with cucumber, radish, chopped unsalted peanuts, and scallions. No eggs. It’s what I have. I mean, I have eggs, but would they go with my other toppings?

I will also be grinding the red Sichuan peppercorns in the same coffee grinder where I grind my coffee beans. I’ll wipe it out, but it should make for an interesting cuppa joe.
Rainy D. March 27, 2015
I am lost with this recipe. "mix evenly and serve cold" is the last line. what does this mean? Mix all ingredients evenly and then refrigerate to chill or what? I am lost. somebody explain.
Leslie S. March 27, 2015
I just edited the last line to clarify it! Let me know if that helps!
Rainy D. March 27, 2015
thank you so much. that really helps. I wanted to know if the soup suppose to be chill first because thats what I been eating. I been eating ice cold noodle soup according to the recipe. Now am going to try this too. thank you.
Leslie S. March 29, 2015
Glad to hear it! It's delicious!
ilyana March 22, 2015
Is it possible to omit the tahini and peanut butter or replace it with something else? I don't have access to those two ingredients where I live.
Betty March 23, 2015
Hi there! Instead of tahini, you could use a toasted sesame paste, which you can find in most asian grocery stores. As for peanut butter, you can substitute with any nut butter. The taste will be slightly different, but the consistency should be similar!
Brussels S. March 17, 2015
This looks so delicious. I'll def. be giving it a try!
Betty March 17, 2015
Vania L. March 12, 2015
woo hoo! tomorrow, I buy Szechuan pepper!
can't wait to try this Betty.
Betty March 13, 2015
YAY. Prepare for some mouth-numbing goodness.
Leslie S. February 23, 2015
A liiiittle afraid but can't wait to try them!
Betty February 23, 2015
My thoughts exactly every time I make this!!! <3