Sesame noodles are not what they seem. You may think of them merely as a humble bowl of cold pasta, but don’t be fooled — one bite and you’ll be hooked on these toothsome noodles with shreds of tender chicken, all tossed with a fresh sesame sauce.
But good versions of this dish can be hard to find. The cold noodles have a habit of turning gummy, the chicken often dries out and the sauce is notorious for turning bland and pasty. We wanted a recipe that could not only quell a serious craving but do it fast.
The trouble begins when the cooked and chilled noodles gel into a rubbery skein. After trying a number of ways to avoid this, we settled on rinsing the noodles under cold tap water directly after cooking. This not only cooled them immediately, but also washed away much of their sticky starch. To further forestall clumping, we tossed the rinsed noodles with a little oil.
Boneless, skinless chicken breasts are quick to cook and easy to shred; the real question is how to cook them. We tried microwaving, poaching and roasting, but got the best result with broiling. The chicken cooked through in minutes, retaining much of its moisture and flavor.
To be authentic, the sesame sauce should be made with an Asian sesame paste (not to be confused with Middle Eastern tahini), but most recipes substitute peanut butter because it’s easier to find. Tasters preferred chunky peanut butter over smooth, for its more fresh and peanutty flavor.
Tossing the rinsed pasta with toasted sesame oil boosted the sesame flavor, as did garnishing the noodles with toasted sesame seeds. Finally, we tried adding toasted sesame seeds to the sauce. Blended in with the chunky peanut butter, the sesame seeds added the final kick of authentic sesame flavor we were hankering for.
SESAME NOODLES WITH CHICKEN
By America’s Test Kitchen
- 4 (6-ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed
- 1 pound fresh Chinese noodles
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
- 4 scallions, sliced thin on bias
- 1 carrot, peeled and grated
- 5 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1/4 cup chunky peanut butter
- 3 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 teaspoon hot sauce
- 1/2 cup hot water
>> To make sauce: Combine ingredients except water in a blender; puree until smooth, about 30 seconds. With machine running, add hot water, a tablespoon at a time, until sauce has consistency of heavy cream (you may not need entire amount of water).
Heat broiler; adjust oven rack 6 inches from broiler element. Spray broiler pan with vegetable oil spray.
Pat chicken dry with paper towels, season with salt and pepper; lay on prepared pan. Broil until chicken is lightly browned, to an internal temperature of 160 degrees, 10 to 15 minutes. Turn chicken halfway through.
Let chicken cool slightly, then shred.
Meanwhile, bring 4 quarts water to boil in large pot. Add noodles and salt; cook, stirring often, until tender.
Drain noodles, rinse with cold water and drain again, leaving noodles slightly wet. Transfer to large bowl and toss with oil. Add shredded chicken, scallions, carrot and sauce; toss to combine. Sprinkle with more sesame seeds. Serves 4.
Approximate nutritional information, per serving: 700 calories, 22 g total fat, 3 g saturated fat, 101 mg cholesterol, 2,205 mg sodium, 79 g carbohydrate, 6 g fiber, 12 g sugar, 45 g protein.
America’s Test Kitchen publishes the magazines Cook’s Country and Cook’s Illustrated, as well as numerous cookbooks, and produces the PBS television show, “America’s Test Kitchen.” For recipes, cooking videos and product reviews go to americastestkitchen.com. This recipe is from the cookbook “Revolutionary Recipes.”