Cool on the tongue, spicy on the palate, icy-cold noodles and a smorgasbord of toppings make a refreshing warm-weather menu. Akin to pasta salad, this satisfying Chinese specialty is a meal all by itself when the toppings include a satisfying assortment of cooked meats, poultry or seafood; raw and blanched vegetables; and nuts or fruit.
Preparing the noodles several hours ahead or overnight allows them to fully absorb the dressing, a blend of four flavors fundamental to Chinese cuisine: salty, sour, sweet and hot. Most toppings can be prepared ahead as well and refrigerated until needed.
For a simple meal, three or four different toppings are sufficient; a special occasion deserves a greater variety, but the quality of the toppings is more important than the number of selections. The noodles, dark sesame oil (also called roasted or Asian sesame oil), and chili oil can be found at most larger supermarkets and at Asian markets.
Cold Chinese Noodles With Toppings
1 pound thin Chinese-style egg noodles, cooked and drained
1 tablespoon peanut oil
Makes enough for 1 pound
3 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons dark sesame oil
4 teaspoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon to 1 1/2 teaspoons chili oil, to taste
1 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger
thinly sliced or diced ham
cooked, diced or shredded chicken
tofu (bean curd)
thinly sliced cucumbers
chopped green onions
snow peas or green beans, blanched
thinly sliced radishes
fresh bean sprouts
chopped fresh coriander
celery, sliced diagonally
rice vinegar, as needed
orange or tangerine sections
peanuts or cashews, toasted and chopped
toasted sesame seeds
Toss noodles with peanut oil. In a large bowl, prepare dressing (see below). Add noodles and toss to coat. Allow to marinate 20 minutes at room temperature or, preferably, several hours or overnight in refrigerator.
Prepare toppings. Vegetables may be sprinkled with rice vinegar or tossed in dressing, if desired. Arrange toppings in small serving bowls. Toss noodles once again and arrange on chilled platter before serving with toppings.
Noodle Dressing: Combine all ingredients in a bowl large enough to hold noodles, stirring until sugar is dissolved.