There is almost a universal love for spicy peanut butter sauce, isn’t there? I bet you love it. I know I love it and my family loves it. So there, I believe I proved my point already 😆 I also have anecdotal evidence that these Chilled Noodles with Spicy Peanut Sauce is refreshingly delicious and just perfect for a standalone summer meal, as a side dish, or as a potluck offering because it keeps and transports very well. So extremely versatile in that way, and in terms of what you toss in there, too. For example, you could easily make this meatless without the shredded chicken (my preference when serving as a side dish). You can switch up the veggies, add tofu or shrimp, add in sautéed sliced shiitake mushrooms, etc. That said, don’t skip the cucumber. My personal feeling is cucumber is a must for maximum refreshing…ness. In this post, I’m letting you in on a special ingredient we always have in our Spicy Peanut Sauce that makes it different from many others. Read on, friends…
Aaaand ~ drum roll ~ the special ingredient is Chinese black vinegar. if you are Chinese, then I’m sorry for the let down because this is probably no secret to you. To all else who are uninitiated, Chinese black vinegar aka “Chinkiang Black Vinegar” is an inky-black vinegar that can be compared to balsamic vinegar, except less sweet. It has a beautiful complex, deep and woody flavour that adds so much dimension. You may have had it with soup dumplings (xiao long bao) which are usually accompanied by a little dish of it with fresh, sliced ginger for dipping. Since it’s a little less typical than other vinegars, you may need to source out Chinese black vinegar at Chinese supermarkets or online. If you can’t find it, substitute to taste with another vinegar you have at home such as balsamic, malt or rice vinegars. Hopefully you can make this spicy peanut sauce with some Chinese black vinegar - it really takes this recipe for Chilled Noodles with Spicy Peanut Sauce to the next level!!
No problem. Simply substitute tahini in the sauce and it will be absolutely delicious too. I adore tahini sauces, as you may know from other recipes like this Rainbow Veggie Rolls with Tangy Tahini Dipping Sauce, this Shaved Broccoli Salad, and a go-to sauce that I put on everything, this Maple Tahini Sauce.
This can be gluten-free if you use 100% buckwheat (soba) noodles or rice noodles. Here I have used buckwheat soba noodles that contains organic wheat flour. Whichever noodle type you choose, make sure to toss them with sesame oil after draining to minimize sticking.
With the exception of cucumber, the other veggies (snow peas, carrots, sweet bell pepper) are lightly blanched. I prefer this to raw because the blanched versions are tender and pliable (yet still firm!) which makes them more harmonious with the noodles, mouthfeel-wise. I hope I’ve enticed you enough to try this recipe while the weather is still hot. If so, let me know in comments or on instagram. You know I’d love to know hear about it. x
Chinese Black Vinegar: Here’s an ingredient you might not have come across often, or at all. AKA Chinkiang Black Vinegar, it is inky-black and can be compared to balsamic vinegar, except less sweet. It has a beautiful complex, deep and woody flavour that adds a ton of dimension. You may have had it with soup dumplings (xiao long bao) which usually come with a little dish of it with fresh ginger slivers for dipping. Since it’s a little less typical than other vinegars, you may need to source out Chinese black vinegar at Chinese supermarkets or online. If you can’t find it, substitute to taste with another vinegar you have at home such as balsamic, malt or rice vinegars. Hopefully you can make this spicy peanut sauce with some Chinese black vinegar - it makes this Chilled Chinese Noodles with Spicy Peanut Sauce exceptionally yum!
Noodle Type, including Gluten-Free options: In this recipe, I used standard soba (aka buckwheat) noodles which are, despite the name, made from a combination of buckwheat and wheat flours. However, the version I grew up with was made with Chinese wheat flour ‘stick’ noodles, the kind that comes dry in bundles, are stick straight, flat and about 2mm thick. If you wish to make this gluten-free, use 100% dry buckwheat noodles or some type of rice stick noodles you enjoy.
Poached Chicken: For this dish, I like to poach the chicken in the same pot of water that I blanched the veggies and cook the noodles in. Fewer dishes, yay! Alternatively, if you need to make this meal fastest way possible, set out a second large pot of water to poach the chicken concurrently because it does take about 30 minutes to poach (see step 6). You can roast the chicken as well (400f oven, 35-45min skin on / bone-in chicken thighs) if you prefer this method. Oh, and leftover rotisserie chicken, shredded up, is perfect here as well – I would aim for about 2 cups of shredded meat, or just whatever you have leftover!
Meatless Version: This dish is amazing as a side dish! In that case, I prefer to omit the shredded chicken and keep it meat-free.
Chilled Chinese Noodles with Spicy Peanut Sauce
Dairy-free. Easy Gluten-Free substitution. Omit chicken to serve as side dish or for meatless / vegan version.
Recipe serves 4.
For the Spicy Peanut Sauce (can be made 3-4 days ahead and kept refrigerated in tightly sealed jar):
1/3 C peanut butter
2 tbsp tamari or light soy sauce
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp Chinese black vinegar (see head notes for “Chinese Black Vinegar” above)
1 tbsp pure maple syrup
1-2 garlic clove, finely minced
5-6 tbsp water, to thin to desired consistency (amount depends on thickness of peanut butter)
Kosher salt, to taste
Chinese chili oil (we use either XO chili sauce or Chiu Chow chili oil), to taste
For the Chilled Noodles:
½ lb sugar snap peas or snow peas
350g of dry soba noodles (see head notes for “Noodle Types”)
Drizzle of sesame oil, to toss the cooked noodles
2 medium carrots, cut into approx. 3” pieces first, then julienned
1 sweet bell pepper, trimmed and julienned
½ English cucumber, cut into approx. 3” pieces first, then julienned
4 skin-on, bone-on chicken thighs (see head notes for “Chicken”)
1 scallion, sliced
NOTE: If you want to do everything in ONE POT for fewer dirty dishes to wash (my modus operandi in life), follow my directions as written and poach the chicken at the end, after blanching the veggies and cooking the noodles, in the SAME POT OF WATER. Alternatively, if you need to make this meal fastest way possible, set out a second large pot of water to poach the chicken concurrently because it does take about 30 minutes to poach – see step 5.
1. Put a large pot of water on the stove and bring to a boil. Set out a large bowl filled with water next to the stove (to which you will add ice later for an ice bath). Set a colander over a flat bowl. We are using these, in turn, for the snow peas, julienned carrots, julienned bell pepper and soba noodles.
2. Make Spicy Peanut Sauce (can be made days in advance and kept refrigerated in a tightly sealed jar): While waiting for the water to boil, whisk all sauce ingredients together. Use enough water to achieve a consistency that is thick but pourable. Taste and season with kosher salt as needed – amount depends on saltiness of peanut butter, and whether you used tamari or light soy sauce (former is typically saltier than the latter). It should taste salty, since it will be used to coat noodles. If you made it ahead and it’s a bit thick upon taking it out of the fridge, add a splash of boiling water and whisk until loose again.
3. Blanch veggies: When you’re ready to blanch the veggies, add a bunch of ice cubes into the large bowl of water. Once the pot of water comes to a boil, add a generous amount of salt (as if salting for pasta) and add snow peas. Blanch 3-4 minutes until tender but still retaining crispiness. Do not dump out the water: use tongs or a handle mesh strainer to transfer snow peas into the ice bath. Once cool, transfer into colander to drain.
Next, add julienned carrots into the pot of water. Blanch for maybe 30-45 seconds, or until pliable and tender but not soft. Transfer to ice bath. By now you can transfer the drained snow peas to a cutting board, to be julienned (cut lengthwise 2-4 times depending on size). It is carrot’s turn in the colander to drain. Quickly blanch the sweet bell peppers, until pliable and tender but not soft.
4. Cook noodles: Bring the water back up to a rolling boil and cook the noodles according to package directions. Drain noodles into colander (yes you can dump out the water this time), rinse noodles under cold running water and drain well. Place in serving bowl and toss with a good drizzle of sesame oil to minimize sticking. For proper “chilled” noodles (as the recipe is entitled), place the noodles in the fridge while you proceed to the next step of poaching chicken. My dad insists on this step. However, if your chicken is already cooked and you are ready to dig in, skip chilling the noodles – they will be fairly cold regardless since they were rinsed in cold water.
5. Poach chicken: Fill the same pot (no need to wash) with fresh tap water and add chicken thighs. Cover and bring to rolling boil. Lower heat to a gentle simmer (small bubbles) and cook for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, remove the pot from heat completely WITHOUT REMOVING THE LID. Allow it to stand covered for 25-30 minutes, give or take because it depends on the size of the chicken. To test doneness, there should be no blood when pierced with a skewer or sharp knife in the thickest part. A meat thermometer should read 165f. Drain chicken thighs, rinse briefly to rid any clinging scum then set aside to cool. Once cool to touch, discard skin and pull meat off the bones with fingers and shred. Keep the bones for homemade bone broth ;)
6. Serve: Give the noodles a final toss to loosen. Add drizzles more sesame oil if needed. Serve with shredded chicken and prepared vegetables, sliced scallions and sesame seeds. Toss everything with the spicy peanut sauce, or allow everyone to drizzle on their own sauce.
Finally, the most important and best step: Enjoy x
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