Spicy Sesame Chili Noodles could become your favorite pantry recipe

Spicy Sesame Chili Oil Noodles

Active time:15 minutes

Total time:25 minutes


Active time:15 minutes

Total time:25 minutes


When I interviewed Stephanie and Mike Le about their new book, That Noodle Life, the first thing I wanted to know was: what is noodles all about? That said, why is pasta what you, I, and so many other people want to eat all the time?

Stephanie insisted: “I know this isn’t going to sound right, but I think they just feel good in your mouth. There’s something about the physicality of eating pasta that’s really appealing.”

Mike had another idea: “Pasta is the only food you can eat more than one bite at a time.”

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In the end, both men and women agreed that it was also due to the universal nature of pasta as a feel-good food. “Everyone has eaten a bowl of pasta at some point in their lives,” Stephanie said. “They just taste good and are a great vehicle for all kinds of flavors.”

To call Les’s new book a love letter to pasta is to underestimate its passion and quirky charm. It includes references to rap lyrics (“We love big noodles and we can’t lie”) and “Star Trek” (“Live long and lasagna”), a March Madness-style recipe contest, and even a noodle glossary written in haiku. And then there are the recipes for Philly Cheesesteak Noodles, Yaki Udon al Pastor, and Chinese Bolognese Pappardelle.

The book honors the traditions of Asian noodles and Italian pasta while showing how they can come together and play. The pair dives into Southeast Asian laksa soup, provides instructions for making spaghetti alla chitarra the traditional way, and offers numerous recipes that come together in just minutes.

These udon noodles in a simple soy broth are simply irresistible

The latter caught my immediate attention, particularly this Spicy Sesame Chili Oil Noodles recipe that uses just a handful of ingredients and simple steps to make something that tastes wonderfully complex.

The recipe calls for any favorite noodle, but I couldn’t take my eyes off the ones in the photo, dried Chinese knife-cut numbers with ruffled edges called shaved Shangxi noodles. I didn’t find them on a trip to my nearest Asian supermarket, but they reminded me of a pasta I love, mafaldine, shaped like a stretched lasagna noodle, complete with ruffles, so I used them. When we photographed the recipe, our food stylist couldn’t find anything either, so I long suggested fusilli, a wavy pasta that looks like an old-fashioned telephone cord.

“That’s exactly what we want,” Stephanie said. “These are perfect substitutions.”

The pair tries to stick to the general guidelines for swaps: “We try to substitute long for long and short for short and if it’s like a curly shape or a straight shape we match that too because a lot of sauces are meant to be absorbed by noodles and their crevices,” added Mike. “We’re not too picky when it comes to substitutions. The shape is the most important thing.”

The recipe includes one of my favorite ingredients, Chinese black vinegar, and introduced me to a different Chinese sesame paste, but offers substitutions for both: balsamic for the former and tahini for the latter.

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I’m a longtime tahini devotee, but the Chinese sesame paste is wonderfully dark and nutty, and overall something I can’t imagine living without. Similarly, while they include a recipe for a homemade (and wonderful) Sichuan-style chili oil, they also allow store-bought chili oil, making this recipe one of those pantry champions I can’t get enough of.

It was so easy, so delicious and so much fun to eat that my stomach was growling as I watched Zoom while our visuals team prepared it and I stepped out of frame and into the kitchen to within minutes to prepare another portion for my husband and I.

The recipe makes the perfect amount for two, but be warned: anyone you serve it to might have the same reaction as my husband: “Is there more?”

Next time there will be.

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If you don’t like your sesame noodles spicy, use hoisin sauce instead of the chili oil.

Storage Notes: Refrigerate leftovers for up to 5 days.

Where to buy: Chinese sesame paste, black vinegar and Shangxi sliced ​​noodles can be found in well-stocked Asian supermarkets.

  • 6 ounces long dried noodles, preferably curly or curly, such as Shangxi plan noodles, mafaldine, or long fusilli
  • 2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Chinese sesame paste (can substitute tahini)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons store bought or homemade chilli oilpreferably with chilli flakes, such as B. Chinese chilli chips
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons Chinese black vinegar (can substitute balsamic vinegar)
  • 2 spring onions, trimmed and thinly sliced, to serve
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds, for serving

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the noodles according to package directions. Reserve 1/4 cup of the pasta cooking water and drain well.

While the noodles are cooking, in a large bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, sesame paste, chili oil, sesame oil, and black vinegar.

Add the drained pasta to the sauce and stir to coat well. If necessary, loosen the sauce with a little pasta cooking water. Arrange on plates, sprinkle with spring onions and sesame seeds and serve warm.

Calories: 537; total fat: 20 g; Saturated fat: 2 g; cholesterol: 0 mg; Sodium: 692 mg; carbohydrates: 74 g; fiber: 5 g; sugar: 5 g; Protein: 14 g

This analysis is an estimate based on available ingredients and this preparation. It should not replace the advice of a nutritionist or nutritionist.

Adapted from “The Pasta Life” by Mike Le and Stephanie Le (Workman Publishing, 2022).

Tested by Joe Yonan; email questions insatiable@washpost.com.

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