After my brother went to China for two years, he came back a changed man.
I remember it all very clearly. Considering that we’re pretty close as siblings, I was pretty excited to have him back on the same continent. As I waited in SFO, he sauntered out, pushing his cart of luggage, and was wearing a ridiculously hipster hat and harem pants. For someone who had been living in Asia for the past two years, he sure was channeling that Mission hipster look. Color me impressed. When we were catching up on the way back home, his voice dropped to a whisper, and he paused. This was about to be something real dramatic y’all.
I’ve discovered my inner foodie,” he stated dramatically. I totally lol’ed at that. “But you’ve always had an inner foodie!” I replied. “But you just loved burritos and Diddy Reeses!” (He went to UCLA if that explains anything).
It’s true though. He really did find his inner food enthusiast. Because he went to so many parts of Asia, he was able to explore a wide variety of different Chinese foods, ranging from claypot rice in rural China to fine Hong Kong cuisine. He also discovered he has quite an affinity for spicy food, especially of the Sichuan variety. As a result, he’s been exploring all the Sichuan style restaurants in the Bay Area, in search of those authentic dishes he tasted in Asia. We’ve also begun to experiment on making our own authentic Chinese cuisine.
Recently, we had a themed night where we cooked Sichuan style food using their famed numbing spice (pictured above). The Sichuan peppercorn is a unique, and really quite beautiful spice. Unlike normal fiery peppers, the Sichuan peppercorn is a slow burn, and leaves a little tingle in the mouth, making sure you don’t forget its flavor. This sounds kind of scary but it’s really not. It’s just a new way of tasting :). Or maybe not tasting…? Anyhow, one of the dishes we made was a cold noodle, which is popular in Asian culture, especially in Taiwanese and Sichuan food. It’s creamy, spicy and refreshing all at the same time. The spice of the peppercorns cut through the richness of the peanut butter and sesame paste in it, while the cucumbers add a nice, cool relief from the hotness of the chili oil. I hope you enjoy this as much as I do! And note, when handling the peppercorns, don’t rub your eyes before washing your hands! Oh, and be sure to check out his blog!!
SICHUAN STYLE COLD NOODLE RECIPE
- 1 package fresh Shanghainese noodle (this would be in the refrigerated section of the Chinese grocery store)
- 1 large carrot, julienned
- 1 large cucumber, julienned
- 1 cup peanut butter
- 1/2 cup sesame paste
- 3 tbsp chili oil (or more, depending on your tastes)
- 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
- 1 tbsp sesame oil
- 1 tbsp chili oil
- 1 tbsp chicken stock
- 1 tsp sichuan peppercorns
- vegetable oil
First, prepare the noodles as directed on the package, drain and let cool. Then, in a wok or frying pan, heat up about 1/3 a cup of vegetable oil. Fry the peppercorns until fragrant, or they begin to turn color. Drain the oil and set aside the fried peppercorns.
Mix together peanut butter, sesame paste, vinegar, sesame oil, chicken broth, and peppercorns. When it’s well blended, slowly drizzle in the chili oil. Make sure to taste it after every tablespoon, to make sure it doesn’t get too spicy. Toss the noodles in the sauce and top with cucumbers and carrots. Enjoy!
*Note: You can also add a protein– for this I threw in some shredded, poached chicken.