I have a neighbor who makes the best cholent in New York, possibly in the Tri-State area. (Sorry, Mom!) He makes it with beer, beef cheeks, and a host of secret ingredients and the result is a stew that tastes rich, spicy and almost like it came out of a smoker. It’s amazing. This isn’t it.
I know, I know! But you see, the thing with cholent is that it’s just so heavy. No matter how it’s made, it always seems to put me straight to sleep. It’s even worse in the summer: the heat in the air combined with the heaviness and hot temperature of the traditional Shabbat dish always have me yearning for something lighter, fresher and dare I say it? Newer.
That’s where this sesame noodle salad comes in. As wonderful warm as it is cold and easily made ahead, it’s the perfect answer to the what’s-for-lunch problem. In this salad, noodles tangle together under a sweet, nutty sauce and combine with shredded grilled chicken for protein and heft. A mix of colorful vegetables add bright flavor and crunch, and the result is a summery, refreshing dish that’ll have everyone wanting seconds.
If you love peanut butter-y sesame noodles, you’ll love these. They have that that sweet/salty thing going on, they work well with just about any vegetable you’ve got languishing in the fridge, and you can even make them vegan by subbing tofu for the chicken (so delicious!) and maple syrup for the honey. In my house, we love these noodles so much, we’ve made them for weekday lunches as well. They keep for a couple of days in in the fridge–and speaking from personal experience–a poached egg is not remiss here.
Note: all the components of this recipe can be made ahead and keep in the fridge for a few days, which allows for easy assembling the day you want to serve this. The chicken (which is good on its own, too!) is flavorful and shreds easily, the vegetables are tender yet crunchy, and the sauce is sweet with honey, nutty with sesame oil, and punchy from the addition of a little vinegar. This is a refreshing dish that’s delicious cold, making it perfect for a summery, Shabbat day lunch.
Variations for recipe: substitute soba or udon noodles for the spaghetti. Add a few thinly sliced radishes to the vegetable mixture. Use 1 lb. of drained, dried and fried-until-crispy extra firm tofu in place of the chicken and use maple syrup instead of honey (in the dressing) to make this vegan.
Cold Sesame Noodles with Chicken and Vegetables
For the chicken:
- 3 Tbsp rice vinegar
- 3 Tbsp soy sauce
- 1/4 cup toasted sesame oil
- 2 Tbsp maple syrup
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
For the salad:
- 1/2 small purple cabbage, sliced thin
- 1 large carrot, peeled clean, then cut with a julienne peeler
- 1 large red pepper, seeded and thinly sliced into matchsticks
- 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 lb. spaghetti or Chinese noodles, cooked
- 2 scallions, sliced, for serving
- 2 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds, for serving
For the dressing:
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- 1 tsp freshly grated ginger
- 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
- 2 Tbsp honey
- 3 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
- 5 Tbsp rice vinegar
- 2 Tbsp soy sauce
Start by making the chicken: in a medium bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients and the garlic. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Reserve 1/4 cup of the marinade and set aside.
In a gallon-sized bag, marinate the chicken in the above marinade for 1 hour. Drain the chicken from the marinade.
Preheat grill or grill pan to medium high heat. Add chicken to grill and cook, flipping once and basting (coat the chicken with the reserved 1/4 cup marinade while it’s cooking) until cooked through, about 5-6 minutes on each side.
Set chicken aside until cool enough to handle. Shred into small pieces and set aside.
Prepare the vegetables. Heat the oil in the pan and toss in the carrot, cabbage and pepper. Cook for six minutes, stirring constantly, until the vegetables are soft and tender yet still crunchy. Remove from heat.
Prepare the dressing: combine all the ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a low boil. Lower the heat to medium and simmer for 4-5 minutes, until well combined and slightly thickened.
In a big bowl or large pot, combine the cooked noodles, the shredded chicken, the vegetables and the sauce. Toss with one of the sliced scallions and half of the sesame seeds until well combined.
Serve warm or cold, topped with another sprinkling of sesame seeds and scallions.
Pronounced: CHO-lent, Origin: Yiddish, but believed to be derived from French, a slow-cooked stew traditionally prepared for and left cooking over Shabbat.
Pronounced: shuh-BAHT or shah-BAHT, Origin: Hebrew, the Sabbath, from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday.