I procured some Sichuan peppercorns following our Chengdu travels two Septembers ago, but left them untouched in the cupboard until stumbling upon this recipe for Sesame Noodles with Chili Oil and Scallions in the June 2013 issue of Bon Appétit.
What made these noodles something to talk about was the chili oil made from scratch with fresh scallions, crushed red pepper flakes, and tongue-quivering peppercorns. Mixed with tahini, rice vinegar, and soy sauce, the chili oil packed enough heat to make us sweat and imparted the kind of nuanced flavor that kept our chopsticks coming back for more.
I prepared these noodles to accompany a Chinese Wood Ear Mushroom Salad, because man cannot survive on fungus alone. Sharing similar flavor profiles, the two dishes complemented each other and made for a perfectly satisfying vegetarian lunch. Note to self: add broccoli, eggplant, and tofu to the noodles next time around for a well-balanced, one-dish meal.
For the chili oil
- 4 scallions, whites and greens separated, thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 2 teaspoons Sichuan pepper, coarsely ground
For the noodles
- 24 ounces Chinese wheat noodles (or spaghetti)
- Kosher salt
- 1/2 cup tahini (sesame seed paste)
- 1/2 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
- 6 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
- 4 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
- 2 teaspoons sugar
Cook scallion whites, vegetable oil, red pepper flakes, sesame seeds, and pepper in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring occasionally, until oil is sizzling and scallions are golden brown, 12–15 minutes.
Let chili oil cool in the saucepan or in a bowl.