“Szechuan Sesame Noodles with Asparagus” (page 238), is a perfect dish to welcome in Spring, when the first tender asparagus shoots begin showing up in the markets. A very simple dish that consists of noodles of your choice (I used Eden Foods Brown Rice Udon), cooked asparagus, sautéed onions and ginger, and a flavorful sauce made from sesame paste (tahini), chili paste, soy sauce, Chinese black vinegar, and sugar. This dish goes together rather quickly, and is indeed listed under the “F” for Fast category of recipes in this book, meaning the dish can be prepared in 30 minutes or less. If you are quite sure of the exact amount of time it takes to cook your noodles, feel free to follow the recipe instructions to add the asparagus to the last few minutes of pasta cooking time to lightly cook. I don’t have the confidence to estimate pasta cooking times accurately, and I’m most certain I would add the asparagus way too early and end up with it being very overcooked. For that reason, I just lightly steamed the asparagus separately, which theoretically could increase the preparation time.
According to the recipe notes, Chinese sesame paste uses toasted sesame seeds, while tahini uses untoasted sesame seeds, so the Chinese sesame paste is recommended for a more intense flavor. I’ve never seen Chinese sesame paste, but I checked my jar of tahini and the ingredients were “Toasted Sesame Seeds”. There are many varieties of tahini available, so check the label to make sure you get what you are looking for.
I was not able to find any Chinese black vinegar, but found out that balsamic or brown rice vinegar are considered adequate substitutions. Since the recipe only called for one tablespoon of vinegar, I was comfortable substituting with high quality balsamic.
The noodles, asparagus, sauce, and sautéed veggies are tossed together, sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds, and served warm. I enjoyed this dish very much, and can imagine myself making it quite often when I need to put together a quick and delicious meal – especially when fresh asparagus is abundant!
There are two places oil is used in this recipe. First, the cooked noodles and asparagus are supposed to be tossed in one tablespoon of sesame oil. Instead of that, I just rinsed the cooked noodles thoroughly to remove the starch, and set them aside until ready to use. Next, you are asked to use two tablespoons of canola oil to sauté the onion and ginger. I just used a little water instead. By not using these three tablespoons of oil, I omitted 42 grams of fat and 371 calories from the dish.
Fun fact - some of the recipes in this book use an ingredient in three different forms. For instance, this recipe uses sesame three ways – tahini, sesame oil, and sesame seeds. While I opted out of using the sesame oil, it still delighted me to see this trend in yet another recipe, a fun theme I enjoy looking for.
Keeping it “McDougall Friendly” checklist:
- Do not add sesame oil to the cooked noodles and asparagus. Instead, just rinse the noodles thoroughly to remove the starch so they won’t stick together.
- Omit the canola oil when sautéing the veggies. Instead, use a nonstick pan and a little broth or sherry.