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How to Make Cold Sesame Noodles 麻醬拌麵

This refreshing Chinese dish can be on your dinner table in under 30 minutes.

Published Mar. 1, 2023.

Of all the emotions I feel about cold sesame noodles, the one most prevalent is guilt.

The problem is the countless styrofoam containers I've contributed to Earth's landfills by ordering cold sesame noodles twice a week for many years. It must be mid-hundreds.

If only cold sesame noodles weren't so satisfying. Refreshing, cool, and savory, these iconic Chinese noodles come together faster than 90 percent of what you could typically whip up for dinner.


A Very Chinese Cookbook

From American Chinese classics (General Tso’s Chicken) to Hong Kong dim sum favorites (Shu Mai), A Very Chinese Cookbook is ideal for both the Chinese food-curious and experienced cooks seeking a weekend soup dumpling project.

All that's needed is a handful of ingredients for the sauce and a blender. Some cucumbers and scallions. Plus, noodles and a pot to boil them in. From there, it's entirely customizable—add chicken slices, eggs, bell peppers, deli ham, whatever you desire.

This recipe, developed by test cook David Yu, is featured in our forthcoming A Very Chinese Cookbook, out October 24. It's also our kickoff recipe for season three of Hunger Pangs, which you can watch below and on YouTube.

Sesame Noodles 麻醬拌麵

Serves: 4 to 6. Total Time: 30 minutes

  • 5 tablespoons soy sauce
  • ¼ cup Chinese sesame paste
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 4 teaspoons Chinese black vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon chili oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
  • 1 pound fresh thin white wheat noodles
  • ½ English cucumber, cut into ­3‑inch-long matchsticks
  • ¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves
  • 2 scallions, green parts only, sliced thin
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted

Note: If fresh thin white wheat noodles are unavailable, substitute fresh lo mein or 12 ounces dried wheat noodles. In a desperate pinch, spaghetti will work. Also, this dish is wholly satisfying as written, but you can add any topping. Poached chicken is a natural pairing. In Hong Kong you’ll find deli ham, red bell ­peppers, and sliced egg omelet on cold noodles.

1. Process soy sauce, sesame paste, sugar, vinegar, 1 tablespoon water, chili oil, garlic, and ­ginger in blender until smooth, about 30 seconds, scraping down sides of blender jar as needed; transfer to large bowl. 

2. Meanwhile, bring 4 quarts water to boil in large pot. Add noodles and cook, stirring often, until just tender. Drain noodles and rinse under cold running water until chilled; drain well. 

3. Transfer noodles to bowl with dressing and toss to combine. Adjust consistency with extra water as needed until sauce smoothly coats noodles. Transfer noodles to shallow serving bowl and top with cucumber, cilantro, scallions, and sesame seeds. Serve. 

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