Summer is the season to enjoy cold dishes, and cold noodles are among the easiest dishes to prepare in the hot weather.
Cold noodle dishes in China are served as mains rather than as starter salads like the pasta salad in the Western cuisine. Making cold noodles takes only five to 10 minutes if the sauce is already made.
There are several classic variations of cold noodle dishes across China that use different kinds of noodles, sauces and toppings. The trick to a successful bowl of cold noodles of any kind is to keep the noodles crisp and avoid starchiness and stickiness.
For those who love hot chilies and Sichuan peppercorns, the Sichuan style cold noodle is the go-to summer dish. Traditional Sichuan cold noodles calls for noodles made with baking soda, which helps to prevent the noodles from breaking apart and makes them chewier as well.
The noodles are boiled in hot water until they are roughly 80 percent done. Then they are spread out so they can cool down.
Minced garlic paste is the must-have ingredient for the sauce, which consists of minced ginger paste, chopped green onions, peppercorn powder, vinegar and soy sauce mixed together in the homemade hot chili oil, which is cooked with small red chili peppers called chao tian jiao in rapeseed oil and sesame oil seasoned by peppercorns, star anise, green onion, garlic and ginger.
The correct layering of Sichuan cold noodles is to place the chilled noodles at the bottom of the bowl, add the mung bean sprouts in the middle and chicken on top, and pour in the hot sauce when serving the dish. One can also add shredded cucumber and radish.
Be generous with the vinegar and sugar, the sweet and sour taste is the highlight of Sichuan cold noodles. Local people use traditional Baoning vinegar, which is flavored black vinegar brewed with rice and a number of different herbs and spices.
Sesame paste cold noodles is the traditional Beijing style dish that uses a much simpler combination of ingredients.
The most important part is the sesame paste, which must be freshly grounded using pure sesame seeds. Good quality sesame paste often has a layer of sesame oil floating on top.
Garlic is an indispensable part of the dish. The sesame paste cold noodles uses both minced garlic paste and thinly chopped garlics.