Spicy Cold Noodles

Last summer when I was just visiting China and no idea I would ever actually live here, I took pictures and made notes of my favorite foods. Some dishes I just had to learn how to make on my own. That’s exactly how I felt about this noodle dish. It’s like a Chinese pasta salad. Cold, refreshing, and spicy all at the same time. It is easily one of my favorite dishes here and Jesse can’t get enough of it either.

Lucky for me I have some pretty great local Chinese friends. Almost exactly a year ago I posted about our friend Mandy teaching us to make dumplings, now she has taught me how to make these cold noodles. My 24×24 party was the first time I made them on my own.  I  have to admit, I was a little nervous making it on my own for a group of Chinese food experts, but this dish was the hit of the party and disappeared in the blink of an eye.

Spicy Cold Noodles 

~12 oz Chinese Noodles*
2 tbsp canola oil
1/3 cup cucumbers, cut into thin matchsticks
1/4 cup green onion, cut into 1/2 inch pieces, plus more for garnish
2 cloves garlic, very finely diced
2 Tbsp very finely chopped peanuts
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup dark rice vinegar (white rice vinegar also works)
2-3 tsp chili oil **
1 tsp sesame oil
2 tsp white sugar

*Noodles can be found in the Asian aisle of your grocery store, may also be labeled Rice Noodles. Thin, spaghetti like, noodles are best, but thicker noodles, like in the photo, also work. My noodles came in a roll and I used 1/2 of the roll, which I guess to be about 12 oz.
**If you can find Lao Gan Ma brand in the Asian aisle or at an Asian grocery store, use that! Or look for a chili oil that has chilies in the oil. 

Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil. Add the noodles and cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally*.  While the noodles are cooking, prepare a cold water bath. When the noodles are cooked to al dente, drain and immediately place in the cold water bath. Let sit for 2 minutes then drain again and place in a large bowl. Toss with 1 tablespoon of oil to prevent from sticking. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and peanuts and cook for just 30 seconds to 1 minutes, or until the garlic is fragrant (you’re not trying to cook the garlic, you’re just trying to take a little of the edge off). Immediately remove from heat and add, along with the cucumber and green onion, to the noodles. Set aside.

In a small liquid measuring cup, combine the soy sauce, vinegar, chili oil, sesame oil, and sugar. If you like a lot of spice, add more chili sauce or a pinch of dry red pepper flakes. Pour over the noodles and toss to combine and evenly coat noodles. Can be served immediately or chilled in the fridge for 30 minutes.

 *These noodles cook much faster than Italian style noodles. Keep an eye on them so they don’t turn to mush!

As taught to me by my friend, Mandy

Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting

This cake is a match made in heaven for me. It’s a rich, almost fudge like, cake topped with a light and creamy peanut butter frosting. I knew from the moment the photo loaded onto my screen that it would become one of my new favorite desserts. And I am pretty sure it has. Bonus, the size (an 8×8 pan) was perfect for us. We had an amazing dessert for a few days and no cake was wasted.

If your still looking for a dessert to bring to Memorial Day parties this weekend, make this! If you ask me, the true patriotic dessert has chocolate and peanut butter, not apples and spice. 🙂

Chocolate Cake with Smooth Peanut Butter Frosting

For the Cake
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup natural cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup vegetable or canola oil
1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup water

For the Peanut Butter Frosting
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup egg whites (from about 2 large eggs)
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) chilled butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes

1/4 cup chopped semisweet or bittersweet chocolate (about 1 3/4 ounces), for garnish
1/4 cup chopped unsalted, dry-roasted peanuts, for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Spray an 8×8 pan with non stick cooking spray. Add the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt to the 8×8 pan, whisk together. Make 3 wells in the dry ingredients, 1 large and 2 small. To the large well, add the vegetable oil. To the 2 smaller wells, add the vinegar and vanilla, separately. Pour the water into the pan and use a rubber spatula to stir together until there are no more streaks of flour. Spread the batter evenly in the pan.

Bake for 23-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out mostly clean, just a few moist crumbs. Set the pan on a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the frosting, set a glass bowl over a pot of simmering water, making sure the bowl does not actually touch the water. In the glass bowl, whisk together the sugar and egg whites. Continue whisking until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is warm and smooth to the touch. Remove the bowl from the sauce pan and either transfer to a standing mixer (with whisk attachment) or use a hand held mixer to beat on high speed about 5 minutes, or until the mixture is cool and thick. Beat in the vanilla, then the peanut butter. Beating on high until fully incorporated. With the mixer still on high add the butter, a few cubes at time, waiting until each addition is incorporated before adding the next. You should have a soft, smooth, creamy frosting. If it starts to look curdled as you add the butter, don’t worry (!!), just keep beating, it will come back together. Season with a small pinch of salt if needed.

Run a knife around the edges of the cake pan, then flip the cake out onto a serving plate. Spread the frosting over the cake. Garnish with chocolate shavings and peanuts, if desired.

Adapted from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe, originally from Bon Appetit