Anyone who’s known me long enough to engage in a discussion of favorite foods (on average 10 minutes) has heard me wax evangelical about my favorite dessert: sesame rice balls in warm rice wine soup. They’re a sleek rice skin expertly stretched around a ball of sweet black sesame paste, bobbing with grains of sweet rice in a sweated rice wine broth. To someone who hasn’t grown up with these, a description of the flavors and textures might not make sense. I’ve found it easier to just introduce friends to this dessert in person. The little dumplings are sweet, nutty, liquid, chewy, and earthy; the broth is sweet, sour, floral, fruity. Even people who think they don’t like sesame are pleased to meet them.
There’s a long story about my love for these dumplings: our first meeting, a tragic restaurant closing, loss, despair, rediscovery, redemption, renewal. But really, all that matters is that I know where to get them again after a few frantic months of searching. Now all I want is to introduce as many people as I can to the sesame rice ball experience, if only to have company while I eat mine.
Sesame rice ball in soup (wine flavor)
100 Mott Street (bt Canal and Hester, New York NY 10013, (212)966-3988
Oh man, are these noodles ever a life-saver. Sometimes I get busy and don’t realize what time it is, and then I look at the clock and it’s been 10 hours since breakfast and I have to leave to meet friends in 20 minutes. By then I’m really hungry and need to eat immediately, but I don’t want to have complete junk food from a 24-hour Dunkin Donuts. Times like these, I put some water on to boil for my super-fast Cold Sesame Noodles. They’re modeled after a favorite picture-menu Chinese restaurant dish and are quite adaptable. They can feature any shredded vegetable I have on hand, or just be a veg-less starchfest. I made a batch last night, and they’re so quick that I was able to have dinner, put on shoes, and make it to the movies on time.
This is my Presto Pasta Night dinner-of-the-week, hosted by Ruth at Once Upon a Feast.
Cold Sesame Noodles (serves 1 as a main dish or 2 as a side. Easily multiplied for a crowd.)
- 1 bundle soba noodles
- 4 Tbs peanut butter
- 3 Tbs rice wine vinegar
- 1 Tbs sesame oil
- 1 Tbs soy sauce
- 1 tsp Sriracha pepper sauce (optional)
- 2 tsp fresh ginger, minced or grated on a microplane
- 1 tsp fresh garlic, minced or grated on a microplane
- 1 c leafy greens, shredded (I used broccoli rabe, but nappa cabbage and bok choi are also great)
- 1/4 c carrot, julienned or grated
- 1/4 c bean sprouts
- 2 scallions, chopped (can use chives or ramps, too!)
- 1 Tbs cilantro
- 1/4 c cucumber, julienned
- 2 Tbs chopped peanuts
- 1 Tbs sesame seed
Put a quart of salted water on to boil. It goes faster if the pot is covered.
While the water is heating, make the sauce. Put all the ingredients in a bowl and stir slowly until combined. Get the vegetables ready, and the water should be ready by this time, too.
When the water comes to a boil, put in the soba and boil about 3 minutes. If you’re using leafy greens, throw them into the noodle water at this point. The leaves get just enough heat to turn their brightest green. Drain noodles and greens and place in your favorite noodle bowl. Top with sauce and other vegetables and toss to combine.