Peanut Butter Noodles for Kids of All Ages

By Charleen - April 29, 2021

 Long before I discovered the secrets to making dan dan noodles, lo mein or drunken noodles, I had clipped a recipe for Spicy Szechuan Noodles from a local neighborhood newspaper. This simple, but flexible and pleasing dish has been a family favorite since 2002. The kids call it Peanut Butter Noodles and it is fantastic served simply or with optional toppings. As it tastes equally good hot or at room temperature, a big bowl of these noodles disappears rapidly on the potluck or buffet table.

As my children were growing up, there have been a few one-pot dishes that stand out as favorites -- both for flavor and ease of preparation. The first are these scrumptious noodles coated with a light, peanut butter-sesame oil sauce, using ingredients readily found in our grocery store. The recipe for Spicy Szechuan Noodles by Chef Kelly was clipped from the North Journal Star in 2002, and modified for ease of preparation and to accommodate both a child that loves and a child that feared spicy foods. 

Over the years, this dish has been a favorite with classmates and neighbors alike.  Due to its make ahead nature, it frequently graced potluck tables at school picnics and neighborhood gatherings.  Whether made as a double or triple batch, it always disappeared rapidly.

We have enjoyed this dish using a variety of noodles. It it fantastic with semolina or whole wheat spaghetti as well as dried Chinese noodles by Quon Yick Noodle in California, or fresh lo mein noodles. I have even made it using 1 and a half spaghetti squashes (roasted for 35-40 min in a 350°F convection oven). 

While the original recipe included shredded chicken and toasted cashews, I have also served it with thin strips of ham and julienned cucumber or carrots. As time went on, we found ourselves eating the saucy noodles simply with some scallions on top.  

We use bottled Szechuan sauce by Kame or Dynasty, which are carried in the Asian section of our local grocery store. However, I have included the original recipe at the bottom of this post should you wish to make your own chili sauce.

When my son became a teenager, he started making the dish when he got home from school. He noted that since he liked things extra saucy, he was deliberately sloppy with the measurements to add a bit more of everything. It was glorious to come home from a long day of work to find dinner waiting for me and my husband. Even my daughter, who has now grown to enjoy moderately spicy foods, told me that she liked my son's version better. 

So he became the Peanut Butter noodle chef. I recently realized that we have not enjoyed these noodles much since he graduated high school. Instead, we occasionally enjoyed coming home to Tortellini with Smoked Salmon in a butter-cream-dill sauce, my daughter's favorite dish. 

This week, I asked my husband to make the base noodle recipe, while I prepared toppings of shredded carrot, spicy stinky tofu and some miso-maple-glazed Chinese eggplant on the side for a vegan meal. 

Love2Chow Peanut Butter Noodles (Spicy Szechuan Noodles)   Serves 4.
    8-10 oz dry spaghetti or Quon Yick noodles

    3 Tbs smooth peanut butter (Optional. See Note)
    1 Tbs soy sauce
    2 Tbs vinegar
    1 Tbs sesame oil
    2 Tbs olive oil
    1 Tbs sherry or rice wine
    1 Tbs water
    *1 Tbs Szechuan Sauce (or make your own)
    1 tsp sugar
    *2 cloves garlic, minced
    *2 scallions, chopped
    2 Tbs chopped cilantro (optional)

Optional toppings
    6 oz (w) cooked chicken or ham, shredded or sliced
    Cucumber, peeled and sliced into thin sticks
    Shredded carrot
    Wilted spinach
    Thin slices of dry tofu or spicy tofu
    Toasted sesame seeds, white or black
    Black pepper or toasted Szechuan peppercorns to taste

1. Boil water and cook noodles per package directions
2. In a large bowl, mix the sauce ingredients from peanut butter to sugar until smooth. Stir in remaining sauce ingredients.  
(If you are cooking for someone that is sensitive to spicy or strong flavors, hold off on adding the ingredients with asterisks.)
3. Drain hot noodles and immediately stir into the sauce. 
(Remove the serving for the person that dislikes spicy foods, and then stir in the asterisked ingredients).
4. You can either serve the toppings on the side, or mix them right in.

Note: If you dislike peanut butter, the rest of the sauce ingredients are also delicious without it.  The more traditional Chinese dish that this is based on uses Chinese sesame paste. You can use any combination of peanut butter, sesame paste or tahini, as long as the total is around 3-4 Tbs. Adjust thickness of sauce with water if necessary. 

🐾 Note: If you dislike peanut butter, the rest of the sauce ingredients are also delicious without it. The traditional Chinese dish that this is based on uses Chinese sesame paste instead of peanut butter. You can use any combination of peanut butter, sesame paste or tahini, although we find including some peanut butter improves the texture. Adjust sauce thickness with water, if necessary.

🐾 For potlucks, add the scallions and cilantro just before serving.


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