There are two components of this dish that are essential. The first is Chinese sesame paste, made with roasted and ground sesame seeds. Don’t be tempted to use tahini, which is made with untoasted seeds, because the flavor will fall flat. Chinese sesame paste can be found online or in most large Asian grocery stores under the Wang Zhihe brand. The second is the noodles. Basically ramen noodles, they’re made with wheat flour and egg, but then they’re alkalized so they’re chewier than, say, pasta noodles, which also are made with flour and egg. Use ramen noodles because they’re the easiest to find. If you’re adventurous, search online for “Chinese egg noodles” under the Rose brand. You can also use udon, soba or any other dried noodle you prefer here; just make sure the dried noodle weight is the same for the proportion of sauce to noodles to work out perfectly.
From the story: The best cold noodles are spicy without the sting
In a medium bowl, combine the chile crisp, sesame paste, vinegar, sesame seeds, soy sauce, garlic and ginger, and whisk until smooth. Refrigerate the sauce until ready to use.
In a large bowl, prepare an ice bath. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the noodles, and cook, stirring, until al dente, about four minutes. Immediately drain the noodles in a colander, then plunge them into the ice bath to stop them from cooking further. Stir them briefly until cool to the touch, then immediately drain again in the colander and shake off any excess water. While the noodles drain, dry and reserve the large bowl.
Return the drained noodles to the reserved bowl and add the sesame oil. Toss the noodles until they’re evenly coated in the oil, then refrigerate until well chilled, at least 20 minutes or up to two hours.
To serve, drizzle the sauce over the noodles and toss to coat well. Transfer the noodles to a large serving platter or bowl, then arrange the cabbage, cucumbers, scallions and onion in separate piles around the edge of the platter. Pile the crab in the center, sprinkle with the cilantro and more sesame seeds, and serve while everything is still cold from the fridge.
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