There are certain dishes for which people get rather persnickety regarding origins. For example, Italy may claim ownership over all kinds of popular dishes, but consider that tomatoes are a New World food that weren’t introduced to Europe until the sixteenth century. The genius in creating these dishes was Italian but only after getting new and interesting ingredients from somewhere else. Shouldn’t we really be giving thanks to Central America for pizza?
Chinese sesame noodles also get the possessive treatment. My trip down the rabbit hole of information on sesame noodles was rife with articles about which chef makes the real deal and which were churning out Americanized slop. But this dish is a relatively new one to China too. Though sesame gets top billing for this dish, it is generally peanut butter or ground peanuts that give it their distinctive flavor. With a little time sink in Wikipedia, I found that peanuts are native to South America and were brought to Southeast Asia also in the sixteenth century. And sesame seeds are indigenous to Africa so…
I’m not taking credit for sesame noodles away from Chinese cuisine. Someone, somewhere in Asia thought to put these ingredients together and we have been slurping them up with satisfaction ever since. I’m just saying the purists ought to back down and embrace new versions because it was only by welcoming new ingredients into traditional cuisine that we have the breathtaking diversity of dishes available to us today.
With that in mind, I used our Makrut Lime-Leaf Infused Maple Syrup to give a little sweet and floral note to my favorite sesame noodle recipe. (Most recipes include a small amount of some form of sugar). And because I had some asparagus on hand, I threw some blanched stalks in to lighten them up. In sum, the dish has ingredients that originate from all over the world, including a couple teaspoons of our very own North American tree nectar.
Runamok Sesame Noodles*
½ cup peanut butter, smooth or chunky
¼ cup soy sauce
1/3 cup warm water
2 Tbsp chopped, fresh ginger
1 garlic clove, minced
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 – 2 Tbsp Asian sesame oil
2 tsp Makrut Lime-Leaf Infused or Sugarmaker’s Cut Maple Syrup
1 tsp dried hot red pepper flakes
¾ lb spaghetti
¼ lb asparagus, trimmed and cut into 2” pieces
3 scallions, chopped
2 Tbsp sesame seeds
Put the peanut butter, soy sauce, water, ginger, garlic, vinegar, sesame oil, and maple syrup in a blender and pulse until blended.
Boil a pot of water and cook the spaghetti until just al dente. Drain, and run under cold water to stop the cooking then combine with the sesame sauce.
In a smaller pot, blanche the asparagus by cooking in boiling water for two minutes then removing them to a bowl of ice water. Drain and add to pasta.
To serve, put room-temperature noodles and asparagus in a bowl and top with scallions and extra sesame seeds. Serve extra soy sauce on the side to taste.
*Adapted from a recipe for Peanut Sesame Noodles, Gourmet, June 2002