Sesame noodles, or ma jiang mian (麻酱面) are a Shanghainese classic.
Replicating the Best Sesame Noodles I’ve Ever Had
Remember my Culinary Tour of Shanghai post? I said in that post that if you ever visit Shanghai, you must go and have the sesame noodles (and a few other favorites) at Wei Xiang Zhai, 味香斋, located at #14 YanDang Lu, near HuaiHai Zhong Road (燕荡路14号，近淮海中路).
It was one of the best bowls of sesame noodles I’ve EVER had. And that’s saying something. So, of course, I wanted to know how they did it.
What Sets These Noodles Apart
When I was researching this recipe, I had the good fortune of finding a video interview with Wei Xiang Zhai’s head chef, who was sharing some of the secrets of their well-known sesame noodle recipe! And there are some pretty remarkable details that set these noodles apart:
- The oil they use to mix the sesame sauce is the oil they fry their pork chops in (need I say more?).
- They use a combination of peanut butter and sesame paste, while most recipes only call for sesame paste.
- Instead of using water to thin the sesame sauce, they use the leftover sauce used for braising pork and beef in their other dishes.
- To top it off, the chili oil they use is from their spicy meat sauce, which goes into their spicy meat sauce noodles, la rou mian, 辣肉面.
So even though this is really just a simple, meatless bowl of noodles, many of its key ingredients have a wonderful, meaty umami flavor, so it’s no wonder this amazing bowl of noodles keeps reappearing in my dreams. I’ve contemplated how best to condense all these ingredients into a simple recipe, but it just requires way too much work.
So instead, I’ve put together a good basic recipe for sesame noodles, and if you ever make our braised beef (or have leftover sauce in the freezer), or are frying pork chops or ribs, you also know the secret ingredients you’ll need to make this humble bowl of sesame noodles truly ace! Just remember to adjust the levels of salt accordingly.
I call this basic recipe a 10-minute sesame noodle, because it really only takes as much time as it takes to boil the noodles! While you’re boiling the water to cook the noodles, you can quickly whip up the sesame sauce. And once the noodles are cooked, just add the sauce and a couple of condiments, and you’re ready to chow down.
Sesame Noodles: Recipe Instructions
Cook the fresh wheat noodles according to the package instructions.
While the noodles are cooking, make the sauce by mixing together the sesame paste, peanut butter, light soy sauce, rice vinegar (optional), vegetable oil, sugar, and water (or braised meat sauce). Stir in one direction until it turns into a smooth, even paste.
Serve your sesame noodles immediately!
You must eat these sesame noodles while they are hot because they taste fragrant and have a smooth and silky texture. Once they get cold, the sauce thickens and the noodles get a sticky consistency and the culinary experience is just not the same!
10-Minute Sesame Noodles Recipe (Ma Jiang Mian)
- 4 oz. fresh wheat noodles (or 1 serving of dried noodles)
- ½ tablespoon sesame paste
- 1 tablespoon peanut butter
- 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
- 1-2 teaspoons rice vinegar (optional to taste)
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- ½ teaspoon sugar
- 5 tablespoons hot water (or braised meat sauce)
- 1 scallion (chopped)
- Chili oil (optional)
- Cook the noodles according to the package instructions.
- While the noodles are cooking, make the sauce by mixing together the sesame paste, peanut butter, light soy sauce, rice vinegar (optional), vegetable oil, sugar, and water. Stir in one direction until it turns into a smooth, even paste.
- Once the noodles are cooked, drain them and toss with the prepared sauce, chopped scallions, and chili oil (if desired). It's best to mix the noodles while they are still hot!