There are few meals more suited to a hot summer day than a bowl of Chinese cold noodles. This suān là (酸辣), or sour spicy cold noodles recipe is at once refreshing and deeply satisfying.
It’s also easy to throw together, and you can make it with dried spaghetti!
Spaghetti for Chinese Cold Noodles?
Yes, spaghetti. We recently ate out at a Taiwanese restaurant in yet another New Jersey strip mall (where dwell the gems of the Garden State’s culinary scene).
It was a sweltering day in the mid-90s (around 35°C), and since we aren’t yet eating indoors, we had lunch outside in the heat.
Looking for relief as I scanned the menu, the second I spotted the 酸辣冷面 (suān là lěng miàn), I ordered it.
The restaurant actually made their version with spaghetti, which didn’t offend me, as cold spaghetti noodles with soy sauce and sesame oil was basically the first thing I ever learned to cook as a kid (learned from my mom).
Spaghetti noodles have a smoother texture than Chinese wheat noodles, which makes them more slurpable and light.
The moral of the story: you can absolutely use Chinese wheat noodles here, but if all you have is spaghetti, use it. You don’t have to feel like you’re missing out on anything either!
Note that if you like your noodles al dente, you will want to cook them to the upper end of the range given on the box, or even 1 minute past al dente.
If your noodles are too al dente or even undercooked, they will soak up the liquid in the sauce and the noodles will be dry.
A Sour Spicy Combination
The sauce in these noodles is different from say, our sesame noodles. It’s lighter and not as saucy. Soy sauce adds saltiness, and rice vinegar adds tang. The chili oil and sesame oil both add nuttiness and richness (as well as spice, on the chili oil’s part).
This makes the dish much less heavy than sesame noodles. The addition of scallion and cucumber also adds freshness and crunch.
We will say that a little bit of MSG really lifts up the sauce, but it’s here as an optional ingredient. Another optional alternative, if you can find it online, is mushroom powder, which adds savoriness to the dish.
Ok, on to the recipe!
Sour Spicy Cold Noodles: Recipe Instructions
Cook the noodles according to package instructions until al dente or 1 minute past al dente stage.
Meanwhile, in a serving bowl, add the light soy sauce, Shanghai rice vinegar, chili oil, sugar, Sichuan peppercorn powder, sesame oil, dark soy sauce, salt, MSG (if using), and garlic.
Add the noodles, noodle cooking water, scallion, and cucumber.
Toss everything together and serve. If the noodles look dry, add a bit more of the cooking water.
Sour Spicy Cold Noodles (酸辣冷面)
- 12 ounces dried spaghetti (or wheat noodles)
- 3 1/2 tablespoons light soy sauce
- 3 1/2 tablespoons Shanghai rice vinegar (or seasoned/regular rice vinegar)
- 1 tablespoon chili oil (75% oil, 25% flakes, or to taste)
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1/2 to 1 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorn powder
- 3/4 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1/2 teaspoon dark soy sauce
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon MSG (or mushroom powder, optional)
- 1 clove garlic (very finely minced)
- 1/3 to 1/2 cup noodle cooking water
- 1 scallion (chopped)
- 1 small cucumber (julienned, optional; about 6 ounces/170g)
- Cook the noodles according to package instructions until al dente or 1 minute past al dente stage.
- Meanwhile, in a serving bowl, add the light soy sauce, Shanghai rice vinegar, chili oil, sugar, Sichuan peppercorn powder, sesame oil, dark soy sauce, salt, MSG (if using), and garlic.
- Add the noodles, noodle cooking water, scallion, and cucumber. Toss everything together and serve. If the noodles look dry, add a bit more of the cooking water.