Tag: lunch

Liang Mian (Taiwanese Cold Noodles)

When I was growing up in the great state of California, our house never had air conditioning. Despite the shade that the humongous avocado tree in the backyard provided for the house, summer would be very, very hot.

I remember many hot nights of sleeping next to my sister on the large area rug under the dining table, in the one room that had a window air conditioning unit. It was also common to see my dad walking around the house without a shirt! (Is there a more economical way to cool oneself, anyway?)

As a remedy for these hot summer days, my mom would make liang2mian4, also known as 涼麵 or cold noodles, for dinner. Whereas we would rinse the noodles with cold water to speed up the cooling process, my mom’s job as a kid, assigned by her grandmother, would be to cool the noodles by fanning them!

If my mom’s job as a kid on 涼麵 days was to fan the noodles, my job was to make the sesame paste sauce.  My mom would hand me the jar of zhi1ma2jiang4 (not to be confused with the game, mahjong) so I could scoop some into a bowl, asking “more?” until she said that it was enough. I learned how to adjust the ratio of sesame paste to water, adding more of one or the other until I got a nice consistency of ‘paste’: not too thin, not too thick.

I knew I wanted to make cold noodles because of the warm weather, and I knew that I had leftovers of romaine lettuce, red cabbage, and carrots from previous cooking days. The first thought that came to mind was the question of authenticity. I’m sure they don’t use cabbage and romaine in Taiwan. I remember romaine in cold noodles from Silk Road Express, a Chinese cafe on JHU’s campus! But other than that, I had never eaten it in cold noodles; after all, I’m quite sure romaine lettuce is not a frequently eaten vegetable in Taiwan.

I’ve been thinking about “authenticity” lately. I remember that we would more often than not, eat spaghetti noodles in our liang2mian4. Why? It
happened to be the noodles that we had in the house. Then I thought, if my mom used spaghetti, I should be able to use nontraditional vegetables if that’s all I got. Apparently, my mom was open to using substitutes in order to feed her ravenous husband and children without another trip to a store. Sounds logical, right? These is a place and time for substitutions, I have come to realize more and more.

Although my favorite cold noodles are still my mom’s version, I enjoyed today’s as well (so did Tim!). I’ll provide both versions. In my family, liang2mian4 was DIY, and I would encourage you to do the same.
Ingredients Spotlight:

Yep! Just sesame seeds.

I can tell you that sesame paste and tahini are very different, both in color and taste. My research tells me that Chinese-style sesame paste is made from unhulled sesame seeds, whereas tahini is made from hulled sesame seeds. The difference in color seems consistent with that claim. The sesame paste shown above is made from white sesame seeds and should not be confused with sesame paste made from black sesame seeds (used in Chinese desserts).

Chinese Cold Noodles liang mian

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French Lentil Salad

I got some nice fennel in my CSA this week, and I have some brown lentils in the pantry that want to be cooked.

Perfect timing, David Lebovitz. I almost didn’t make this because I didn’t have the time to get French green lentils, but I figured I could just use the brown lentils and be vigilant about not overcooking them (I still did a tiiny bit because I was also making a braised pork..).

I followed almost all of David’s directions, and it turned out deliciously! Good olive oil really makes a big difference, like he said. I used olive oil from Rancho Olivos, the olive orchard Tim and I got to visit on our honeymoon!

David says that fennel is optional, but I think it is a must because of how it adds a semi licorice-y, special dimension to an otherwise maybe “ordinary” dish.

French Lentil Salad

French Lentil Salad

adapted slightly from David Lebovitz’s recipe

For the lentils: 
1 1/4 cup (250 gr) French green lentilles du Puy or brown lentils
1 bay leaf
a few sprigs of fresh , dried, or frozen thyme
olive oil
1 carrot, peeled and finely diced
1 medium onion, peeled and finely diced
1 fennel bulb, finely diced
freshly ground pepper

For the vinaigrette:
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
a few swigs of good extra-virgin olive oil
1/8 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 small shallot, peeled and minced, or half a garlic clove, minced

On the side:
Belgian endive, romaine lettuce, or Bibb lettuce leaves (see below)

1. Rinse the lentils and remove any debris or rocks.

2. Put the lentils in a 1.5 quart pot and cover with a few inches of water. Add the bay leaf and thyme.

3. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, add a pinch or two of salt, and simmer
for 15-20 minutes for brown lentils, or 20-25 minutes for green lentils, until the lentils are just tender. After 10 minutes, taste one to see how ‘done’ it tastes, to know how much longer to cook it. Add more water
if necessary. Cook until they are just bite-able; don’t overcook!

4. While the lentils are cooking, heat a little bit of olive oil
in a skillet and add the carrots, onions, and fennel. Salt and pepper to taste. Cook until tender,and set aside.

5. In a large bowl, mix together the ingredients for the vinaigrette.

6. When the lentils are done, remove bay leaf and thyme. Drain them in a colander, then toss them in the
vinaigrette. Add the cooked vegetables. Taste, and season with more salt, pepper, and olive oil if

This can be eaten warm, room temperature, or cold!

-This would also be a good appetizer or finger food. Use Belgian endive, Bibb lettuce, or small romaine lettuce leaves as ‘bowls’. Spoon a bit of the salad onto the leaf.

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