In some nonexistent, made-for-Netflix reboot of The Newlywed Game, if asked to identify what my fiancé feels is my #1 shortcoming, a few answers would immediately come to mind.
My strict cereal policy (which bans anything outside of Crispix, Chex, Cheerios or other select khaki-colored brands because I can’t be trusted around chemically engineered fruit flavors) would be a likely contender – along with my irrepressible knack for vaulting out of bed every other night at the sound of a revving motorcycle engine, convinced that the apocalypse or some national security incident is unfolding outside.
Depending on the day, other flaws (e.g., general stubbornness, worrying about everything in the day-to-day act of living there is to worry about, unleashing misguided tantrums when too many hours have passed between meal times) might earn the top spot.
But I can say with almost complete certainty that my biggest failure as his chosen partner is that I rarely want to go out for Chinese food.
On the right day, at the right time, potentially hours after the right mix of alcohol or consecutive days of eating healthyish dinners (either way, when my salt cravings run high), I’ll take down an order of egg rolls swimming in duck sauce, and gorge myself on piles of cashew chicken and fried rice. It just so happens that in recent years, these particular cravings have become as infrequent and actively avoided as Philadelphia sports teams’ invitations to the postseason.
This is unfortunate for the person I’m about to marry, who could live for months on sweet and sour chicken, pepper steak and fried rice in all of its protein-enriched forms (not to mention other Asian delicacies like sushi, but that’s a whole separate point of contention between us.) It seems that at least twice a week I’m turning down proposals for dinner in Chinatown, dinner at the overpriced Chinese restaurant across the street, and even dinner brought in from the Chinese-Thai fusion place blocks away (that, I’ll concede, has pretty divine potstickers.)
So consider this recipe my mea culpa. Because while the ability to enjoy velvety, umami-spiked takeout noodles at home without the delivery fee is objectively A Good Thing, it might make me even less inclined to go out for something that may or may not measure up.
Chinese Takeout Noodles
Makes 4 servings; Adapted from the New York Times
1 lb Chinese egg noodles (1/8-inch-thick), frozen or fresh*
2 tbsp sesame oil, plus a splash (reserved)
3.5 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp peanut butter (orig. recipe calls for smooth, but I only ever have chunky on hand and it’s just fine)
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp finely grated ginger
2 tsp minced garlic
Half a cucumber, peeled and sliced into sticks for edible garnish/freshness
¼ c chopped peanuts
4-6 scallions, chopped
Crushed red pepper, to taste
*Depending on where you live, true lo mein egg noodles may be hard to come by. Dry udon noodles totally work. Fresh rice noodles can sub-in in you don’t plan on having leftovers (they gum up in a very unappetizing way when reheated.) Asian markets (try Joong Boo if you’re in Chicago) always have the fresh stuff in the refrigerated case – stock up on loads of extra bags to keep in your freezer.
Start by boiling a large pot of water, then add your noodles and cook to package instructions (around 5 minutes; they should still have some chew.) Drain the noodles and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process; drain again and mix in the splash of sesame oil.
In a medium-sized bowl, whisk the rest of your sesame oil, soy sauce, peanut butter, sugar, ginger, garlic and crushed red pepper. Pour this over the cooked noodles, toss and serve with the sliced cucumbers, peanuts and scallions.