Sichuan cold noodles make for a fast, easy meal, especially if you prepare the sauce in advance. The amount of sauce in this recipe is enough for two servings, but I often make a triple batch and store the leftovers in the fridge.
Sichuan cold noodles are usually served with shredded chicken but, with a few easy changes, I’ve made them into a protein-rich vegetarian dish.
If you can't find edamame - fresh soy beans, sold in the pods - substitute about 30g (1oz) shelled fresh or frozen green peas. Boil them for about a minute before using in the recipe.
Chinese and Japanese sesame paste has a rich flavour. You can substitute tahini made from toasted sesame seeds.
Behind the spice and numbness of Sichuan dishes, lies a dark and bloody history of wars and conflicts. Listen more on Eat Drink Asia podcast about this cuisine of diversity and excitement.
Buy Sichuan peppercorns on the Goldthread shop.
Put the Sichuan peppercorns in a mortar and crush them lightly, then transfer them to a small pan. Add the chilli flakes and cooking oil, stir well, then place over a medium-low flame. Heat the ingredients until they start to sizzle, then turn the flame to low and cook for two minutes. Turn off the heat, cover the pan with the lid and cool to room temperature. Pour the ingredients through a fine sieve placed over a bowl to strain out the solids.
Put the sesame paste in a bowl and add the sugar and half the soy sauce. Stir until smooth, then mix in the remaining soy sauce and the rice vinegar. Finely mince the garlic cloves and stir them into the sauce, then add 5ml (1 tsp) of the Sichuan peppercorn-chilli oil. Taste the mixture and adjust the seasonings if necessary. If you like it spicier, add more of the Sichuan peppercorn-chilli oil, or a few drops of commercial chilli oil. Leave the sauce at room temperature for about 30 minutes so the flavours have time to blend. (The remaining Sichuan peppercorn-chilli oil will keep for weeks in the pantry.)
Whisk one of the eggs and mix in a pinch of salt. Heat a wok (or large skillet) over a medium flame and rub it lightly with cooking oil. Pour the egg into the wok and immediately swirl it so the egg is in a thin, crepe about 20cm (8 in) in diameter. Let it cook until set - it will be slightly shiny on the surface - then slide it out onto a plate (no need to cook the other side). Make a second crepe with the remaining egg. Stack the crepes, then roll them up and use a sharp knife to cut them into ribbons about 5mm (¼ in) wide. Unroll the ribbons.
Bring a medium-sized pot of salted water to the boil, add the edamame and simmer for about five minutes. Drain the soybeans and, when cool enough to handle, remove and discard the pods. If using green peas, boil them for about a minute before draining.
Place the sesame seeds in an unoiled skillet and heat over a medium flame. Shake the skillet constantly until the sesame seeds are lightly toasted and fragrant. Pour them into a small dish. Put the peanuts in the same skillet (no need to wash it) placed over a medium flame. Shake the pan almost constantly until the peanuts are lightly toasted and fragrant. Cool them to room temperature, then roughly chop them.
Slice the tofu into bite-size pieces. Cut the cucumber into thin batons about 4cm (1½ in) long. Cut the spring onions into 3mm (⅛ in) pieces.
Bring a pot of water to the boil, add the noodles and cook until done to your liking. Drain them, then add about three-quarters of the sauce. Mix well so the noodles are lightly but evenly coated with the sauce, then divide them between two plates. Place the tofu on the plates and spoon a little of the remaining sauce over the pieces. Divide the egg ribbons, cucumbers and edamame (or green peas) between the portions. Drizzle the remaining sauce on top of the noodles, then scatter with the sesame seeds, peanuts and spring onion. Serve immediately.