Sichuan Watercress and Fried Egg Peanut Noodles by Diana Kuan
One of my favorite dishes to make in the summer is Sichuan peanut noodles. I can recall back to a summer 8 years ago when visiting Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province.
It was an incredibly hot day, yet many locals were sitting outdoors, under the hot sun, eating their lunches. Many were eating Sichuan peanut noodles, with chicken, pork, tofu, or simply eggs on top. To Americans it may not seem intuitive to hunger for a bowl of spicy noodles on a sweltering day, but for the Sichuanese, their idea is that the more spicy food you eat, the more you perspire, and the more you perspire, the more your body cools itself down.
I’ve taken this bit of Chinese medicinal wisdom with me since that trip. I crave spicy food year round, and Sichuan peanut noodles are easy to whip up and a great dish to use watercress in. I’ve decided to forgo the meat for this dish and use fried eggs instead, which are a very standard topping for noodles at lunch, especially for students and office workers on the go who need a quick meal before heading back to their desks. Every Chinese meal should have protein, starch, and vegetable, and these noodles conveniently fit that idea onto one plate. The watercress gets flavored with shallots, garlic, and ginger, and the noodles are toss in a delicious sauce that seems complex, but is simple to whisk together.
And if you prefer, you can, of course, enjoy these in the comfort of AC instead of out in the sun.
- 12 ounces thick dried egg noodles (or substitute spaghetti)
- 2 tablespoons sesame oil
- 2 tablespoons peanut oil
- 4 eggs
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 3 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
- 3 tablespoons Chinese sesame paste or tahini
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
- 1 1/2 tablespoon chili oil
- 1 tablespoon vegetable or peanut oil
- 1 shallot, finely chopped
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- 2 teaspoons grated ginger
- 12 ounces watercress
- Bring a pot of water to boil and cook egg noodles or spaghetti until al dente, or the minimum amount of time according to package instructions. Drain immediately, rinse with cold water, and drain again. Toss with the sesame oil and set aside.
- Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Crack the eggs into a small bowl, then once the oil is hot enough, carefully pour the eggs into the hot oil. After 1 minute, lower the heat to medium so the bottoms get crisp without over-browning while the egg yolks are still setting. Cook for another 2 to 3 minutes to your desired level of doneness. (If the egg whites around the yolk are taking a while to set, use a fork to poke holes around the outside of the yolks. This way, the uncooked egg whites on top can seep through, make contact with the pan, and get cooked.) When the eggs are done, transfer to a plate, sprinkle the salt and crushed red pepper flakes evenly over them, and set aside.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the peanut butter, sesame paste or tahini, soy sauce, rice wine, and 2 tablespoons of water until smooth. Stir in the chili oil. Set the peanut sauce aside.
- In another large skillet, heat the vegetable oil over medium-low heat. Add the shallots, garlic, and ginger and sauté gently for 1 minute, until aromatic. Add the sauce and allow it to simmer for a few seconds. Add the watercress and toss with tongs until the watercress is wilted, about 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and toss the peanut sauce and watercress with the noodles. Divide onto 4 separate plates, top each plate with an egg, and serve.
For more great recipes from Diana check out her blog, Appetite for China