July is picnic time, and the divas are expected to show up with something delicious. Although we avoid the stovetop in summertime, this feisty dish come together in less than 30 minutes, with big flavors from Sichuan peppers, sesame oil and fresh Florida shrimp. Or skip the shrimp and serve it as a side with any meat or seafood from the grill.
We recommend fresh Florida shrimp, which takes a little more time to clean and quickly steam on the stovetop, but you also can grab cooked shrimp at the market. For picnic savoir faire, serve in little cardboard to-go cartons with chopsticks that you can pick up at the party store.
Asian-Style Summer Noodles
1/2 cup vegetable oil
6 scallions, whites only, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons sesame seeds
2 teaspoons Sichuan peppers, coarsely chopped
12 ounces noodles of choice (ramen, lo mein, soba, angel hair)
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
1/4 cup rice vinegar
4 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons honey
1/2 pound cooked shrimp, cut into bite-size pieces
1 lime, quartered
Fresh basil, chopped cilantro, chopped peanuts, for garnish
To make chili oil, heat vegetable oil in a small skillet over medium heat and add scallions, red pepper flakes, sesame seeds and Sichuan pepper, occasionally stirring until oil is sizzling and scallions are golden, about 15 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Meanwhile, cook noodles according to package directions, rinse, drain and toss with sesame oil in a large bowl. Set aside.
Whisk rice vinegar, soy sauce, honey and 3 tablespoons chili oil in a large bowl. Add noodles and shrimp and toss to coat. Serve with lime quarters and top with basil, cilantro and chopped peanuts, if desired. Serve chili oil on the side for drizzling. Can be served cold or at room temperature.
Diva confession: Don’t substitute black peppercorns for Sichuan (or Szechuan) peppers, also known as Chinese coriander. The peppers aren’t related – the Sichuan pepper is actually the dried berry of a tree that grows in the Szechuan province of China. We eat the pinkish-red dried outer husk of the tiny berry, which is mildly hot and fragrant and creates a tingly feeling on the tongue.