When the weather heats up, it always puts me in the mood for Liang Mian or Taiwanese Cold Noodles with Sesame Sauce. With its creamy sesame sauce and cold crisp cucumbers, it's so refreshing! My mom has been making this recipe for as long as I can remember. Once I moved away to college, it was one of the first recipes I had to learn.
Taiwanese Cold Sesame Noodles, also known as Liang Mian (cold noodles), are delightfully refreshing in the summertime. It's available just about everywhere in Taiwan, from large-scale restaurants to local food stalls and even Taiwanese Night Markets. Unquestionably, it's the perfect way to escape the heat and humidity in Taiwan.
After immigrating to the US and craving Liang Mian, my vegetarian mom developed this recipe. It was the only way to get our fix. However, living in a small town in the 80's meant sesame paste wasn't always accessible so she used a pantry staple, peanut butter. It sounded strange at first but the flavor profile of peanut butter is actually quite similar to that of sesame paste, making peanut butter a great alternative.
Liang Mian is often served with an array of toppings (such as cucumber, ham, egg cooked omelet style, carrots, or steamed bean sprouts) and it's dressed with a creamy, nutty sauce with a garlicy bite. The sauce is very similar to that of Ma Jiang Mian (sesame noodles).
This Taiwanese Cold Noodles recipe is super easy to make and it's also easy on the wallet, making it a fabulous weekday lunch or dinner option. It's sure to please every palate, including your vegetarian friends'. Our family loves Liang Mian and I hope you do too!
Ingredients for Taiwanese Cold Noodles (Liang Mian)
The main ingredient in the sauce is Chinese sesame paste. It's made from toasted sesame seeds that's ground into a paste. Don't confuse it with Middle Eastern tahini, which is also a ground sesame paste. However, tahini is made from raw sesame seeds which doesn't have the roasted nutty flavor that is critical for this recipe. If you can't find Chinese sesame paste, you can substitute it with creamy peanut butter. It works as a great substitute for this recipe. You could also do a combination of sesame paste and peanut butter. I just use whatever I have in the pantry and it always turns out amazing!
How to Make Taiwanese Cold Noodles
Cook your noodles according to the package instructions. Any type of thin wheat noodles will work for this recipe but I like to use thin spaghetti cooked al dente for a nice bite. Pasta also stores well in the fridge so leftovers make for a very easy meal. Just drizzle a teaspoon or two of sesame oil over your drained pasta and toss it to coat. It not only adds flavor to your noodles, but it also keeps it from sticking.
For the sauce, whisk together sesame paste/peanut butter, sugar, soy sauce, black vinegar and sesame oil. Give it a good whisk until the ingredients come together and form a paste. Be sure to work out any lumps. Slowly whisk in about half the water to start and continue mixing in more water until you reach a smooth and silky consistency. Store it in a mason jar and your sesame sauce is ready! The sauce will store for up to a week in the fridge. If your sauce thickens up, add a bit of water and/or vinegar to loosen it up a bit.
Now I know what you're thinking. Where's the garlic? I have two little ones who love this dish but can't handle the raw garlicky flavor so here's my solution. Grate 2 cloves of garlic and add 2 tablespoons of hot water. This will take out some of the bite in the garlic. Now everyone can add as much or as little garlic flavoring to suit their palates. If you have a household that doesn't mind raw garlic, skip this step and add the grated garlic directly into the sesame sauce.
Toppings for Liang Mian
Now for the toppings. Cold, crisp, julienned cucumbers are a must! It's not Taiwanese Cold Noodles without cucumbers. The addition of cucumbers makes Liang Mian incredibly refreshing and also provides a great contrast in texture. Pick a good crisp cucumber with thin skin such as Persian, Japanese or English cucumbers. Julienne into thin strips about 2 inches long.
My kids like ham so I'm also using ham in this recipe but you can really use any toppings you like. If you have leftover breast meat from a Costco rotisserie chicken, it's a good way to use it up in this recipe. Most often, I include scrambled eggs cooked like a thin omelet and cut it into strips.
Some popular toppings for Liang Mian are:
- bean sprouts (steamed or blanched)
- eggs cooked omelet style
- shredded chicken breast
We're ready to plate! Pile on toppings over your noodles and drizzle on a good amount of sesame sauce. I'm a sauce girl so I go heavy on the sauce. Add garlic flavoring to your liking and chili oil or chili sauce for some heat. Give it a good mix and enjoy!
How to Store Cold Noodles with Sesame Sauce
You can make Liang Mian ahead of time and store the noodles, sauce and toppings separately in the fridge. In fact, it tastes better when all the ingredients are chilled.
- Julienned ham, cucumber and eggs store well in an airtight container or a dish tightly wrapped with plastic wrap. Noodles keep well in a large storage bag or a covered bowl.
- Mason jars or any air tight jar do a great job of storing the sesame sauce. After refrigerating, the sauce may get a little thick. Loosen it up by stirring in a teaspoon of water and/or vinegar at a time.
- Taiwanese Cold Sesame Noodles make great lunches for kids and adults alike. It makes a great meal for a picnic at the park or the beach.
The prepared ingredients will last several days in the fridge. For a quick lunch for the office, pack a serving of noodles, cucumber, ham and egg in your favorite cooler bag with a separate container of sesame sauce. Prepping it the night before means you won't have to stress about it in the morning. When lunch time hits, drizzle the sauce over your preassembled Liang Mian, mix it up and watch as you coworkers envy your lunch. ^_^
- 1 lb thin spaghetti or thin wheat noodles
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 8 oz deli ham, julienned
- 1 English cucumber or 3 Persian cucumbers, julienned
- 3 eggs
- ½ cup sesame paste or creamy peanut butter
- 2 tablespoon soy sauce
- 2 teaspoon sesame oil
- 3 tablespoon black vinegar
- 1 tablespoon sugar, 1 teaspoon if using sweetened peanut butter
- ½ cup hot water
- 1 tablespoon garlic, grated
- 2 tablespoon hot water
- Begin by preparing the toppings. Julienne the deli ham and cucumbers.
- Whisk the eggs in a bowl and season with salt. In a skillet, heat up a teaspoon of oil. Pour in half the beaten eggs and fry like an omelet over medium heat until it begins to solidify, about 30 seconds. Carefully flip and fry the other side. Remove from the skillet and repeat with the remainder of the beaten eggs. Cut the omelets in half and slice into thin strips. Set aside.
- Whisk all the SAUCE ingredients together in a mixing bowl until it reaches a smooth and silky consistency. Make sure to work out any lumps. Cover and refrigerate.
- Combine the GARLIC FLAVORING ingredients and set aside.
- Cook the noodles or thin spaghetti according to the package directions. Rinse under cold water and add 1 teaspoon of sesame oil. Toss well until noodles are evenly coated with sesame oil. Cover and refrigerate.
- To serve, dish out a single portion of noodles. Top with cucumber, ham and eggs. Drizzle sesame sauce over the top, along with a bit of garlic flavoring. Add chili oil for a little kick. Mix together and enjoy!