Sesame Noodles with Shredded Chicken

“I give this one hundred thumbs up” Daughter 1 told me over our sesame noodle dinner this week. It probably helped a bit that I billed it as “peanutty noodles with chicken and vegetables” when I gave her the choice of having this versus something else. But it made me realize what a long way we have come since we started this blog.

Not long before our first post back in July 2013 I prepared this very dish for a meal at which you would have thought I was trying to poison my children. With both girls crying at the dinner table, Daughter 1 grabbed Daughter 2’s arm mid-bite (and mid-tears) and reassured her that “everything was going to be alright.”

Sesame noodles with shredded chicken

Sesame noodles with shredded chicken

“It’s just noodles, guys” I resorted to explaining while feeding Daughter 2 individual strands of pasta much the same way a mother bird might feed a baby bird. That seemed to placate her for a bit, though the dinnertime drama meant this recipe was out of rotation. Until this week.

Perhaps time alters the memories of painful dinner-table antics like it does the memories of childbirth. Whatever the reason, I tentatively added this option to our meal rotation and was rather surprised when Daughter 1 selected it. I was even more surprised (read, ecstatic) to hear her praise the dish. And clean her plate.

Can't you just hear the "one hundred thumbs up" recommendation?

Can’t you just hear the “one hundred thumbs up” recommendation?

This is a great, quick meal to have in your recipe index too. It’s another one of our “ready in under an hour” dishes and can be served hot (as we served it this week) or cold. It is packed with protein from the peanuts, sesame paste and chicken, and has a healthy serving of veggies in every bowl. You can swap in the vegetables that your family likes as well. I’m learning that Daughter 2 really doesn’t like bell peppers, so we didn’t put any in here though they would have been fabulous. Slivered snap peas or thinly-sliced celery would also and add a nice crispness. Experiment to figure out what you like.

This recipe is, obviously, not something you want to serve to a kid with nut allergies, though you could try an all-tahini (sesame seed paste) version and omit the peanut butter and peanuts. I’d up the honey by a teaspoon or two as well. If you do try it that way, I’d love to hear how it turns out!

Just can't keep little fingers out of this essential ingredient: peanut butter

Just can’t keep little fingers out of this essential ingredient: peanut butter

It’s equally easy to omit the chicken if you want to serve this as a vegetarian meal. It will still have plenty of protein and you have the option of increasing the veg-to-noodle ratio. To give credit where it is due, we originally started with a Cook’s Illustrated recipe (you’ll need an account to access the link) that we’ve adjusted through the years. You should feel free to keep on adjusting until it’s right for you.

Slurping encouraged

Slurping encouraged

Any way you serve it, it’s fast, filling, and a crowd pleaser. Can’t get much better than that.

Sesame Noodles with Shredded Chicken

Ingredients:
2 – 3 chicken thighs or 1 whole chicken breast, poached*, skin and bones removed, and meat shredded
1/4 cup peanut butter (smooth or chunky – your choice)
3 tablespoons tahini sauce (sesame seed paste)
1 ounce whole roasted peanuts
1 tablespoon finely-diced ginger
2 garlic cloves, pressed though a garlic press (or very finely diced)
4 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon cold sake (optional)
Approximately 1/4 cup hot water to thin dressing after being blended
10 ounces Chinese-style noodles (aka ramen noodles) or spaghetti noodles
1 cup bite-size broccoli florets
1 large carrot cut into thin, 3-inch-long matchsticks
Approximately 1/4 of a medium cucumber, seeded and cut into 3-inch-long matchsticks
1 scallion, finely sliced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro for serving
Sriracha hot sauce for serving**

Begin by making the sauce. In a blender, process the peanut butter, tahini, peanuts, ginger, garlic, soy sauce, honey and sake into a thick paste. It is OK to have some bits of the peanuts remain unprocessed for texture. Drizzle in the hot water a little at a time until the dressing is smooth and the consistency of heavy cream.

Bring a large pot of water to boil over high heat. Briefly submerge the broccoli and carrots until they are crisp-tender and remove into a bowl of icy water using a spider. Drain and reserve the broccoli and carrots. In the still-boiling pot of water, cook the noodles according to package directions. Drain, rinse, and return to pot. (Note: if serving cold, rinse the noodles in cold water and move them to a mixing bowl.)

Noodles - in the package and draining

Noodles – in the package and draining

Dress the noodles with the sesame dressing. Add the broccoli, carrots, cucumber (and whatever other veggies you’re using) and shredded chicken. Toss well to coat. Serve in deep bowls sprinkled with scallions and cilantro, with Sriracha on the side.

Serves: 6 – 8

* To poach chicken, place the chicken in a pan of water to cover by one to two inches. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and allow to simmer until the chicken is fully cooked through, maintaining the water level throughout. Remove chicken from the water, drain and cool slightly before removing the skin and bones and shredding for this recipe. You may want to go one step further and use the chicken poaching liquid to make homemade chicken stock if you have the time, adding veggies and more water as needed.

** Some recipes call for a teaspoon or two of the hot sauce as an ingredient in the sesame dressing, which you can certainly do if your family likes things spicy. We serve Sriracha on the side because our girls prefer milder dishes right now.

Kid rating: four-and-a-half stars. Daughter 1 ate every last morsel of her sesame noodles. Daughter 2 didn’t quite finish, but I blame that partially on the carrots she kept sneaking and the healthy spoonful of peanut butter she insisted on eating as we made this dish. We’ve come a long way from last spring, when both girls cried as this was served to them. Way to go, developing palates!
Parent rating: four-and-a-half stars. I love this dish. It is comforting, filling, and easy to make. Now that the girls will actually eat it, I think it’s back in the all-star line-up of recipes we’ll make again.

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