Give Italian pasta a Chinese character. This Chinese-style spaghetti salad with sesame dressing is bursting with flavour.
The recipe I am sharing today is not typically Chinese. It was created accidentally a few years ago when I was living in Switzerland. Once I cooked too much spaghetti and kept the leftover in the fridge. Next day I had a bite of the cold spaghetti and noticed that its texture resembled the round noodles used for Chinese cold noodle dishes (凉面).
In some senses, I think it’s even better as it’s firmer and more springy. This experience answered a question that I was asked by a few friends: “Can you replace Chinese noodles with spaghetti?” — “ Yes, we can!” At least in this case.
This month the signs of Spring are everywhere in England. Cold dishes are a great way to celebrate the coming of this pleasant season. Chinese-style spaghetti salad is one of our family favourites. I call it salad, but actually we always have it as a main course since protein, vegetable and starch are present on the same plate.
Intended to resemble the popular Chinese dish “Three-colour cold noodles (三色凉面)”, I choose ham, courgette, red bell pepper and egg, to make it even more visually appealing. In my recipe, I suggest preparing those ingredients into long stripes or noodle-like shape. However, if you are in a hurry, just cut them up roughly.
Please feel free to choose other ingredients that suit your taste. For example, you may replace ham with shredded chicken breast, use carrot instead of red bell pepper, substitute courgette with cucumber, etc.
I guess some of you might be new to making thin omelette. It’s widely used in both Chinese and Japanese cuisine. I noticed many recipes call for oil, whereas I find it’s better to simply use a good quality non-stick pan without oil. I always have fun making thin omelette and we all love its fluffiness which makes this salad richer in texture.
The key flavour of this Chinese-style spaghetti salad comes from sesame, precisely sesame paste, sesame oil and toasted sesame seeds (read my post on Chinese sesame paste for more information and substitute suggestions).
The use of homemade Chinese chilli oil will make this dish outstanding (see my effortless recipe). Earlier I wrote a recipe on famous Sichuan street food “Dan Dan Noodles” in which similar ingredients are used as seasoning.
Like the easy Chinese dressing I described for Cucumber salad, you can make this sesame dressing in bulk also. Mix everything thoroughly in a tight jar then store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. Just make sure you leave out garlic, toasted sesame seeds and fresh chilli (if using). Add them when you are using the dressing.
Chinese-style spaghetti salad (凉拌意面)
- 150 g dried spaghetti, 5oz
- 2 slices ham
- ¼ red bell pepper
- ½ courgette/zucchini
- 2 eggs, +2 teaspoon water
For the dressing
- 1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
- 1-2 fresh chilli, finely chopped (optional)
- 1 tablespoon Chinese sesame paste, thinned with 1 tablespoon water (see note 1)
- 1.5 tablespoon black rice vinegar
- 2 teaspoon Chinese chilli oil, or to taste
- 1 teaspoon light soy sauce
- ½ teaspoon sesame oil
- 1 pinch salt
- 1 pinch sugar
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- Cook spaghetti following the instruction on the package. Drain and rinse under running water until completely cool (see note 2).
- Cut ham into long stripes. Finely slice red bell pepper. Make courgette noodles using your preferred method (see note 3).
Make thin omelette
- Beat the egg and water until the egg white and yolk are well combined.
- Pour half of the egg mixture onto a non-stick frying pan (over medium heat). Give it a good swirl. Turn the omelette over when there is no liquid remaining. Cook for a further few seconds.
- Repeat the procedure with the other half of the egg mixture. Then cut the omelette into long stripes.
Assemble the dish
- Put all the prepared ingredients above into a salad bowl. Sprinkle with sesame seeds, fresh chilli (if using).
- Mix all ingredients for the dressing. Pour over the salad. Stir well before serving.
- Use a julienne peeler.
- Use a spiralizer.
- Use a regular vegetable peeler. Peel the courgette into long ribbons. Stack the ribbons on top of each other then cut them into noodles.
- Use a grater with large holes. Trim the end of the courgette. Grate courgette at a narrow angle slowly and carefully.
I’d like to know if you ever cooked Italian pasta the Chinese way (stir fry it, use Chinese ingredients, serve with a Chinese dish, etc.) and how it turned out.