My husband and I were craving some great Chinese food but with all of this yucky weather we didn’t feel like having a night out. The solution? Create some great Chinese food at home of course! Chengdu is the capital of the Sichuan province in southwest China and it is recognized by the United Nations as a City of Gastronomy. What makes it distinct is the subtle but effective use of chilies and chili oils in its cuisine. I learned this recipe for Chengdu style noodles and where it came from when we studied Asian cooking in culinary school, and fell in love with everything about it. I played with it quite a bit to suit what I had on hand in my pantry and fridge, all I did was run out quickly to get the shrimp. You won’t believe how easy it is to make some authentic Chinese food at home!
For the dressing:
- 1/2 tspn Chinese five spice
- 1 tspn ground ginger
- 2 tblspn minced garlic
- 4 tblspn peanut butter
- 6 tblspns soy sauce
- 1 1/2 tspns sugar
- 4 tspns rice wine vinegar
For the noodles:
- 1 lb dried spaghetti (the only noodles I had on hand and they worked perfectly!)
- 6 oz bean sprouts (part of what inspired this dish, I bought them meaning to use them a while ago and never did)
- 1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined (you can leave the tails on or off when you cook them, your preference)
- 2 heaping tspns coconut oil for cooking
- Juice of 1 lime
- Zest of 1/2 of that same lime
- Pinch of salt
- 2 tspns of chili oil, such as Sriracha (a pantry should never be without Sriracha!)
- 2 tspns sesame oil
- 2 scallions, finely chopped
In a bowl, combine all of the ingredients for the dressing. Give it a thorough stir and just give a quick taste to make sure everything is to your liking. The soy sauce and peanut butter should bring all of the saltiness that it needs, with the acidic vinegar and sweet sugar balancing it out perfectly. Set it aside.
Get a large pot filled with water on the stove to boil for the bean sprouts and spaghetti. Once the water is boiling, salt it so that it tastes like the sea. Put the bean sprouts in a mesh sieve and lower them into the boiling water for 5 seconds to cook them. Remove them, rinse them under cold water to stop the cooking and drain them. Set them aside. Into the same boiling water goes the spaghetti. Cook it until it is tender but still has a bite to it, you definitely don’t want it to be mush! Usually my rule of thumb is draining it 1 minute less than the box tells you. While the pasta is cooking, make the shrimp. Heat the coconut oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. It gives so much flavor to the shrimp, it’s unbelievable. Add the shrimp in and thoroughly toss them in the oil to coat them as they cook. Add in the lime juice, lime zest and salt to taste and give it all a big stir. Make sure the shrimp are thoroughly pink and cooked through, then remove them from the pan while reserving the coconut lime liquid it cooked in.
Also reserve 1/4 cup of the pasta cooking water, then drain it. Transfer the noodles to a bowl and toss them with the chili and sesame oils. That chili oil just gives the most amazing yet subtle kick! Pour the dressing over the noodles and then pour in the reserved shrimp cooking liquid and pasta cooking water. Toss everything together completely. Transfer the dressed noodles to a platter to get their lovely finishing touches and sprinkle the bean sprouts and scallions over the top of them. Then finally line the shrimp all over the very top. You’re ready to serve! I served these Chengdu style noodles with my chinese scallion bread and it was such an incredible combination. Just goes to show you that you don’t have to leave the house to feel like you’re in an amazing Chinese restaurant!