Sesame noodles are well-trodden territory at this point. But that doesn’t make them any less compelling. Every summer they factor rather prominently into my diet. When the world is inhospitably humid they are my favorite thing to slurp on. But in order to make blog-worthy sesame noodles, I knew I had to make them different. Because the Internet needs another straightforward sesame noodle recipe like I need another hole in my head. Luckily, I’ve been riffing on sesame noodles for several summers now. And these Smashed Cucumber Sesame Noodles are the most recent and my current favorite incarnation. So without further ado, let me introduce you to my main noodle squeeze.
Before we explore how to make these Smashed Cucumber Sesame Noodles, let’s talk about what we’re looking at here. This plate features a creamy tahini dressing base topped with noodles coated in sesame oil covered with torn braised tofu and a light and fresh smashed cucumber salad. So yeah, there are quite a few components to this dish. But that’s also what makes this recipe a bit of a meal prep dream. All of these components and be made ahead, stored separately in the fridge, and assembled at the drop of a hat.
Okay, let’s start with the tahini dressing. And yes, salads with a creamy dressing as the base are my new obsession. I just think it’s a more pleasant way to eat a creamy salad. The dressing isn’t overly diluted and the vegetables and noodles aren’t clumpy. And you can add as much or as little of the dressing to each individual bite as you please. I just think it’s a better way to salad. But if you’d rather coat your noodles before serving, you do you.
Place all the dressing ingredients into a food processor. You’ll find tahini, mirin, garlic, ginger, and a whole whack of sesame oil in here. Give everything a blitz with a little water to loosen the tahini up. When the dressing is smooth, pour it into a bowl and whisk in some lime juice. You can adjust how much you use. I wanted the lime juice to make its presence known but I didn’t want the dressing to be too tart, so I only added one lime’s worth of juice. Feel free to add more or less than I did. I feel like this is a very personal thing. Once the dressing is done, cover it and keep it at room temperature. Tahini tends to set up a bit when chilled.
Once the dressing is done, it’s time to move on to the salad and tofu. And that all starts by smacking a whole cucumber. I find this is more manageable when you cut the cucumber into thirds first. Working with a third at a time, smack the cucumber with a mallet or a rolling pin until it readily splits into quarters. Coarsely chop the cucumber and sprinkle it with salt. Let sit for 10 minutes.
While the cucumber is luxuriating, we’re going to tear a brick of extra firm tofu into bite-size chunks. Introduce the tofu to a hot pan with oil. Fry the tofu, shaking the pan occasionally, until the tofu is golden on all sides. Pour in a mixture of soy sauce, mirin, and sesame oil. Let simmer until most of the liquid has been absorbed. This should take about 10 to 15 minutes, which will give us the time to tackle the rest of the salad.
To the cucumbers add some cooked edamame, pickled ginger, fresh ginger, and some minced garlic. Add a little rice vinegar and some sesame oil and toss everything together. Most people think you should eat a smashed cucumber salad moments after it’s mixed. And I can certainly see the virtue in that. It’s true, this salad is at its best within the first hour of its existence. But I also ate this salad across three days and I wasn’t mad at it on day three. So I still think this salad is a reasonable candidate for meal prep. But if you’re particularly sensitive to slightly softened cucumber, mix the salad just before serving and invite some friends to help you eat it.
Now, it’s finally time to put these Smashed Cucumber Sesame Noodles together. Cook some wheat or egg noodles and toss them in a little sesame oil and a sprinkling of good-quality finishing salt. Spread an even bed of the tahini dressing onto a plate. Lay some of the noodles on top. Perch the tofu and the smashed cucumber salad on the noodles. Garnish with fresh cilantro and garlic chive blossoms (if you have them) and serve.
And that’s everything you need to know about these Smashed Cucumber Sesame Noodles with Torn Braised Tofu and Pickled Ginger. A fully-loaded, slurp-able salad that will dutifully see you through however many heat waves we have left this year.
Smashed Cucumber Sesame Noodles
- 1 Large skillet
- 1 kitchen mallet or rolling pin
- 1 Food Processor
- ¼ cup tahini
- 1 clove garlic peeled
- 1 (1-inch) knob ginger peeled
- 3 tbsp sesame oil
- 2 tbsp mirin
- 2 tbsp water
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 lime juiced
Smashed Cucumber Salad
- 1 whole English cucumber
- High-quality finishing salt for sprinkling
- 1¼ cups edamame shelled and cooked
- ¼ cup pickled ginger drained
- ¼ cup cilantro finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 1 (1-inch) knob ginger peeled and minced
- 1 tbsp rice vinegar
- 1 tsp sesame oil
Torn Braised Tofu
- 1 brick extra firm tofu torn into bite-sized pieces
- 2 tbsp neutral oil I used canola
- ¼ cup soy sauce
- ¼ cup mirin
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 4 cups cooked wheat or egg noodles
- 2 tbsp sesame oil
- 1 tsp high-quality finishing salt
- 1 batch Tahini Dressing see above
- 1 batch Torn Braised Tofu see above
- 1 batch Smashed Cucumber Salad see above
- Garlic chive blossoms for sprinkling, optional
- Black sesame seeds for sprinkling
For the Tahini Dressing
- Place the tahini, garlic, ginger, sesame oil, mirin, water, and salt in a food processor. Blitz until very smooth.¼ cup tahini, 1 clove garlic, 1 (1-inch) knob ginger, 3 tbsp sesame oil, 2 tbsp mirin, 2 tbsp water, ½ tsp salt
- Pour the dressing into a bowl and add the lime juice. ** Whisk to combine. Cover and set aside. Do not chill.1 lime
For the Smashed Cucumber Salad
- Cut the cucumber into thirds and smash each piece with a mallet or rolling pin until they naturally split into quarters.1 whole English cucumber
- Coarsely chop the cucumber and place it in a bowl. Sprinkle the cucumber with salt and let sit for 10 minutes.High-quality finishing salt
- Add the edamame, pickled ginger, cilantro, garlic, fresh ginger, rice vinegar, and sesame oil to the cucumber. Toss to coat. Chill until ready to serve.1¼ cups edamame, ¼ cup pickled ginger, ¼ cup cilantro, 1 clove garlic, 1 (1-inch) knob ginger, 1 tbsp rice vinegar, 1 tsp sesame oil
For the Tofu
- Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add the tofu and spread it into an even layer in the pan. Let cook undisturbed until golden. Shake the pan and repeat. Continue until the tofu is golden on all sides.2 tbsp neutral oil, 1 brick extra firm tofu
- In a small bowl, whisk to combine the soy sauce, mirin, and sesame oil. Pour it into the frying pan and reduce the heat to low. Let simmer, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is mostly absorbed. This should take between 10-15 minutes.¼ cup soy sauce, ¼ cup mirin, 1 tsp sesame oil
- Place the freshly cooked, drained, and rinsed noodles in a bowl. Add the sesame oil and the salt and toss to coat. Set aside.4 cups cooked wheat or egg noodles, 2 tbsp sesame oil, 1 tsp high-quality finishing salt
- Spread the tahini dressing onto a large platter. Top the dressing with the noodles and top the noodles with the tofu and the cucumber salad. Garnish with sesame seeds, and garlic chive blossom if using. Serve immediately.1 batch Tahini Dressing, 1 batch Torn Braised Tofu, 1 batch Smashed Cucumber Salad, Garlic chive blossoms, Black sesame seeds