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One of my oldest and most inexplicable comfort foods is, very simply, noodles with soy sauce and sesame oil — and nothing more. My first interaction with this was actually made with the Pennsylvania Dutch thin egg noodles my mom dropped in chicken soup. It’s about as far from Asian noodles as you can get. 

I hope I’m not oversimplifying the fact that sesame oil and soy sauce can be found in…geez, I can’t even make an educated guess as to how many Asian recipes call for both ingredients at some point. Certainly a whole bunch, for lack of comprehensive data on Asian dishes. Hurry up, Ferràn, the world needs you. But the fact remains that adding these two ingredients to a reasonably willing dish will turn it Asian. “Reasonably willing” means no outspokenly conflicting ingredients. Examples: you don’t want soy sauce in your fettuccine alfredo and you don’t want sesame oil in your pimento cheese. Let’s just stay away from dairy altogether, as a good rule of thumb.

Here are a few recipes to test this theory:

So if you’re craving Chinese, but don’t want the salt or fat that comes standard with most Chinese lunch menu deals (and you have reasonably willing leftovers in the fridge), add a few shakes of the dynamic duo and see what happens. Make “anything” fried rice or noodles with diced up leftover meat and vegetables.   

A last thought about the pair: I think sesame oil is vastly better suited for seasoning than cooking — it loses its toasty, nutty flavor when heated past a light sauté and I find it more likely to smoke and burn. Ditto soy sauce, when cooked into something as permeable as a vegetable it sinks in so deeply you can barely taste past it. Think of them more like a finishing sauce or salad dressing and enjoy the bold flavors of your newly invented modern Asian dish.

More Asian lunch hacks on Food Republic: