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cooking noodles

Contrary to popular belief, people who work in restaurants preparing food rarely have time to eat. And even though the line cooks could sit down after they were done feeding everyone their first and main courses, that was the the most hectic time for us pastry folks since all the dessert orders would come tumbling in.

Bakers are known for eating things like butter sandwiches just because bread and butter are readily available and you don’t need to sit down to eat it or ask the line cooks if they had time to made you something more nutritious. When I left the restaurant business, I made one promise to myself: I would never again eat standing up or just mindlessly jam food in my craw. So when people ask why so many pastry chefs and professional bakers aren’t enormous—well, that’s why.

For a few years, I was the pastry chef at at the Asian restaurant, and white rice became my “bread” and peanut sauce replaced the butter. I’d never had unfettered access to rich, spicy peanut sauce and man, in that stuff good!

(I learned a few years back in Belgium that it’s amazing on French fries. All I can say is thank goodness the restaurant wasn’t one of those fusion places, serving something like Belgian-Asian cuisine. Otherwise I couldn’t fit into my skimpy Paris apartment.)

peanut sauce peppers

The owner of the restaurant was Bruce Cost and I’ve worked with quite a few very talented people, but he is the best cook I’ve ever met. Seriously. He would stand over the giant wok with the flames racing up against the side of it, calmly adding in spices and whatever else he was cooking, and stir it with a reserved calm.

When he was done, he would scrape whatever dish he had prepared onto a plate, often with a spicy or other sauce made from the bottles of chili oils, soy and fish sauces, and Shaoxing wine he poured in without measuring, and hand it over. You’d take a bite and thought you’d gone to culinary heaven. It was from him that I learned the extraordinary depth and flavors of authentic Chinese cuisine, and how they differ from what’s normally offered. He once said to me, “Just because you’re from a country doesn’t mean you’re a good cook of that country’s food. There’s a lot of bad Chinese cooks in China and bad American cooks in America.” Which is very much true.

The sticky ribs he cooked in dark, thick black vinegar and caramelized until they were tasty little sticks of pork candy which I’d gnaw off the bone like a madman I can still taste. And to this day I cannot eat spicy Kung Pao Chicken anywhere because I know it won’t compare to his. But the shrimp toast were my downfall; imagine a paste of very fresh shrimp (never frozen), smeared on a raft of white bread, then deep-fried until golden brown and crispy on the outside, with the taste of top-quality fresh shrimp, not the rubbery stuff you normally get, when you bit into one.

The line cooks would have to make them before the hectic service started and since they didn’t keep until the next day, at the end of the night they’d fry the remaining ones up for the staff. I will not divulge how many I ate during my time at the restaurant (which has since closed), but it was a number somewhere between 100 and 1000.


After I’d left the restaurant business, I was planning a trip which involved the dreaded swimsuit. Having been somewhat slim most of my life, I looked down one day and noticed something new hanging over the waistband of my swimsuit and I could only point a finger at the spicy, lumpy, rich ladles of peanut sauce that I was spooning generously over bowls of white rice for a quick lunch on-the-go, and plates of deep-fried shrimp toasts for dinner.

Chinese noodles peanuts

Like a lot of ‘foreign’ recipes, the ingredient list may look a little daunting (and require a trip to an ethnic market), but once you have those ingredients on hand, you can make a number of dishes. Living in Paris, a lot of these things one might think would be elusive to track down. But I’m always up for a quick trip to the Belleville neighborhood, and a walk up and down the rue de Belleville can yield everything from red-hot chili peppers to exotic spices.


Once you gather the ingredients, most of the work is done by a food processor. Speaking of easy, I serve this with chicken and cucumbers and a few sprigs of cilantro, and that’s it. At the restaurants I also learned a really simple way to cook the chicken breasts, and they always come out perfectly cooked with absolutely zero fuss.

noodles with peanut sauce

Of course, vegetarians could make this without the meat and use fried tofu or some still-crunchy steamed vegetables. Or as they say in France, vegetables cooked “California-style.” Just be aware that keeping a bowl of this in refrigerator is a little dangerous. And remember that peanut sauce isn’t a replacement for a real meal, it’s an accompaniment. But one could argue that the boneless chicken breasts and cucumbers offset some of the richness of the sauce, although my swimsuit might say otherwise.

Peanut Sauce

This recipe makes about 2 cups (500ml) of peanut sauce, which is more than you’ll need for four servings. But it’s pretty great on white rice as an afternoon snack or French fries. The chicken needs to be hand-shredded since the uneven surface makes it easier for the peanut sauce to adhere to the meat. Toast the peanuts in a 350ºF (180ºC) oven on a baking sheet for about twelve minutes, stirring a few times during baking, until they’re well-toasted.
  • 2 cups (300g) dark roasted unsalted peanuts
  • 1/2 cup (125-180ml) to 3/4 hot black tea
  • 1/2 cup (125ml) oil, preferably peanut (see Notes) or coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon (10g) peeled and minced fresh ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 2 small chiles, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon light or dark brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground Szechuan pepper, (if available)
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) fresh lime or lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chili paste or chili oil
  • 1/3 cup (15g) packed cilantro sprigs or chives
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1 pound (450g) wide Chinese noodles, often called Shanghai noodles (see Notes)
  • 2 chicken breasts, boneless or on the bone
  • 1 large cucumber
  • sprigs of cilantro
  • Put the peanuts, 1/2 cup (125ml) of hot tea, and the oil or coconut milk in a blender.
  • Turn the machine on and let it run for a few minutes until the peanuts are almost smooth. Then add the remaining ingredients and let the machine run until the sauce is pureed.
  • Check the consistency. If it’s too thick for your liking, add up to another 1/4 cup (55ml) of tea.
  • Cook the noodles in a pot of boiling salted water according to the time on the package. (I usually cook them a little less, since I like them chewy.)
  • Once done, drain and immediately run cold water over the noodles in the colander, turning them with tongs to cool them as rapidly as possible. Toss the noodles in a drizzle of oil and set aside.
  • Put the chicken breasts in a medium saucepan, cover with cold water and add enough salt to estimate the saltiness of sea water. Cover and bring the water to a boil.
  • Once the water comes to a boil, turn off the heat and leave the chicken breasts in the water for twenty minutes, covered. After twenty minutes, remove the chicken breasts from the liquid and let sit until cool enough to handle.
  • Shred the chicken breasts by hand into bite-size strips.
  • Peel the cucumber. Cut it in half lengthwise then remove the seeds with a spoon. Slice the cucumber diagonally.
  • Divide the noodles between the four bowls, top with chicken and cucumbers, then add a few generous, heaping spoonfuls of peanut sauce. Garnish with sprigs of cilantro and encourage guests to mix everything together in their own bowls.


Storage Tips: The peanut sauce can be made up to one week in advance and refrigerated, or frozen for up to two months. The chicken breasts and the noodles can be cooked and refrigerated up to one day ahead.


Peanuts versus Peanut Butter: Quite likely a number of you are wondering if you could use peanut butter which is made from already ground peanuts. I haven’t tried using it with this recipe, figuring since I have to grind everything up in a machine anyways, I may as well use freshly roasted peanuts.

When I worked with Bruce Cost, the cooks deep-fried the peanuts, which were delicious but a bit impractical for many home cooks. So I roast my own raw peanuts in the oven, but you can use store-bought unsalted roasted peanuts as well. For those who wish to experiment with peanut butter, I’d say use the same quantity of peanuts, then add enough oil to get it to a consistency you like. I linked to a recipe below that uses peanut butter as a base.

Fish Sauce: This is one of those ingredients that really makes a different. Available at Asian markets, a dash of fish sauce adds a je ne sais quoi to many dishes. You’ll be surprised what it adds to sauces like this. Three Crabs is one good brand. But if you don’t have fish sauce you can leave it out. There is a link to a recipe for vegetarian ‘fish’ sauce below.

Peanut Oil: I really like Lion & Globe brand peanut oil, which has the taste of peanuts in it, unlike other neutral tasting oils. It’s available at markets that specialize in Asian foods. If unavailable use another peanut oil or another oil.

Chile Peppers and Spicing: Because everyone has different heat tolerances and chiles vary depending on where you live (the red ones I used were called, simply, “Petit Piment Rouge” (little red pepper). I sent a picture of two of them to my friends Todd and Diane and asked what they were called, and they said they have similar peppers in their garden which were red Serrano and red Jalapeño chiles. Both were quite hot when I tasted them before using.

But it’s not necessary to get caught up in the nomenclature, especially for those of us that live in Paris where are choices are limited. Feel free to make your own call on what chiles you wish to put in your peanut sauce. I tend to like things spicy, but use just one chili pepper and see how it like it before adding more, if you’re unsure of your chiles.

Shanghai Noodles: These are the widest wheat flour noodles (Cu mian) that you’ll find in the refrigerated section of Asian supermarkets. Look for ones made locally, if possible, or ones without additives. Some do have natural coloring agents. Of course, you can substitute another noodle, including gluten-free noodles. But do try to find the widest round noodles you can and don’t overcook them.

Related Links and Recipes

The Chile Pepper Institute

Vegan Fish Sauce (The Kitchn)

How to Buy Fish Sauce (Viet World Kitchen)


Perfect Peanut Sauce (Cooking with Amy)

How to Make Asian Rice

Olympic Seoul Chicken

Pickled Pepper Recipe

Fresh Ginger Ginger Ale (by Bruce Cost)

Brocolli Beef Noodle Stir-Fry (Steamy Kitchen)




    • Three-Cookies

    “So when people ask why so many pastry chefs and professional bakers aren’t enormous—well, that’s why.”

    I always wondered why. Don’t chefs and pastry chefs do a lot of tasting. Pastries have more calories than food and bite sized tastings add up.

    • Arudhi@aboxofkitchen

    Black tea for peanut sauce??? Wow, this is new to me! Your peanut sauce looks delicious!

    • Belinda @zomppa

    Noodles are just…awesome…too good that the swimsuit will just have to wait. Love the idea of deep frying the peanuts to draw out the nuttiness, but roasting is a great home option.

    • Stephanie

    Love, love, love this recipe. Will make vegetarian version this weekend and try not to think of the swimsuit issue that you keep mentioning :)

    • Caroline

    I must try this peanut sauce! My husband and I love thai food, especially mu satay with peanut sauce! We’ve been able to make the satays fine, but the peanut sauce is always a disappointment. This recipe is definitely different than what I’m used to, so I have a feeling I should give this one a go! Thanks for sharing!

    • Nancy Baggett

    I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting Bruce Cost, but I recall he wrote a book on ginger, and I could just tell he was a great cook (and a fine writer, too). So, it was fun for you to reconfirm my notions here. This noodle dish looks great, btw.

    As for your comments about being too busy to eat when working, I can also identify with that, even when I’m just testing or prepping recipes. Stuff gets tasted, then pushed aside so the next dish can be made. I’m guessing that you’ll agree that photo shoots featuring sweet stuff are especially bad–there’s beautiful, presumably delectable food everywhere, but everybody’s starving when mealtime comes!

    I loved your wine-cheese story. Very thought-provoking and wise–how do you keep hitting ’em out of the park!?

    • Jessica @ How Sweet

    I absolutely adore peanut sauce. I also really love using fish sauce. I have searched it out day after day!

    • Julia Isaacs

    I use Soba noodles often. I am very fortunate to live near a Korean store where you can find so many different kinds of noodles! Every time I go there I spend hours looking through all the different spices, spicy sauces, veggies and noodles! I love Korean seaweed which comes in different flavors (good to eat with beer alone)

    • Jonathan

    Thank you for this recipe. Had never thought of using tea before. Great idea. Your recipes are always so clean and straight forward.

    A standard trick in our kitchen: Use one pot for everything if possible.
    Cook the chicken first then remove and cook noodles in same water.
    This gives a flavor boost to the noodles AND saves on mess and clean up.

    We recently made your Chocolate Idiot cake and loved it.

    • Katya

    I adore peanut noodles. My best success so far has been with John Thorne’s recipe…looking forward to trying yours…

    • Archena

    I would love to try this subsituting the meat with Tofu and can also probably give Almond Butter a try.

    • Laura

    Cant wait to try this. It looks amazing! Thanks for sharing.

    • David
    David Lebovitz

    Jonathan: That is a great idea. Although because I’m a bit of a cross-contamination nut, folks just need to treat noodles cooked in a pot where there was chicken stock as if they were a meat item. Or perhaps cook the noodles in the pot, then cook the chicken. Either way, I’m all for saving one (more) pot to clean–good tip!

    Nancy: I just write about what I eat. Asian food is always inspiring because it’s easier than many people think. Plus I’m always up for any excuse to go to Chinatown or an Asian market.

    Katya: John is a terrific writer and I haven’t seen his recipe (was it in his newsletter?) but I’m sure its excellent.

    Caroline: As a dipping sauce, you’ll probably need to thin it out more as the sauce it quite thick. So just have some extra hot tea on hand.

    Julia: I like soba although I think they’re a bit more slippery than Chinese noodles. However folks should always use what they like or what’s available. I did see a recipe once for noodles with peanut sauce that called for Italian linguine. And I think that’s one line I’m not sure should be crossed…

    • Leigh

    This looks amazing! I lived in Indonesia for a while and got addicted to peanut sauce, and I’ve been trying to get it just right ever since then.

    I just wanted to let you know that your link to the vegan fish sauce recipe doesn’t work — it looks like somehow the two dashes in the link got turned into an m dash. The recipe (I think it’s the same one) is here:–130535

    Thanks so much for the fantastic recipe!

    Hmm, don’t know how the link got twisted but thanks for the correct one! I updated it… -dl

    • Michelle

    Oh my… my oh my….. Thanks for the tip on cooking chicken breasts. I am going to give it a whirl. I might also have to try the peanut sauce and french fries. Deathly.

    • sillygirl

    I have a recipe that called for “sesame paste” that I got from an Asian market – seemed to help make a better peanut sauce but I’ll try your recipe!

    • Heather

    This sounds amazing. I really love cold noodle dishes, but have never tried peanut sauce on my own; I guess I have no excuse now!

    • Maureen@ToutSweetParis

    Great recipe, only thing I need to get are those elusive peppers. Then it is dinner time! Thanks for all the wonderful stories and cooking ideas.

    • Caffettiera

    Any food containing peanuts gets addictive for me. Ditto for noodles. This is a very dangerious post at the beginning of January, David.

    • Karin (an alien parisienne)

    I lived in China from 1990-1991 and my first husband was Chinese. After we married and moved to the States, finding good Asian cuisine that was also fairly authentic became our mutual goal. Now, I have to say that I never had peanut sauce while in China. That’s not to say it did not exist there. One thing I learned about cuisine in China is that it is very regional. Peanut sauce did not exist in my region, but it could have in another area. What I do know is that great peanut sauce did exist at Ming’s Dynasty in Glendale (a little city “island” in the center of the city & county of Denver), Colorado, and which was within walking distance of my now-ex husband’s and my little first apartment together. There, we both fell in love with Wonderful Chicken, a melange of chopped chicken and Napa cabbage,onions, and a bunch of other ingredients we never could completely figure out. The minced meat and veggies were swimming in a creamy, luscious peanut sauce. When I was pregnant with our son, I craved the stuff so badly I was sending my ex-hubby out to procure the stuff probably three times a week. Maybe that’s why the kid turned out to be a very healthy 8 lb 3 oz baby! Anyway, the kid loves the stuff now, too. I don’t even think its on the official menu anymore, but those long-time customers ask for it and get it still today.

    This peanut sauce looks like it may closely approximate the good stuff in Wonderful Chicken! And I am within walking distance of Belleville. :) I am going to make this a 2011 priority: concoct peanut sauce! Thank you, David, for not only the recipe but for reminding me about good times with Wonderful Chicken. :)

    • Claire Aguilar

    Your blog makes my mouth water! Even at 9:00 am on a cold San Francisco morning.

    • Janie

    This is one of our favorites…I often add the shredded chicken for a complete meal…

    Good recipe..and everything on that list is in my pantry…might be an easy fast dinner over the weekend when it snows! (yeah it’s cold …who cares! The chilies and Szechuan pepper will heat us up )

    • mary lynn

    I’ve had Bruce Cost’s “Big Bowl” cookbook since it came out in 2000. We lived in China for 2.5 years and yes, Karin, peanut sauce did exist in parts of China, but much more prevalent in Thailand and Indonesia. I have made his recipe for peanut sauce many times and it is great. David’s looks so good I may have to make some tonight! Thanks David for the great site, I enjoy your travels and recipes.

    • Catherineap

    Peanut sauce with french fries-yes!!! I worked at Hayes St. Grill about a million years ago when the late great Barbara Tropp used to come by every week and make a batch of Szechuan peanut sauce. They served it with fish (still do) but we quickly discovered that it beats ketchup on fries by a mile.

    • Dime Store Foodie

    This looks so yummy! As always David you’re pictures are wonderful. I completely agree on the sticky ribs, I have a dear friend who is Chinese who makes the most incredible sticky little ribs, I could eat them every day. I have to say myChinese food weakness has to be dumplings, I am very fortunate to work with several Chinese ladies that have perfected the art of dumpling making……needless to say I’m not swimsuit ready either.

    • Elana Iaciofano

    I love that you can use this for a french fry dipping sauce…because that’s exactly what I will do with it.

    • justcooknyc

    I’m always looking for good sesame/peanut sauce noodle recipes… ALWAYS. Might have to try this one out.

    • Kate

    Dinner! now I know what I’ll be making tonight. And….that picture of okra, ?habaneros, limes and um, root veg/ cassava/yam? is from last summer or a store selection? (Sorry I wasn’t expecting a quiz) I worked in a Chinese Restaurant years ago and this time of the year I always start cooking more Asian. The Asian supermarkets are getting all the special fresh produce in for the new year. And your suggestion of topping for french fries will be used this weekend.

    • ritanyc

    As a server at the same time DL was pastry chef, oh boy do I remember those late night “snacks” of braised pork and shrimp toast and those very noodles at Monsoon. We were so grateful for David’s offerings of leftover sorbets (coconut! blood orange!) to cleanse our palates. Rock on, David!
    (Also, Bruce Cost’s Asian Ingredients is an excellent book that I still use today)

    • Sarah

    I love peanut sauce, and peanuts, but have recently discovered they are something I need to avoid in my diet. I wonder if another nut could possibly substitute in this recipe? It looks fantastic.

    • A Plum By Any Other Name

    Love the caveat about not making the peanut sauce … a meal. Seems oddly necessary, doesn’t it? This seems like a silly question, but do the chefs in the South roast the peanuts with their shells on or off?

    • A Plum By Any Other Name

    I meant fry, not roast.

    • Charity

    I totally relate about not having time to eat at work… I cook in a busy restaurant; I usually get hungry around 8 or 9 pm, just after our second seating’s orders go out, which is, of course, the perfect time to start tearing down and cleaning up. When I do take the time to cook something during this lull, it’s like everyone in the restaurant subconsciously senses it, so they order more food, and I have to set my meal aside until we clear all the chits again. I can’t remember the last time I actually got to eat anything at work while it was still hot.

    Anyhow, your peanut sauce sounds amazing, and my mouth is watering looking at the photos… This is what I’ll be cooking on my next day off. Thanks for the inspiration!

    • PastryCraft

    As a Pastry Chef, I did a lot of tasting during the day. But I finally started to taste “and spit” as wine tasters do, so that I wasn’t consuming all of those sugary calories. Like David said, bread is the most accessible quick food when you work in a pastry kitchen. It seems like I never really wanted sugary things while I was at work. But on my days off, now that’s a different story . . .

    • Lou

    Hi David, long-time reader but first-time commenter!

    I just wanted to say that I love the addition of black tea to the peanut sauce, I can’t wait to try this – thanks for the great idea! My partner’s Taiwanese mom taught me to make peanut sauce with “natural peanut butter” (this means there is only one ingredient on the jar: ground roasted peanuts!), oil, soy sauce, fish sauce, lime juice, brown or “yellow” sugar, some water/stock and minced red chili peppers. It’s served over cold noodles and accompanied by sliced raw cucumbers, cold tofu, and my favourite: sliced raw shanghai bok choy. The bok choy is a little bitter when it’s raw, so it balances the flavours of the spicy/sweet/salty sauce perfectly. This is why I think the bitter black tea addition is so brilliant! Try this dish on a very hot day in summer when you don’t want to cook much. Surprisingly refreshing!

    • winegeek

    Hi David,
    I fondly remember Monsoon (it was quite the splurge for my boyfriend and me while we lived in SF each attending grad school). I lost my coconut sorbet virginity at that restaurant, and now I know I have you to credit! Thanks for the memories!

    • Cristy

    Apparently we’re on the same wavelength this week. I’ve made a similar dish twice but I just used whole wheat spaghetti because I had it on hand. Thanks for the link to the vegan “fish” sauce as I’m allergic to the real thing!

    • Jane L

    This is another great recipe and the way you describe it seems so doable from home. It is always a pleasure to read your writings… Keep it up.

    • K

    Wow. Thanks, and YUM!

    • Claudia

    I’ve always made it with some tahini. Is that a sin? I will give it a go because in MN, swim suit season isn’t for 7-8 more months!

    • dario milano

    Hi David,
    I really enjoyed this post; I too spent about two decades in professional kitchens and I see myself in your stories , often; I love peanuts, especially how they’re used in asian cuisine, so have to try this sauce – here in Sydney it’s not a problem to find all those ingredients and many are already on my shelfs.
    That being said, I also think cold noodles, boiled chicken brest, cucumber and cilantro are a great combination of flavours.
    Thanks for sharing this!

    • Barbara @ VinoLuciStyle

    Thank you, thank you, thank you…I have almost given up on finding a peanut sauce I could love as much as one I once had in a restaurant but I’m feeling some confidence in your recommendation and will be resourcing those ingredients tomorrow! I could eat peanut sauce on almost anything…but my favorite I have no time comfort food is bread and butter sprinkled with some sugar; guess that’s my idea of a quick pastry!

    • Kristyn

    I don’t have a food processor, so I just whipped this up for lunch using 300g of organic crunchy peanut butter in place of roasted peanuts. I found half a cup of tea and half a cup of coconut milk gave the sauce a great consistency.

    Yuuuuum, it’s so good!

    • Hannah

    Yes yes yes yes yes. I have about a dozen peanut sauce recipes but am printing this off now, as the black tea is pretty much amazingness. Also, I just bought a Vita-Mix, so grinding nuts is now super easy :)

    • hannah @ bake five!

    this sounds like a great recipe! Ive always stuck to my cold noodles sesame sauce ritual, but i definitely will give peanut paste a try…although i did have peanut paste with pork before..that was sooo good.

    • lori

    This recipe captured my attention and I was fantasizing about making it. Then I saw Bruce’s name and it took me back to a time before I had started my career in food. He was one of the first professional chefs and writers I’d ever met. I’ve often wondered where he is and how he is doing. Thanks for sharing this dish and provoking a wok full of memories!

    • hag

    David, I am really excited about this post…can’t wait to make the peanut sauce. I am so excited to get a peanut sauce recipe that is made with real peanuts instead of peanut butter…that way I don’t have half a jar of it tempting me! I can buy exactly 2 cups of peanuts!
    As I write this I am poaching a breast of chicken for another recipe…but I am trying it your way.

    • The Good Soup

    I worked as a line cook in a wonderful North Vietnamese Restaurant called the Green Papaya for a while. Every night, once service cooled down, I’d get myself a bowl of coconut rice and then beg a ladful of sour prawn soup off the wok cook. It was amazing. They’d boil green prawns for their fresh spring rolls and use the water plus the heads and shells (blended and sieved) as the stock for the soup. By the time I left that job I’d grown an extra 4 legs and a set of feelers.

    • Rebecca

    I happen to be a bad Chinese cook in America (Lol) with one dish under my belt- ma po tofu. I am very excited to try this recipe and expand my repertoire.

    • Sarah – A Beach Home Companion

    Once again, you got me. I meant to just skim this post and ended up spending a half hour reading it. I think I have to make this sauce as I have almost everything on hand and it seems like a much livelier and more authentic version of the one I make with peanut butter.

    And I totally relate to the dichotomy of working in a restaurant and starving. For years people would always ask me, almost in horror, “How do you work here and stay so thin?!?” It was hard to explain to them that we don’t just go in back between tables and eat plates of food. And by the end of service, ordering food while the line was cleaning up was not a good idea if you ever needed something on the fly. So dinner was a hunk of leftover bread and a beer. Not really all that bad though when you think about it! :)

    • The Therapist in the Kitchen

    Thai is one of my favorite foods. Thanks for posting this.

    • Ellen

    Sounds delicious, have to try it soon. Your mention of Belleville reminded me of one of my favorite movies, Triples of Belleville. Understand the director has a new film out that has gotten excellent reviews. Will never come to coastal SC so will have to wait for the DVD.

    • BayBakerJoy

    Ah yes, the ‘glamorous’ life of a pastry chef… shoving morsels of food into one’s mouth from a deli container while standing over a garbage can. Chefs NEVER have time to actually eat a proper meal during service. Definitely was my thinnest during my years as a restaurant chef!

    • w

    hi david,
    another great post! Is this a Bruce Cost recipe or your own? Love Taiwanese/Japanese sesame sauce and Indonesian satay sauce, but it’s the first time i’ve seen black tea as an ingredient. What does this add, do you think? This alone, makes this a must-try.

    Second question, was the picture of the peppers and ladyfingers taken in Belleville? Arent those chillis the ones used in Mexican food? I don’t know my chillis at all. Since i’m relocating to Paris, i’m hoping that means such chillis, which i cant get hold of where i’m living now, will be available in future, yeah!

    • Brittany Beecher

    Dear David,

    This looks like an amazing recipe and I’ll be sure to try it, I happen to be an American who lives in Taiwan. Taiwan also has an excellent peanut sauce that is very simple to make. It’s called, ” Ma-Jiang Mian” 麻醬麵 It is very easy to prepare and most of the ingredients can be found at any western food store. My Taiwanese friend Sophie shared a recipe with me. I tried it but the measurements were very poor. I changed many things but I have a version of Ma-jiang Mian on my You tube page if you care to take a look.

    • Tuti

    My father is from Indonesia and as long as I can remember we bbq a lot of satay in the summer, accompanied ofcourse with peanut sauce. But I never made it with fresh peanuts before, always with peanut butter but now I must try your recipe. And peanut sauce with fries are something tippically Dutch, the Belgian find it disgusting! In the Netherlands we eat “patatje oorlog” which translates as “war fries”; these are dutch fries, thicker then the french ones but thinner then the flemmish ones, accompanied with peanut sauce, mayonaise and optional some raw chopped onion. You should come to the Netherlands and try it sometime. :-D

    • Claire

    Looks incredible – my stomach is rumbling.. Quick question.. in the list of ingredients you list peanut oil OR coconut milk… are they really that interchangeable in this recipe? I often have coconut milk in my pantry and to me it seems a more authentic ingredient, but I’m happy to be wrong.
    Am definitely making it this weekend.. I also am christening my Christmas icecream maker with a pistachio gelato, bodged a bit from your recipe – this would be less of a problem if it wasn’t already high summer and swimsuit season.. so far it looks and tastes delicious!!!

    • clairetweet

    By some strange quirk of fate I have all the ingredients (pretty much) to hand PLUS the snow is bucketing down outside. I think this might be what we have for dinner tonight. My son will love it. Thanks for sharing.

    • David
    David Lebovitz

    Claire: Actually in the restaurant they used to use only oil, but I thought that some readers might squirm at using that much oil, so coconut milk can be added.

    w: This is a recipe that I came up with and there are quite a few variations on peanut sauce. Bruce did write a book, Big Bowl, and perhaps his specific recipe is in there but I don’t have the book with me in Paris. (When I adapt recipes, I make a note of that here on the site.)

    I don’t know what the chiles are but linked to a site that does show quite a few chiles and can help folks determine what kind of chiles they have on hand.

    • Erica Howat

    This recipe looks like the real deal David. I recently finished a little baking blitz and am reminded about those butter sandwiches… they’re under-rated!!! : )

    • The Food Hound

    Haha, I’ve always wondered why pastry chefs aren’t all morbidly obese– now I know why!! This peanut sauce looks too good to be true. I will definitely roast my own peanuts– I think the texture of ground up peanuts will be so much better in this dish than smooth peanut butter. Thanks for sharing!! Can’t wait to make it!! PS- butter sandwiches sound oooohhhhhh so good!

    • chronicleofsweet

    I laughed out loud at the observation:

    “Bakers are known for eating things like butter sandwiches just because bread and butter are readily available and you don’t need to sit down to eat it or ask the line cooks if they had time to made you something more nutritious…So when people ask why so many pastry chefs and professional bakers aren’t enormous—well, that’s why.

    I am one of those thin pastry chef/bakers, and my friends and family lament that I am so skinny considering my profession…you nailed it right on the head. I eat bread and butter sandwiches a couple of times a day…sometimes a banana thrown in for good measure.

    The truth is that after so many little tastes of so much sugar and dough, a baker’s appetite for the sweet stuff is pretty much gone.

    Thank you for the laugh and the amazing recipe. I will definitely be jamming some of this down my craw (albeit with a napkin in my lap and a proper fork or pair of chopsticks) this weekend.

    As always David, you are a master of your craft.

    • Liza

    I love peanut sauce, but my roommate is deathly allergic to peanuts and thus I don’t want to bring them into the house. Any advice on other nuts to use that would make a good sauce with a comparable flavor?

    • David
    David Lebovitz

    Liza: I would try a mix of almond and sesame seeds. You might want to use tahini (sesame paste) since it’s hard to get them ground finely in a blender or food processor because they’re so small.

    • Armand

    David, in Europe the default and correct time format is 06/01/2011…

    • Paul

    Got the ingredients in yesterday and made tonight. Awesome! Thank you :-)

    • Kiki

    Oh.My.God. You are my new best friend. Since relocating from Brooklyn to Paris a few years ago, this has been one of the few dishes that I really missed from back home.
    Have a recipe for roast pork egg foo young up your sleeve perhaps?

    • Jim

    This is a must try! Maybe this weekend. Thanks David.

    • Liza

    Thanks for the tips! I’ll give the almond/tahini mix a whirl :)

    • Jane

    Thank you for this. It’s rainy, hot & humid here in Australia, and this looks like the perfect thing for dinner. Just made the sauce (DELICIOUS), and am poaching the chicken as we speak, with a few sneaky ginger slices in the pot as well. As far as I’m concerned, this is the only way to cook chicken breast so that it stays moist and tasty. Merci beacoup!

    • lotta

    Hi David! Can’t wait to try this! I’ve been in Paris the past few weeks and haven’t really come across an Asian store. Any suggestions? Preferably in the 11th but anywhere really? Thanks so much!!!

    • Sandra

    We aren’t great fans of Chinese food, and the Boston area has some really good Chinese restaurants. I have made attempts at Chinese food, but never with a decent recipe. This sounds amazing and I absolutely printed it out and intend to give it a go. Yummy!! Thanks for sharing

    • AlanaD

    I’m wondering how this would taste with battered tofu…in any event I’m excited about trying the peanut sauce.

    • Kei

    Hi David,
    Thank you for posting this recipe. I too, worked w/Bruce Cost but at his Palo Alto restaurant, back in the early 90’s…Wow! I loved his Fresh Noodles w/Peanut Sauce, the Sticky Ribs, & his won tons!!! His Kung Pao Chix, was to die for & yes, I do agree, I too have been spoiled by Bruce’s KP Chix.
    As servers, we used to go to the back of the kitchen & grab handfuls of the freshly fried peanuts, burn our hands & mouths, but they’re the best tasting peanuts you’ll ever eat! Yes, the Peanut Sauce was poured liberally over my bowl of rice too. I also used to pour the dipping sauce that we used for the won tons over the rice. Those were the best lunches/snacks of all times!
    I felt that I had the best Asian food teacher in the world, Bruce Cost. He was such a passionate teacher in the kitchen. I loved to watch him cook & explain why he did things this way, or that way. Those were the days.
    Thanks for bringing back some great memories!

    • Kris Mulkey

    Nice! And thanks for answering all the anticipated questions. Very thoughtful! ‘Cuz you know we’re going to ask.

    • Jill Davies-Shaw

    I made this recipe tonight and it was perfect. I will never make another peanut sauce recipe again. So delicious, so fragrant, so fresh tasting. This will be on heavy rotation in my kitchen. Bye bye skinny pants.

    • Charlene E.

    Hi David, This peanut sauce recipe sounds really good!! I don’t have my own kitchen right now, maybe my roommate will let me try some recipes. I had a funny image of you expanding & being unable to fit into your Paris apartment! :-)
    Announcer: “Peanut sauce can be a hazard to the waistline, enjoy in moderation….”

    • starcook

    Absolutely fantastic. The best pasta I have tried for a long time.

    Thank you for the recipe. My children were very satisfied


    • Jessica

    Cold noodles have always been nostalgic for me, although i have never had it with coconut milk or hot tea and now i can’t wait to try it. my mom is famous in Taiwan for making her “liang mien”. she never used peanuts though, always super chunky peanut butter, which i guess is somewhere in between the two extremes. and for whatever reason we tended to use spaghetti instead of chinese noodles, despite having an abundance of the latter.

    • Lisa Schultz

    David-Ran into Bruce last night over at Quince. We were talking about you, Kelly, Ben, and everybody else from that great year at Monsoon. Next time in SF, come over and lets make a meal from 20 years ago!! Shrimp toast, the ribs, coriander salad, and a whole steamed fish. Yummy!

    • T Crossley

    I made the peanut sauce last night, and after sitting in the refrigerator overnight, it seems quite thick. Is it best to warm the sauce in the microwave before trying to use it on cold noodles?

    • David
    David Lebovitz

    T Crossley: There’s no need to warm it; just let it sit at room temperature then add some hot water or tea to it; stir enough in until it’s the desired consistency.

    Lisa: I miss you all! We had so much fun at that restaurant, didn’t we?

    Kei: Bruce is a fantastic cook-glad you got to eat some of his food, too!

    • Sian Breslin

    Hi, I was forwarded your blog by a friend who has been reading and attempting your recipes for a while. The recipes themselves and the images to accompany them are fantastic. I look forward to making your blog a regular read.

    • Tina

    I love peanut and I would definitely try this peanut sauce. This is really fantastic. One of my new year’s resolutions is to learn how to cook and it is so amazing that in just few days I have learned a lot. Thanks for all your help through your blog.

    • Jess

    Well, YUM, Peanut Sauce in the title is like saying: click here if you want to see a recipe for pure deliciousness.

    • Hanna

    I just made this last night and my eyes almost popped out of my head when I took my first bite. This is the best thing I have eaten in a good long while. Simple, absolutely scrumptious, and spot on. Thank you for sharing!

    • Rochelle Eissenstat

    Shalom David! I love this peanut sauce with noodles, chicken, and cucumbers!
    I could not resist trying the sauce with other things. It was fabulous with a melange of stir fried [or steamed] shredded green cabbage, shredded carrots, and thinly sliced onion, with small cubes of firm bean curd. For anyone looking for a lower carb & lower calorie peanut sauce dish, they could try that combination, eliminating the peanut oil altogether. I could not decide which I preferred – bean curd or chicken with the peanut sauce recipes – they are both delicious.

    • Erin

    I just made this for dinner using creamy peanut butter instead of the peanuts. It turned out great! We ate it with shredded chicken over brown rice.

    • Deborah


    I’m just now reading this post on Chinese New Year Day/Year of the Rabbit. I love when you write about your experiences as a professional pastry chef as I was either too poor or living too far away to eat at the restaurants you worked at. I now have the great fortune of working with Bruce Cost on his Fresh Ginger Ale but haven’t experienced a Bruce Cost-cooked meal yet. I’m working on it though!

    Gung Hay Fat Choy! May the new year bring you peace, good health and prosperity!


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