Of the several recipes I learnt how to make during my class at Jodie’s Kitchen — a homely cooking school up on Elephant Mountain — the one I loved the most was sesame paste. It is amazingly versatile, and is the secret to making an absolutely fabulous sauce for Sichuan cold noodles. Once you have tried freshly roasted paste made with nothing artificial, it will be hard to ever go back to plain store-bought sauces again.
Sesame paste is more usually made using white sesame seeds, and for flavour the addition of some roasted peanuts. But black sesame seed paste is also delicious, with a slightly different texture. I didn’t realise until the cooking class that sesame seeds are a rich source of calcium, which is probably one of the many reasons that sesame seeds (including oil) feature so prominently in Chinese postpartum confinement (zuo yuezi) foods.
Sesame paste is easy to make — especially if you have a powerful food processor, blender or coffee grinder. Jodie uses a high-powered Vitamix (she wrote the Chinese-language cookbook for the brand), but anything that will pound the seeds to a semi-fine texture will do the trick.
1/2 cup black or white roasted sesame seeds
1/2 cup roasted peanuts
1 tablespoon Taiwanese black sugar (brown sugar)
120 ml oil
1 teas salt
- Grind the sesame seeds and peanuts until fine.
- Add the rest of the ingredients and blend well.
- Store in an airtight jar at room temperature (mixture will congeal a little if left in the fridge, although it will fix itself when brought back to room temperature).
Jodie’s suggestions for usage: serve with noodles, blanched vegetables, grilled meats or as a hot-pot dipping sauce. You can jazz it up by adding chopped garlic, ginger, soy sauce, vinegar or other flavours.