What’s for Lunch? Sesame Noodles with Asparagus

[Ed. note: Today's post comes from Abby Knoblauch, an Assistant Professor of English at Kansas State University, who teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in composition and rhetoric, persuasion, and popular culture. She maintains a blog at Whole Houses. She's also a foodie.]

Over the next weeks, we at ProfHacker will focus our lunch specials on in-season vegetables since spring and summer are times when we have vegetable bounties. Asparagus is one of those vegetables that is coming into season now. Asparagus is low in calorie and it’s a good source of many vitamins and minerals. If you have a favorite vegetable (or vegetable recipe), please leave suggestions in comments below and we’ll do our best to find a recipe that can be modified for a lunch dish.

The following recipe comes from Deborah Madsen’s Vegetarian Cooking For Everyone. It’s a potluck favorite and is good hot or cold. This is one of those recipes that can be a bit pricey for start-up because a few of these items aren’t necessarily in everyone’s kitchen, but after that, it’s pretty cheap.

Sesame Noodles with Asparagus

  • 1/4 C. sesame oil
  • 3 Tbsp dark (or toasted) sesame oil
  • 7 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 3 Tbsp Chinese black or balsamic vinegar (I use balsamic)
  • 3 1/2 Tbsp dark brown sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp chili oil (I use Mongolian fire oil)
  • 1 Tbsp ginger
  • 1-2 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 C. cilantro (optional)
  • 1 bunch asparagus
  • 1 bunch scallions
  • 1/4 C. sesame seeds (optional)
  • 1 package whole wheat thin spaghetti or 14 oz. pkg Chinese rice noodles (I use whole wheat pasta)


  • 1/4 C sesame oil
  • 3 Tbsp dark sesame oil
  • 7 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 3 1/2 Tbsp dark brown sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp chili oil
  • 1 Tbsp fresh minced ginger
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1/4 C. cilantro, chopped


Mix together and stir to dissolve sugar.


The noodles and asparagus:

  1. Rinse asparagus and trim off woody ends (about 1/4 inch on bottom).
  2. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add a little salt and the trimmed asparagus. Boil until bright green and tender firm, just a few minutes. Remove asparagus from boiling water and rinse under cold water to stop cooking. Set on towel to dry.
  3. Cook noodles according to package in the (already boiling) asparagus water. (If you’re using rice noodles, make sure you pull the noodles apart with your fingers before adding to the boiling water.) Strain noodles. (If using rice noodles, rinse under cold water and shake off excess water.)
  4. Rinse and trim the “roots” off the scallions, then thinly slice scallions, including some firm greens.
  5. Toss noodles with marinade, most of the scallions, and most of the toasted sesame seeds and asparagus. Mound them in a bowl or on a platter and garnish with the remaining asparagus, scallions, and sesame seeds.


To toast sesame seeds:
You can do this on the stove top or in the oven. If toasting on the stove top, use a wide frying pan. Heat the seeds on medium heat, shaking pan occasionally. Remove seeds when they start to darken and become fragrant (3-5 min). If doing this in the oven, preheat oven to 325 F. Spread the seeds on a baking sheet. Bake until seeds start to darken and become fragrant — 10-15 minutes. Let cool.

Refrigerate leftovers. This heats up fine for leftovers as lunch. It’s also nice served cold for lunch or for a summer potluck.

How about you? Asparagus is a lovely food when it’s fresh during the spring and summer. What do you do with this marvelous vegetable? Please leave suggestions in comments below.

[Image by Flickr user hoveringdog and used under the Creative Commons license.]

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