Thursday, September 2, 2010

Spicy Sesame Noodles: On trying to find balance

I find myself struggling these days to find balance, especially where the education of Daughters and Son are concerned.  The public school teacher in me wants to trust the educational system set up in my home state, where I was credentialed, and the mother and achiever in me finds constant dissatisfaction at the education Daughter #1 is receiving, as she is bored.  How much time do I allow for her to be bored?  I supplement with her all the time, providing additional work activities, asking her to do more, try harder, and to push herself beyond what the class is doing.  I'm not sure if I'm doing the right thing, but I find myself seeking that balance.  I want a healthy, happy child who knows what it means to work.  I want Son and Daughter to find joy in the every day, but I want them to be studious and know how to buckle down and work when it comes down to it.

Any of my close friends who have talked with me recently know what an unbalanced person I am these days.  The state of education in California constantly causes me moments of complete outrage and I've even thrown something at a wall out of sheer frustration after a conversation with a friend led me down a path to study some statistics which gave me pause.  The statistics made me mad and so I threw a box of paper clips at the wall, and left a dent.  This is not the act of a balanced person.  I know this.  The ranting and raving I've been caught doing in recent weeks are also not the actions of a balanced person.

In the quiet moments of the day, I wrestle with myself to find my inner balance and to make peace with the life that God has so richly blessed me with.  My beautiful Girls, my handsome Son, my loving Husband, my wonderful Friends - all blessings from God and that is what helps me swing my pendulum back under control.  And in those quiet moments, sometimes I remember that the statistics, the numbers, the education out there is less important, and my own life, my own reactions, my own behavior and actions are far more powerful in impacting Daughters and Son's lives.  If I can find my own balance, so can Son and Daughters.

I thought that this noodle dish represented my search for balance.  It is not hot or cold but warm.  It is spicy and sweet, sour and salty.  It is crispy and tender.  It is satisfying and yet leaves you wanting more.  It is, in essence , a series of sensations trying to come into balance.  And it is good.  It is probably a little too spicy for the average child, but spice loving Son loved it and ate more than his portion.  It is wonderful made ahead as it sits at room temperature for a couple of hours and is really delicious and satisfying.
Spicy Sesame Noodles
adapted from Williams Sonoma New American Cooking: California
Serves 4-6

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
4 large cloves of garlic, minced or pushed through a press
2 tablespoons peeled and minced fresh ginger
3 tablespoons sesame oil (the real Japanese or Korean toasted sesame oil - I like Kadoya brand)
2 tablespoons soy sauce (I use Kikkoman low sodium for all my cooking)
1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 lb spaghetti noodles, or angel hair noodles
6 spring onions, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro

In a small saucepan over medium heat, warm vegetable oil.  Add red pepper flakes and cook, stirring, until the oil becomes slightly red and the pepper is fragrant.  Add garlic and ginger and cook until fragrant and soft, about 1 minute.  Remove from heat.

In a small bowl, whisk together sesame oil, soy sauce, sugar, balsamic vinegar, sugar and salt.  Whisk in the garlic-ginger mixture.  Set aside.

Cook noodles according to package directions.  Drain and rinse under cold water.  Transfer to a bowl.  Add sauce and coat the noodles.  Add scallions and coat the noodles.  Cover and let sit at room temperature for 1-2 hours. Just before serving add sesame seeds and cilantro.  Toss to coat.

Printable recipe
Balance on chopsticks.


ellie said...

joanne, my middle son lives, eats, breathes noodles! =) thanks for this new one. i'm curious, what stats? and ever think of homeschooling?

Joanne Choi said...

I was just studying year on year API scores for my school and my district and noticing how the same school scores have dropped over the past three years, yet our principal keeps on extolling what a great school we have. Not true if we are dropping compared to other schools.

I thought of homeschooling, but I think I have not the patience or discipline. Hence my quandary. But at least your son likes noodles! I hope he likes these!

Hannah C. said...

These noodles look yummy, I'll try making them for my family soon.
Totally sympathize with you on the frustrations with school. As a former public school teacher, you probably know the system well and have good reasons for having your kids there, but just wondering if you've ever considered Classical Christian education? Our kids go to Veritas Christian Academy and we love it, we're really impressed by the quality of education there ( They start each day with a morning devotion, curriculum is very rigorous & includes latin, rhetoric, etc. Just a thought! =) If you're interested feel free to email me,

Anonymous said...

This is Bee M.'s sister, Jenni. Love your site! Question: the amt. of soy sauce doesn't appear to be listed in the ingredients here (or else I'm going crazy)
Jenni Wong

Joanne Choi said...

Hannah - thanks for your comment. I'll have to look into it as it sounds more rigorous than what my daughter had now.

Jenni - I will correct my mistake! Thank you for finding it!

Anonymous said...

This looks like a great recipe. My kids LOVE noodles but nothing "spicy". I'm curious if you've tried it without the pepper flakes. Also, could it be made with soba or rice noodles? My kids eat traditional noodles so often, I like to mix it up sometimes. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

looks delicious! i also would like to know if this can be made non-spicy! thanks!

Joanne Choi said...

there are two non spicy noodles that kids really enjoy....links are below.

hyungmee said...

hey joanne,
isn't it a vicious circle where you supplement your child's learning, they become more advanced than their peers, then they are bored in class so you supplement more...? do you think you're pushing them too much at home?

my parents never put us in any summer school, tutoring thing or had us do school stuff during the summer. i struggle with whether to do the same with my kids or not. at chloe's last school, she was fine without any "pushing" or extra help. now, at her new school, i feel a little pressure to keep her in the top.

maybe she might do better at a different school (like a high-acheiving or gifted magnet?)?

just some rambling thoughts.

Christy said...

Yum, anything with sesame oil sounds good!!

Anonymous said...

Ahhh!! I have a friend who's been passing this recipe around for about 10 years - this recipe's known in our circle as "Perfect Sesame Noodles" which just about covers it!

Googlover/keishua said...

you are a life savor. I have been look for a good sn recipe forever.

Tracie said...

I've made these twice and loved them each time. They were great freshly made, and just as good if not better after a couple days. Thank you!

Sarah@Buttered Up said...

Amazing list of ingredients. I bet the merge beautifully. :)

dining room table said...

This is good! I have always loved noodles. And this one looks so tasty!

Medifast Coupons said...

Thank you for your spicy noodle recipe, sounds so good, I love spicy noodles as a leftover and eating them cold. A middle of the night craving thing I have going on. Now I can make as much as I want and satisfy this crazy craving of mine.

Karly said...

Ooh, now I have a big craving for some noodles! These look fabulous!

Vegolicious said...

Mmmm these noodles look amazing.

I’d love for you to submit some of your beautiful photos, and a link to your posts, to my vegetarian food photo gallery showcasing the best vegetarian/vegan dishes on the web.

Pratima said...

Going to try this today ... awesome recipes Joanne !!

milk tea + polkadots said...

Mmm...I made this, your garlic ginger honey wings, and garlic and green beans last night for dinner. Everything was so tasty, and everybody got seconds! It was so good, my husband actually took some leftovers to work today. He RARELY eats leftovers! Gosh I love your wings recipes! :)

Oh but I have a question... How do you get your wings to be so golden brown? I took them out after 45 min and the inside was done. They didn't even turn brown after I drizzled the honey/vinegar and baked for another 5 min. My husband ended up browning them up on the frying pan. They looked a lot more appetizing with a bit of color. Haha.

Anonymous said...

Wow, I made this for dinner last night and it was amazing! I am currently eating the leftovers for lunch and the flavours are even more infused in the noodles! I will definitely be making this recipe often.

Anonymous said...

Adjusted the measurements for a single portion and used soba noodles instead, seemed more fitting. Turned out beautifully as a side to a cilantro sweet chili salmon. Definitely a keeper.


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