James Kenji Lopez-Alt is a chef and food writer. He’s been called the “nerd king of cooking” and he’s done plenty to earn that title. Unlike us plebs who pour a bowl of cereal, when Kenji gets a bit peckish in middle of the night, magic happens. The man’s half-asleep dishes are better than what most of us can whip up at our best.
What Kenji makes is less complicated than it is clever. His sauce is chili oil, Sichuan peppercorn, ground peanuts, soy sauce, chinkiang vinegar, tahini, garlic, scallions, cilantro, sugar (amounts unknown). Most people probably don’t have all those things laying around, but improvise a little. Kenji certainly did.
The most fascinating part of the dish is the noodles themselves. In order to approximate the alkaline noodles that would be found in Chinese or Japanese cooking, Kenji boiled regular spaghetti with a bit of baking soda to make them “bouncier.” (Dang that’s smart.)
Late nights are a good time to open up the cupboards and play jazz—as long as your idea of off-the-cuff cooking isn’t Kool-Aid chicken.