The Meal I Eat When I’m Feeling Nostalgic: Sesame Noodles

Food Network host Molly Yeh dishes the deets on a pasta inspired by her heritage. 
Molly Yeh serving sesame noodles
Blue Apron

In SELF’s franchise The Meal I Eat When I’m Feeling…, we talk with chefs, celebs, athletes, and people in the culinary space about the specific foods or meals they turn to amid certain emotions—and how eating their favorites plays a vital role in their self-care.

When Food Network star Molly Yeh left Brooklyn in 2014, she was looking to reconnect with rural life, she tells SELF. And she fully embraced it after she established a home on a Midwestern farm with her family. When she’s not on set baking chocolate-hazelnut mooncakes or developing quick, fun meal kit recipes with Blue Apron, she’s taking advantage of easy access to seasonal, locally sourced ingredients and spending time with her kiddos in the kitchen

But continually coming up with creative dishes can be challenging due to her packed schedule, even in an idyllic location on the North Dakota–Minnesota border. The cookbook author is busy: Yeh is raising a one- and a four-year-old, taking care of a farm, and dropping new recipes on her blog. “Now that I have two little kids, I am all about convenience,” she says.

Luckily, though, she has a deep well of insights to inform her culinary adventures—and keeps them hassle-free too. Yeh typically taps into her family’s heritage to get inspired in the kitchen, she says. The Girl Meets Farm host is Chinese and Jewish, and her husband, Nick, is Norwegian, so she leans on that combo to fuel her recipe brainstorms.

One such dish is her take on sesame noodles, which she describes as both nostalgic and a time-saver. Yeh’s sesame noodles come together in as little as 15 minutes and muster up memories from her college days. When she flew back to her hometown of Glenview, Illinois, from Juilliard during her breaks, Yeh’s mom would greet her at the airport with a batch of homemade sesame noodles, she says. The simple dish was her mom’s labor of love—in pasta form—and it filled her with so much happiness. 

Now, when she’s craving that same taste, she whips up a batch of her own. Yeh keeps the base the same as an ode to her mom, but doesn’t shy away from exciting add-ins that make this meal shine. “I’m powerless against them,” Yeh says. “I could just shovel them into my mouth at any time of day, and I get that happy, nostalgic feeling.”

Yeh spoke with SELF to share why sesame noodles are her go-to for a quick meal, how she enjoys them for the ultimate mood boost, and how you incorporate them into your own rotation too.

1. Seek out seasonal vegetables.

One cool thing about this meal is how adaptable it is to locally sourced ingredients. “I am super inspired by the seasons and what’s fresh; food tastes better when it’s in season,” Yeh says.

The dish’s sesame oil base provides a rich, nutty flavor, which pairs well with many different kinds of veggies. Yeh recommends throwing in some brussels sprouts during the winter, and broccoli, leeks, bok choy, or zucchini to liven up the noodles in the summer. 

Farm life factors in strong here too. Whenever they have a harvest surplus, Yeh sends the extra veggies straight into the dish, so she always cooks up a big batch that lasts her family a couple of days. It’s a strategy Yeh grew up with—her dad would always remix leftovers to avoid food waste. “Leftovers were my dad’s favorite food group,” she says. 

2. Spice up the noodles. 

Yeh recreates this recipe often, and slurping on the same flavor time and again can get boring. So she finds creative ways to kick up the spice level to make sure each bite feels joyful, not mundane. “Sometimes I’m a sriracha girl, other times I’ve gotta do chili crisp,” Yeh says. If she’s looking for extra spice, she tends to lean toward the chili crisp because it brings on more heat.  

3. Serve them as the ultimate side dish—or eat them straight out of the fridge. 

This nostalgic meal is good on its own, but Yeh loves making big batches so that she can pair it with other foods, like grilled steak. The sesame-flavored noodles pair exceptionally well with the tender, smokey protein, she says. 

The dish isn’t just about dinner, either: It also makes a fantastic snack—or, in Yeh’s case, a nighttime, no-prep treat. One of Yeh’s favorite times to enjoy them is after she puts her kids to bed. That’s when she’ll go downstairs and devour the noodles while she’s “standing up in front of the fridge,” and eating “straight out of the leftover container,” she says. It pulls her right back to those special moments with her mom.

How to Make It: Sesame Noodles 


  • 1 lb. lo mein noodles
  • 10 oz. baby bok choy
  • 2 scallions
  • 3 Tbsp. roasted peanuts
  • 2 Tbsp. smooth peanut butter spread 
  • 2 Tbsp. sesame oil
  • 2 Tbsp. soy sauce 
  • 2 Tbsp. honey 
  • 2 Tbsp. vegetarian ponzu sauce 
  • 2 Tbsp. tahini
  • ¼ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes 


  • Fill a medium pot 3/4 of the way with salted water; cover and heat on high to boiling.
  • Wash and dry the fresh produce.
  • Cut off and discard the root ends of the bok choy; thinly slice crosswise.
  • Thinly slice the scallions, separating the white bottoms and hollow green tops.
  • Roughly chop the peanuts.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the peanut butter spread, sesame oil, soy sauce, honey, ponzu sauce, tahini, 2 Tbsp. of water, and as much of the red pepper flakes as you'd like, depending on how spicy you'd like the dish to be. Add the sliced bok choy and sliced white bottoms of the scallions; stir to combine.
  • Add the noodles to the pot of boiling water, stirring gently to separate. Cook, stirring occasionally, 2 to 4 minutes, or until tender. Turn off the heat.
  • Drain thoroughly and rinse under warm water for 30 seconds to 1 minute to prevent sticking.
  • Transfer to the bowl of dressed bok choy. Toss to thoroughly combine.
  • Serve the finished noodles garnished with the chopped peanuts and sliced green tops of the scallions.

Serves 4