I’m back this week with another recipe with another hard-to-find ingredient. I just can’t help myself trying to use exotic food items.

The last time I was in Des Moines, I stopped at my favorite shop, Allspice, to get Szechuan peppercorns, and other unique spices, herbs and olive oils.

When I was looking for salads this week, I wondered why this Asian noodle salad hadn’t been checked off, and realized I’d been waiting until I had Szechuan peppercorns. Now was the time.

Fair warning, these peppercorns have a unique, almost tongue-numbing taste that some may prefer to skip anyway. The noodles are easy to find, because they’re probably already in your pantry — ramen.

Asian Noodle Salad

For chile oil:

3 scallions, thinly sliced

2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1 teaspoon star anise powder

2 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes

1 tablespoon ginger, minced (I’m sure I used more)

1 teaspoon Szechuan peppercorns, optional

1/2 cup vegetable oil

For noodle salad:

6 ounces ramen noodles (two packages, cooked according to directions without flavor packets, rinsed with cold water)

2 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar

2 teaspoons honey

1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil

2 cups shredded cooked chicken (about 2 breasts)

3 scallions, sliced

About 1/2 large English cucumber, thinly sliced (or you can use about 2/3 a regular cucumber)

4 radishes, thinly sliced

1 cup cilantro leaves, chopped

For chile oil, mix all ingredients in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat, swirling occasionally until scallions and garlic are just golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Let cool and transfer to a jar or glass measuring cup for easy pouring.

For the noodle salad, in a large bowl, mix together soy sauce, vinegar, honey and oil. Add noodles, chicken, scallions, cucumber and radishes; toss to coat. Add cilantro and give it one more good stir.

Just before serving, drizzle salad with chile oil, and enjoy!

Christinia Crippes is a Courier reporter who loves to cook. Read her blog at www.wcfcourier.com.