Mesmerized by the Chinese noodle soup you had in a restaurant and fantasized making them at home? Let me introduce a few that I grew up with.
1. Fresh Hokkien Egg Noodles
This noodle is known to me as 熟面 (shu mian) but the more accurate name should be 福建油面 (fu jian you mian) or Hokkien Egg Noodles.
It is a type of cooked noodles and it is fairly oily. It is yellow in colour and thick. To use, parboil for 2 minutes before serving in soup to get rid of the excess oil. It is used in prawn noodle soup 虾面汤 (xia mian tang), 炒粿条 (chao guo tiao) and 福建炒面 (fu jian chao mian) (also known as fried dark hokkien noodles).
2. Wheat and egg noodles
This type of noodle is made with wheat flour and water, and sometimes eggs are added. There are many variations in terms of thickness. Handmade noodles such as 拉面 (la mian) is a recent favourite. Another perennial favourite is instant noodles.
Wheat noodles can be sold in dried form or fresh form. They are very versatile. Cooked in soup, stir-fried, deep fried and even baked.
Here's a recipe using fresh egg noodles and store-bought roast duck.
Noodle soup with roast duck and amaranth
2 tbsp canola oil
1/4 cup finely chopped shallot
5.5 cups of chicken broth
1.5 inch piece fresh ginger, bruised
2 star anise
Half a stick cinnamon stick
3/4 pound fresh Chinese egg noodle
1 tbsp fish sauce
1/2 pound amaranth, cut into 4-inch pieces
1/2 Chinese roast duck, cut into thick pieces
In a large pot over medium-high heat, heat the oil
Add shallot and saute for 15 seconds until fragrant
Add the broth, bring to a boil
Lower the heat to a simmer
Add the ginger, star anise and cinnamon stick
Cover and simmer for 30 minutes to bring the flavor out
Cook the noodles in a large pot of boiling water until al dente
Drain and set aside
Remove the ginger, cinnamon stick and star anise
Add the fish sauce to taste
Add the amaranth and cook for 1 minute
Divide the noodles among 4 bowls
Ladle the soup over them
Heat up the roast duck in the oven or microwave
Place the heated duck pieces on top of the noodles
Serve at once
This recipe is also a good alternative for using leftovers. Pot roast, roast lamb, turkey, chicken and etc. Prepare the soup noodle and topped it with the leftovers. That's it.
3. Flour Vermicelli
My most loved noodle is flour vermicelli or 面线 (mian xian). It literally means wheat threads because the noodle strand is very thin.
It is one of my favorite noodles as I like the soft smooth silky texture. It is almost always served in thickened soup because the noodles themselves is starchy. Leave a bowl of mian xian soup for a while and the mian xian will expand and turn the soup thick. Love it!
4. Rice noodles
This is made from rice flour and are available in broad sheets, round threads, or vermicelli (like angel hair pasta).
The broad sheets is known as 粿条 (gou tiao) in mandarin, great in fishball soup. The vermicelli is known as 米粉 (mi fen) in mandarin.
Rice vermicelli is usually sold dried while the broad sheets are usually sold fresh. All rice noodles have a translucent appearance and will turn white when cooked.
5. Mung bean vermicelli
This noodle is made from mung bean starch and water. Common names include bean threads or glass noodles. The most common name is cellophane noodle because they resemble cellophane after they are cooked. In mandarin, it is known as 粉丝 (fen si).
I like mung bean vermicelli in hot soups, Vietnamese spring rolls and salads. Grandma also like to stir-fry it with mixed vegetables. It needs to be parboiled or soaked to soften it if used in non-soupy dishes.
Bean threads should not be confused with rice vermicelli 米粉 (mi fen). Both have thin hairlike threads but rice vermicelli is made from rice flour and are whitish in color even after it has been cooked.
Glass noodles are commonly used in soups, mixed vegetables dishes and more recently, salads.
I grew up with one type of mung bean noodle -- the thin hairlike threads that resemble vermicelli. In recent years, there are many more varieties from Thailand, Vietnam and Korea that have appeared in Singapore. These may not necessarily be made from mung bean. Some of them are made from potato and tapioca starch. They look similar and have similar texture and bounce.
The recipe below is a simple cellophane noodle soup with some ground pork and bok choy.
Glass noodles with pork and bok choy
The meat and vegetables can be substituted with other ingredients. Chicken or beef for pork and lettuce leaves for bok choy.
150g minced pork
100g pak choy (xiao bai cai)
100g dried glass noodles (fen si)
500ml soup stock
A dash of sesame seed oil
Salt and pepper
A tsp minced ginger
1 tsp soy sauce
Chopped spring onions
Add soy sauce, minced ginger and chopped spring onions to the minced pork. Mix well and leave to stand for a while
Bring a pot of water to a boil, use a spoon to scoop and shape the minced pork into a ball and place them into the boiling water. Repeat until all minced pork have been used up
When cooked, the meat balls will float to the surface. Let the meat balls float for a minute or so before taking them out of the water
Strain the water used to cook the meat balls to get rid of any small bits of meat. Reheat to a boil
Add the bean threads, the vegetables, and lastly, the cooked meat balls
Add salt to taste
It is ready when it boils again
Add sesame seed oil and pepper just before serving
I thought I know a lot about Chinese noodles until I started writing this page. I know so little. Trying to find English equivalent names and grappling with bad translated versions has been frustrating. I'll come back to work on more details in the future. In the meantime, if you have questions, just ask.