Over the last week,
noodles have been on my mind, spicy Chongqing noodlestopped with minced pork and
peas (重庆豌杂面), braised noodles
with green beans (扁⾖焖面), wide and stretchy Shaanxi biang biang noodles, chewy cold udondipped
in hot miso broth, noodles covered in dark brown soybean paste (炸酱面), and of course salty but comforting Instant ramen. My mind is tricking me intoconsuming more carbs while I
have been trying to cut it down. To me,
they areentangled cuddles.
The screen of my phone lights
up, it says ‘rediscover this day’ and
shows a pictureof a friend of mine slurping
from a bowl of Lanzhou beef noodles,
while trying tosave her hair from falling into the bowl with one hand. I remember she arrivedhungry that night when restaurants started to put their chairs up on the tablesand
street food stalls
the narrow back streets of every universityin
Beijing. It would have been nice to
have some shaokao (barbecued skewers)
ona summer night and we’d have grilled Chinese
mushrooms, tofuskin dusted with chilli flakes, a few
lamb skewers smothered in chilli powder andcumin
and two bottles of beer. Instead, standing
out in a cold windy night, wecraved a hot bowl of noodle soup that warms our bodies up.
My mom grew up
in the northwest of China where I
spent many summer holidayswith her when I was little. We’d start our days eating Lanzhou beef noodles
andfinish off with Qinghai yogurt.
In the northwest, people take Lanzhou beefnoodles very seriously. A perfect bowl of Lanzhou beef noodle is rated based on“1 clear, 2 white, 3 red, 4 green,
5 yellow” (⼀清、⼆⽩、三红、四绿、五⻩) to signifythe clear butaromatic
broth, Chinese radish,
bright red chilli
oil, greengarnish and yellowish hand-pulled noodles. There are several levels of thicknessand widths to choose
from depend on your mood of the
thinner,thin and thick (⽑细，细，三细，⼆细，粗); and triangular,
wide, wider (三⻆棱，⾲叶，宽). No matter what size your noodles are, they are guaranteed for theirspringy and chewy texture.
The first time I left home and moved out for university in Beijing, I found myselfkeep going back to a Lanzhou
beef noodles restaurant nearby. I never got boredof
eating that noodles
and the noodle bar has become a place for me to feel grounded, a dock for recharging, which I have been longing for in London after Imoved here two years later.
When the Time Out magazine became Time In, like many others, I enjoyed baking
(or kneading) my way through the lockdowns. On somedays we’d have bagels forbreakfast, flatbread for lunch and apple pies for dinner. This time consuming
andyet therapeutic activity has become a natural countermove I took against thestress, boredom and an urge to stay connected
with people, but I’ve
neverthought that I can make Lanzhou beef noodles myself, it is a challenging recipe toreplicate at home.
Lanzhou beef noodle soup, is a Chinese Hui Muslim style
food from Gansu, north west of China,
viewed as a regular choice of breakfast
for the locals. In countlessof
noodle bars across China, the real actions
of pleasant morning chaos arebehind
the stacked up serving trays, blue and white porcelain bowls and a boilingcauldron. The mountain of dough is stretched
and folded by hand into a soft andsmooth duvet, greased generously with oil underneath
and gradually throughoutthe entire pile of dough.
A two men team repeats a physically demanding processof stretching, pulling,
kneading and folding,
then the dough is pulled on
twoends, twisted together
and slammed onto the counter until it gets strong andelastic
enough to hand- pull without
the risk of breaking. Once the dough is ready,it gets cut into logs in a size of a standard
soda can for single servings, pulledindividually to arm’s length, doubled back after each
stretch, moved throughfloured surface to keep from sticking and repeated a few times to reach desiredthickness and tossed into the steaming
cauldron. The cooked noodles are then
placed into deep, wide bowls, covered in a handful
of coriander and garlic sprouts (no, not scallions!), poured over with hot broth made of beef bones and white radish, and topped with two scoops of chili oil. I’ve always liked to pair it with some
extra slices of beef and cold
side dishes like seaweed
salad and pickledcabbages.
I cannot tell
you how much I am craving for the Lanzhou beef noodles
as I amwriting this, I hope that one day, maybe one day I will be ready to make thenoodle soup myself and enjoy
a simplified, less authentic version
of it. It is stillchallenging meal to cook.
去年年初疫情升级，伦敦进入封锁状态，城市生活指南《Time Out》杂志也应景推出Time In 专栏介绍在家中打发时间的好方法。与许多人⼀样，我也在厨艺和烘焙技巧上投入了许多时间来消磨居家隔离的无趣。有时做太多⼀时间吃不完，于是只能以早餐吃贝果，午餐吃西式薄饼，晚餐吃苹果派的方式消耗掉。尽管这样的搭配不太符合理想的均衡饮食，烘焙这项耗时但却治愈的活动意外地成为我排遣压力、对抗无聊的方式。我也曾想过自己做兰州牛肉面，但想要复刻这个食谱还是颇具挑战性。