Sunday, January 30, 2011

Knife-peeled Chinese noodles

"I would like some noodles."  So read my niece (Amy's brother's daughter) Sarah's facebook page on Wednesday.  She was coming to dinner on Friday and even  provided a helpful link to last week's NY Times article  discussing the noodle resurgence in NY's Chinatown and its spread beyond to places like Hung Ry in the East Village.  So I took the bait.  Though I generally don't bake or make my own noodles or pasta, I was intrigued.  While I, and every other person who saw the video posted on the Times website probably wanted to make the hand-pulled noodles, I realized that it was post-graduate noodle making and I wasn't yet in middle school.  So I thought that it would be easy to do what are called knife peeled noodles.  This are noodles scraped off a hunk of dough into boiling water, a bit like spaetzle but more noodle-y.  I have had these in Chinatown, but the best version I have had was at the snack bar of the airport in Guilin in China.  The noodles are irregular in shape and tender and chewy at the same time.

I found that this was not as easy to execute as it sounds. I made the dough and got a fine coating of flour all over the kitchen kneading, slapping and generally abusing it into resilience.  This was kind of fun since it made it easy to slide around on the floor and I don't thing that Amy has noticed.  I sharpened a variety of  knives well to help me scrape off the dough.  They didn't do much good, and I found that the noodle strip invariably stuck to the dough and didn't fly into the boiling water as it was supposed to.  However, the picture above from the Times shows the cook using some specific implement, which definitely looks like it is worth a run down to Chinatown.  But, I look at this as the beginning of a long journey.   Expect more posts on this in the future.

I served the noodles with squash and ginger broth with roasted vegetables, adapted from Hung Ry and also published in the Times. Sarah was very happy. They would also be quite wonderful with the Uighur lamb stew which I blogged about a few months ago.  I made some significant changes in the recipe:  I roasted the squash that was used to make the broth rather than just simmering it with ginger.  For vegetables, I used oven-roasted cauliflower and Brussels sprouts, pan-roasted butternut and kabocha squash, and pan-seared cremini mushrooms.  When you roast the vegetables for this recipe, however, do not use salt and use a vegetable or peanut oil or spray instead of olive oil. It may have just been the particular squashes (each squash, like each cheese is an individual), but we all found that the butternut added much more flavor than the kabocha.  (I could do the whole recipe here with my modifications, but this post is getting long enough already.)

I cobbled the noodle dough together from a variety of places on the web and some cookbooks.  This recipe serves 4-8 people, depending on their appetites. I may try it next time with bread or semolina flour, and keep you all posted.  This is the beginning of a long journey:

Knife-peeled noodles, cut 1

  • 4 cups flour  (I used all purpose, next time I will try bread or semolina flour, though that latter would be very inauthentic.)
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 12 oz water
  • up to 2 cups additional flour for kneading
  1. Put the 4 cups of flour in a large mixing bowl and mix in the cornstarch and the salt.  Slowly mix in the water until it starts to adhere into a sticky dough. 
  2. Turn the dough out on to a floured surface.(I used a cutting board but could just as well have used the counter since flour got everywhere anyway.)
  3. Dust your hands with flour and knead for 15-20 minutes.   This should be good exercise.  Don't be afraid to be rough with the dough.  You won't hurt it.  In addition to folding it over and pressing it with your heel, ever few minute slap the dough down hard on the board.  I don't know if this actually does any good, but it feels great and seems to relax the gluten  in the dough. You will knead to dust your hands, the dough and the work surface with flour several times.  I found I used well over a cup of additional flour during kneading.
  4. When is the dough done?  Is Batman a transvestite?  The answer to both questions is "Who knows?"  But, when it feels both elastic and supple, you can stop kneading.  (Who knows still seems more accurate.)
  5. Flour the dough, and wrap in in wax paper and let it rest for 15 minutes to a few hours. 
  6. Bring at least 4 cups of water to the boil and add salt.
  7. Divide the dough into 2 or 3 blobs, put on a board or hold in your hand, and shave off pieces of dough into the boiling water.  Think scraping gyros or shawarma but horizontally.  If this doesn't work, you can sort of cut thinish pieces of dough on the board and scrape them into the pot, but only do a few pieces at a time since they tend to stick together before they are in the boiling water.
  8. Once you have shaved in all the dough, cook for 3-5 minutes.  Check the noodles.  They should range from tender to chewy but not be raw and floury.
  9. Either scoop out the noodles with a strainer or drain in a colander.  If you are not serving immediately in soup, you can oil them lightly, leave them at room temperature and reheat them briefly in either boiling water or the soup.

No comments:

Post a Comment