27 May 2011

Kindling noodles (yi bin ran mian)

More noodles from Szechuan. Super easy. You are advised to make asap if you have not done so already dear reader.

  • noodles (I found plain flour ones worked very well)
  • chilli oil, soy sauce, sesame oil
  • walnuts, peanuts, sesame seeds
  • preserved vegetables, spring onions and green veg

Kindling noodles, so called because the noodles look like small sticks of wood allegedly, appear in Fuschia Dunlop's consistently interesting book Sichuan Cookery but this is my simplified version. She bakes the nuts in the oven which I think is a waste of time as they are easily toasted in a pan. She suggests chopping them down to the size of rice which I'm sure is the authentic way to do things - I suggest leaving some a bit chunky for textural variety. It is traditional to serve the noodles nude with piles of oil, veg and nuts on top for excitement, but I've just stirred everything together for ease.

Szechuan chilli oil is well worth making at home. It takes under five minutes. Get an empty jam jar that can take some hot oil without threatening your life with flying shards of glass, heat up some vegetable oil and pour it over dried chillies (whole and/or flaked), Szechuan peppercorns and a small amount of fennel seeds. It should go nice and red. I sometimes fry all the spices in the oil for a minute to get a good strong flavour going on and then decant the lot. The fennel adds a tang of aniseed, occasional but wonderful, to proceedings. When using the oil try dredging a bit of sediment from the bottom of the jar. Delish!

In a big bowl combine chilli oil with dashes of light and dark soy - you are going to need quite a decent amount but can of course top up later. Add preserved vegetables - if you use Tianjin (highly salted cabbage) it needs a rinse, if you go for something else (you can get cucumber, turnip, cabbage, mustard greens, kelp and more besides very cheaply in little pouches in East Asian supermarkets) it won't. Both options taste great. Again, you need a decent amount but can add more later.

the big bowl of goodness

Toast the same amount of walnuts and peanuts in a dry pan, stirring on a lowish heat. After four minutes add the same amount again of seasame seeds. Keep stirring for another three minutes. Pound roughly in a mortar and pestle, leaving a few lumps in for texture. You want a rich, oily paste to form to help coat the noodles. Add to the big bowl.

Put the noodles on to cook. They need loads of water. I never put enough in.

Fry spring onions and green vegetables of choice (a cabbage type vegetable is my favourite for Szechuan food but you could also use spinach, cucumber etc) and when they look good combine with all the other ingredients and add the drained noodles.

Stir and eat with the soy sauce, chilli and sesame oils your elbow.

apols for blurred pic

Well tasty, trust me. Nuts and chillis seem to have some special chemistry of mutual flavour augmentation. The basic mix of toasted nuts with chilli oil and soy sauce with noodles can of course take anything – leftover meat, a fried egg, egg cooked into the noodles, the preserved vegetables, tofu or just a glut of whatever is cheap and ripe down your market. It’s not something to be precious about: get experimenting!

1 comment:

  1. so very, very tasty. more please x