There have always been street vendors in China who have made a living by selling local specialties to the common folk. In the second century BC, the poet and statesman Jia Yi proposed a chain of "take-away" restaurants on the northern border, in order to attract China's chief barbarian scourge, the Mongols, to the side of civilization. Whether his idea was put into practice or not is obscure, but certainly during the Song dynasty ( AD 960-1279), it was possible to get food, tea or wine at almost any hour of the day or night in restaurants or in little stalls set up in the streets by the street vendors.
Shoulder pole carrying noodles is typical of the food sold by these entrepreneurial vendors. If customers would not come into the restaurants, then the food would be carried outside in baskets suspended on a bamboo pole across the shoulders in the normal manner of transporting goods. This dish is still popular in the streets (and restaurants) of Sichuan (Szechwan) province today.
- 1/2 pound egg noodles, fresh or dried (available in the refrigerated section at Chinese stores)
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 4 tablespoons chopped scallions
- 2 teaspoons hot bean paste [chili] (available at Chinese stores)
- 4 teaspoons white vinegar
- 1/4 cup light soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns, roasted and crushed optional (see Note below)
- 1 cup Family Chicken Broth
- For the Meat Seasonings:
- 2 tablespoons peanut oil
- 1/2 pound ground beef topside (sirloin) or ground pork
- 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon Shaoxing rice wine (available at Chinese stores ) or dry sherry
- Chopped scallions or cilantro leaves, for garnish
Companion recipe: Family Chicken Broth
FOR FRESH NOODLES:
Drop the noodles into a pot of boiling water and stir to separate. When the water comes to a boil again, add 1 cup of cold water and cook until the water returns to a boil. Drain the noodles in a colander, rinse under cold water and drain. Mix the noodles with the sesame oil.
FOR DRIED NOODLES:
These vary in cooking time, according to the instructions on the package (cook until they are tender but not soft). Place the noodles in a bowl and mix in the sesame oil. Keep warm over a pot of hot water.
In each serving bowl, place chopped scallions, 1/2 teaspoon of the hot chili bean paste, 1 teaspoon vinegar, 1 tablespoon light soy sauce and good pinch of Sichuan peppercorns. Divide the chicken broth equally among the bowls.
Heat the peanut oil in a preheated wok until almost smoking. Stir-fry the ground beef or pork until cooked through and no longer pink (about 1 minute). Add all of the seasonings and combine well.
Divide the noodles among the bowls so they are three-fourths filled. Top with the cooked meat, and garnish with a little chopped scallion or cilantro. Just before eating, stir the noodles to mix with the seasonings.
To crush the peppercorns, place the peppercorns into a hot dry wok or skillet and stir over low heat for 3-4 minutes, until the peppercorns are fragrant. Remove and grind in a coffee or spice grinder, or place between 2 paper towels and crush with a rolling pin.
Recipe reprinted by permission of Weldon Russell. All rights reserved.
nutrition information per serving
431 calories; 21g total fat; 85mg cholesterol; 1464mg sodium; 40g carbohydrates; 2g fiber; 19g protein
These nutrition facts are calculated according to the ingredients listed in this recipe. Any substitutions will change these facts. Although we strive for accuracy, please note that food manufacturers occasionally change their food formulas, which could affect the calculations as shown.