keito potato


Quarantine Version of Jamie Oliver's Mushroom Stroganoff

Quarantine is an interesting time to cook. We are stuck at home, but have unusual combinations of ingredients based on supermarket availability. Case in point. I’ve been eating oyster and enoki mushrooms this week because those were the only mushrooms available on my last grocery run. Instead of feeling frustrated by not being able to to perfectly replicate recipes, this is a great time to let go and experiment with substitutions.

For the last several months, I’ve been wanting to try Jamie Oliver’s mushroom stroganoff. When I became a vegetarian over 20 years ago, I would make Anna Thomas’ mushroom stroganoff in the Vegetarian Epicure. While delicious, it’s quite rich. I was excited about this new method which has a few pickly items like capers so you don’t have to rely on sour cream for 100% of the flavor.

Jamie Oliver’s cooking video for mushroom stroganoff can be found here. It’s cute to watch.

I don’t currently have big meaty mushrooms which it calls for, so I had to relax and make due with 2 varieties of oyster mushrooms. I thought the enoki’s might disappear in the sauce. My last grocery run was to a Chinese supermarket because I wanted to support Asian businesses. This is what they had!

The recipe calls for silverskin pickled onions. We had Japanese pickled scallions. It called for cornichons and we used Polish dill pickles. The recipe calls for creme fraiche, but I had Greek yogurt. We use a yellow onion instead of a red one. We omitted the parsley so our dish was less colorful than the original, but it was still delicious and satisfying. All of these minor substitutions worked.

The results were delicious and I want to use this recipe again. The pickly items like capers and sliced pickled scallions added something special. Oyster mushrooms are already slim when raw, so when cooked, they shrink down even slimmer, almost the same size as the sliced onions. In the future we hope to try it with more mushroom shapes, but this is still delicious! Be grateful for what you have. Also be grateful for beautiful spring weather for social-distance-walks.

Recipe for Jamie Oliver’s Mushroom Stroganoff

14 oz mixed mushrooms

1 red onion (I used a yellow onion)

2 cloves of garlic

4 silverskin pickled onions (I used Japanese pickled scallions)

2 cornichons (I used Polish pickles)

4 sprigs of fresh Italian parsley (I had to omit)

olive oil

1 tablespoon baby capers

3 tablespoons whisky

smoked paprika

3 oz half-fat creme fraiche or sour creme (I used Greek yogurt)

Method

Original version from the cookbook:

Get all the prep done before you start cooking: trip the mushroom, tearing up any larger ones and leaving any smaller ones whole, peel and finely slice the red onion and garlic, and finely slice the pickled onions and cornichons. Pick and roughly chop the parsley leaves, finely chopping the stalks.

Place a large non-stick frying pan over a high heat, throw in the mushrooms and red onions, shake into one layer, then dry-fry for 5 minutes (this will bring out the nutty flavor), stirring regularly. Drizzle in 1 tablespoon of oil, then add the garlic, pickled onions, cornichons, parsley stalks, and capers. After 3 minutes, pour in the whisky, tilt the pan to carefully flame, or light with a long match (watch your eyebrows!), and, once the flames subside, add 1/4 of a teaspoon of paprika, the creme fraiche and parsley, then toss together. Loosen with a splash of boiling water to a saucy consistency, and season to taste with sea salt and black pepper.

Divide between plates, sprinkle over a little paprika, and serve with fluffy rice.



Chinese Pear Soup for Lung Health
March 14, 2020, 6:23 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , ,

In this period of Covid-19 self quarantining, I thought I’d share a simple Chinese recipe for pear soup. According to traditional Chinese medicine, pears are good for your lungs. Covid-19 attacks the lungs, so right now we especially need to keep our lungs healthy.

Once in Nanjing when I was sick, a good friend came to my home to cook this pear soup for me. This week when I remembered the soup, I googled “pear lungs” to see if I was crazy, and a long list of articles appeared that argue for the link between pears and lung health. It’s not just hocus-pocus.

Think of it as a simple brothy compote. You cut pears into chunks, then poach in water until they are soft. It is important to keep the peel on. Some of the lung-healing magic is found in the peel. Ginger and honey are optional.

You can use any kind of pear you like. This week I picked up three varieties, which have slightly different flavors and textures. These huge red ones are cute, almost like red delicious apples.

In the current time of supermarket chaos and pandemic hoarding, pears are still in the stores. They’re not disappearing off the shelves like pasta, TP, and eggs. So, you should be able to find pears near you.

I decided to photograph the pears in my backyard after the rain. On a dark day, the house was too dark for photography. The backyard has a nice marshy atmosphere right now.

A few days ago I told my friend Sue that I was cooking this pear soup to help strengthen my lungs. She quickly exclaimed that in Korea people also poach pears when they’re sick. She said they often use ginger and sometimes stuff the ginger inside the pears to poach. I hadn’t had this with ginger before but it builds on the health benefits, and also makes the pear soup perky and more refined. I’m hooked.

Recipe

3-4 pears

1 inch ginger

filtered water

honey

Method

Core the pears but do not peel them. Cut the pears into roughly 1-inch chunks.

Peel the ginger and slice it.

Place the pear and ginger in a pot. Add enough filtered water to just cover the pears. Bring to a boil, then reduce to low.

Cover and simmer until the pears are soft and slightly translucent.

Serve warm or hot, with an optional half teaspoon of honey per bowl. If you make a large patch, this keeps well in the fridge for a few days.

Sending best wishes to all of you. Hope you stay safe and healthy.



Kung Pao Beyond-Meat Dumplings

This year I made dumplings all month leading up to Lunar New Year.  I wanted to experiment with a spectrum of fillings and also work on my wonton broth.  After numerous experiments, the hands-down favorite recipe was a Kung Pao filling using Beyond-Meat. It’s so delicious.

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When coming up with a veg filling for dumplings, my best piece of advice comes from my memory of an ancient Splendid Table episode. A caller asked former host Lynn Rosetto-Casper for advice on vegetarian dumpling fillings. She advised them to think of a delicious vegetarian Chinese stir-fried dish, but transform it into a minced texture workable for a filling (for instance stir-fried cabbage with ginger, scallions, and Shaoxing wine). This advice has worked well for me. Don’t just combine 2 raw ingredients in a filling and assume it will be delicious. Consider all of the components that make other Chinese dishes complex and addictive.

At my countless dumpling parties in China with my students, I learned from the students who were better cooks that they were adding aromatics to their egg or cabbage fillings to make them more tasty: ginger, 5-spice powder, Shaoxing wine and garlic all punched up the flavor and gave them dimension.

A good veg dumpling needs to have thoughtful aromatics like garlic, ginger, scallions. Maybe a splash of soy, sesame oil, or fragrant Shaoxing wine. This new Kung Pao dumpling recipe has a dollop of spicy Chinese fermented bean paste. Also consider something crunchy like water chestnuts or chopped peanuts.

I’ve often used scrambled eggs (as in this previous recipe) or crumbled tofu to create a soft binding for the filling, but now plant-based meats are a new option. In the last year, Beyond burgers have arrived as a new plant-based meat that doesn’t taste weird, and you don’t have have to limit it to burgers. Beyond Meat and similar brands make a ground hamburger style option to use for all sorts of non-sandwich dishes like meatballs, lasagna, chili, or dumplings.

The inspiration for this Kung Pao (Gong Bao) filling materialized when Carl and I were making wontons for dinner a few weeks before the Lunar New Year. I made a filling with Beyond Meat replacing the tofu in a wonton filling I’ve made for years. That filling had tofu with lots of ginger, scallion, garlic, minced spinach, and loads of chopped wok-fried peanuts. I’ve always loved how this filling marries ginger with roasted peanuts. Carl thought it was okay but too gingery for him. He got to work to invent something more exciting. As a former Olympic hopeful, he’s extremely competitive. He used the rest of the Beyond Meat package, then a pile of minced aromatics: onion, scallions, garlic, and ginger (but less ginger than mine). I had never put minced onions in a dumpling filling, but he’s more bold with onions and it worked this time. He also claimed the rest of the pile of peanuts that I had freshly fried in the wok and chopped. He then grabbed a jar of Lao Gan Ma spicy Chinese fermented bean paste. I had used chili oil or paste in dipping sauces but had never added it to the filling itself. He threw everything in a hot wok (chili paste last). It tasted incredible. We immediately said it tasted just like Kung Pao dishes because of the peanuts and chili.

I proceeded to make this Beyond Kung Pao filling at two subsequent dumpling parties, both as filling for wontons in soup and for panfried potstickers. It was the crowd favorite at both parties. I’m happy to share my method with you today. Feel free to be flexible about the measurements. That’s something I learned in China. Good homestyle recipes usually have eye-balled amounts. In a future post, I’ll share the simple but addictive broth I use for wonton soup!

Kung Pao Dumpling Filling Recipe

2-3 Tablespoons oil

2/3 cup peanuts

1 package Beyond Meat

2-3 tablespoons onion, minced

2-3 scallions, minced

2-3 teaspoons ginger, minced

3-4 cloves garlic, minced

3 Tablespoons Lao Gan Ma or another spicy fermented black bean paste

dash of soy sauce, optional

Method

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a hot wok. Add the peanuts and stir constantly until they start to brown. Do not leave them unattended or they will burn. Remove from the wok once they have just started to toast and smell fragrant, keeping as much of the oil in the wok as possible.

Let the peanuts cool slightly, then chop them roughly with a knife of food processor.

If the pan looks dry, add a tiny bit more oil to the pan. The chili paste at the end will add oil, so try to keep the amount low on this end.

Add the onion, scallions, garlic, ginger, and Beyond Meat. Stir gently and lightly break up the Beyond Meat into little chunks. Don’t overly mash it down or it will turn into a paste. When the little clumps are starting to lightly brown, add the fermented chili paste and chopped peanuts. Taste for balance. You may need to add a pinch of salt, dash of soy sauce, additional dollop of chili paste or additional scattering of fresh ginger.

Use this filling to make dumplings in the shape of your choice. This filling works equally well for wontons or potstickers.



Mashi = Chinese rolled shell pasta
January 1, 2018, 6:08 am
Filed under: Living in China, soups | Tags: , , , ,

Today on New Year’s Day, a group of my students from Sha’anxi province came over to cook mashi. Mashi are the small shell-shaped rolled pasta from Sha’anxi.  I had visited all of these students last summer on my travels, and since then we sometimes get together to cook northwestern Chinese dishes.

Mashi come from Sha’anxi province in northwest China, where the cuisine revolves around wheat dough.  Most Chinese noodles are long and either pulled or cut. Mashi are the Chinese equivalent of short Italian pasta shapes like capunti or orecchiette.  I’ve only seen mashi offered in restaurants in Sha’anxi and neighboring Ningxia. When I visit Sha’anxi-style restaurants in Nanjing and ask for mashi, they always laugh at me because they don’t make it. It’s not a famous food, and it’s usually considered homecooking.  In fact, my students today said they felt like they were home.

To make mashi, start by making a stiff dough of flour and water.  It should be a little stiffer than noodle dough.  If the dough is too soft, the mashi will fall apart or lose their shape when boiled.

After kneading for several minutes, let the dough rest.  My students covered the dough with a bowl and let it rest about 30 minutes.

After resting, the dough should be smooth and glossy.

Mashi are traditionally rolled on baskets to create texture.  My sorghum stalk boards from Shandong province are intended for holding dumplings without letting them stick, but today these boards also worked perfectly for rolling mashi.

Rolling mashi is easy.  Take a marble-sized piece of dough.  Use your thumb to roll it across the board.  This will create a lined pattern.  You can roll along or against the line of board.  I soon decided I preferred rolling them along the diagonal to create diagonal stripes.

Boil the mashi in a large pot of water for about 10 minutes.  You can either enjoy them in soup or stir-fried.  Today my students made a soup for them.

To make the soup, my students started by stir-frying several vegetables like cauliflower, potatoes, tomatoes, and shitake mushrooms, along with a good deal of ginger, garlic, leeks, and Sichuan peppercorns.  They stir-fried the veg before we boiled the mashi.  Once the mashi were finished boiling, they ladled the stir-fried vegetables into the pot of mashi and water.  They also added handfuls of raw bok choy, soybean sprouts, and woodear mushrooms to quickly blanch into the soup.  Because the liquid of the soup is the cooking water from the mashi, the soup is a little thick and starchy, which is supposed to be good for digestion.  In fact, Chinese people often drink noodle-cooking water and dumpling-cooking water after meals to aid digestion.

Once all of the vegetables were combined with the mashi as a soup, my students added splashes of soy sauce and black vinegar.  They also adjusted for salt.

We had seven around my tiny table today.  There was extra black vinegar and chili sauce on the table.

Because mashi is made with a stiff dough, the end result has a pleasing dense, chewy texture.  It makes a substantial vegetable soup for winter.  Happy new year!



Vegetarian Shaomai
December 21, 2017, 4:44 am
Filed under: Living in China, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , ,

I’ve grown to love shaomai, the little folded bulbs filled with sticky rice, mushrooms, and soy sauce. However, it’s almost impossible finding them vegetarian because they traditionally have a bit of minced meat in the filling. The only place I can get meatless ones in Nanjing is at a Buddhist Temple, Jimingsi.  I have to travel about an hour and a half across town, and then climb to the top of a hill to arrive at the temple’s café which overlooks the city wall and Xuanxu Lake. It’s a lovely setting to enjoy a few shaomai, but this trek doesn’t make it an easy snack for me.

Jiming Temple Shaomai

Jiming Temple Shaomai

I decided to take matters into my own hands and learn how to make them on my own. My student’s mom in Shanghai has taught me how to cook a number of dishes, and her vegetarian shaomai are fabulous.  She is almost a vegetarian herself – a flexitarian – because of observing the treatment of animals when she was “sent down” to the countryside during the Cultural Revolution.

I had enjoyed her shaomai a few years ago made with an alternative wrapping of cellophane-thin soy paper, but this time cooking together a week and a half ago, we made them with the traditional dough wrappers.

This recipe has no fixed amounts, like typical Chinese home cooking.  I’ve never seen measuring cups or measuring spoons in a Chinese home.  If you want to try these yourself, just follow along with the method, and adjust the amounts as needed.  This time my friend added too much soy sauce, so she then scrambled a few more eggs for the filling to dilute the flavor.  Problem solved.

sticky rice, mushrooms, and carrots

 

Start by making sticky rice.  She made this before I arrived.  Sticky rice requires a good deal less water than regular steamed rice.

Mince several mushrooms and woodear mushrooms, AKA black fungus. That day she also added minced carrots and a local Shanghai wild green called “jicai.” You could substitute a little minced spinach other another green if you want to add a little green nutrition.

Next, scramble several eggs and add them to the mixture. To make Chinese scrambled eggs, heat oil in a very hot wok. Beat the eggs with a little salt and a splash of shaoxing wine. When the oil is almost smoking, pour in the eggs. They will make a loud whoosh sound because of the high heat. Stir gently until cooked. Add the scrambled eggs to the rice and mushroom mixture and stir well.

Next comes the soy sauce. Shanghai’s cuisine is known for dishes braised with soy sauce, and Shanghai folks have several types of soy sauce in their kitchens for different uses. She used a heavier variety of soy sauce used for braising, and boiled it a bit in a wok before adding it to the rice mixture. Nothing was measured, but I would guess it was about a cup of soy sauce.

Once it was all mixed, as I mentioned before, she tasted it and determined it was too salty, so she scrambled 4-5 more eggs to dilute the flavor.

Now it’s time to fill them. Because shaomai come from Shanghai, which is considered southern China, there isn’t a “flour” tradition like northern China. This means that folks in southern China don’t make dough from scratch at home. Shaomai wrappers are all purchased at the market. Same thing goes for wontons, which are also from Shanghai.  Shaomai wrappers are circular, and are slightly larger than dumpling wrappers.

The sticky rice filling is quite sticky so it’s easy to use chopsticks to fill the shaomai.  Use about 2-3 tablespoons of the mixture per shaomai.  Gather the edges up and make uniform pleats.  Then press the top of the filling down into the center.  You want the bottom to bulge, “like a fat tummy, ” she told me.  After pressing the filling down and encouraging the lower belly of the shaomai to swell, you might add another teaspoon of filling on top.  Rotate the shaomai in your hands almost like you are working on a pottery wheel to shape it.

She repeatedly told me they are easier to make than wontons, but hers were consistently prettier than mine. I need more practice with the muscle memory of rotating and the art of getting the perfect shaomai shape.  Our tops were also wider than the ones sold outside.

Arrange all of the shaomai on a board.

Steam the shaomai in a steamer. If you don’t have a nice steamer, you might have a simple vegetable steamer that could work. They steam about 20 minutes, or until the wrappers have changed in color, and are a bit translucent.

Because shaomai have soy sauce in the filling, they have enough flavor to be enjoyed plain. They’re also often eaten with a splash of good dark vinegar. They can be served as a snack, or as the starch component of a larger meal, paired with a few simple vegetable dishes. That day at lunch we also had stirfried bamboo with water chestnuts, and a simple soup of vermicelli noodles and slivered taro root.



Vegetarian Zhajiang Mian
November 9, 2016, 7:58 pm
Filed under: Living in China, Uncategorized | Tags:

Zhajiang Mian is a famous noodle dish from Henan province, and I learned to make it about 3 years ago from a former student from that province.  She’s a great cook, and intuitively adjusted the recipe to make it vegetarian for me.

Soon after I learned this dish, my parents were visiting me in Nanjing, and I had a few students over to help make homemade noodles and this sauce for them.  When I told my parents all of the ingredients in this sauce, they said it sounded gross, with too many competing flavors.  However, when they took the first bite, their eyes lit up and they asked if I could make it for my grandparents when I went home that summer.  And could I also make it for church?  I admit, the combination of ingredients initially sounds strange because it’s different from an Italian pasta sauce, and honestly the final product has a murky color that isn’t very pretty.  You’ll notice I don’t even have any good photos of the sauce.  The sauce almost looks like a wok-ful of puke, but it smells wonderful and tastes delicious.  The predominant flavors here are ginger and fried peanuts.

I was recently in Shandong province visiting a former student.  Her mom is a professional noodle-maker, and at one meal she made the noodles, and the student asked me to make the Zhajiang Mian sauce because she and I had made it together several times when she was a student here in Nanjing.  In fact, when we made it for my parents, she was the student who made the homemade noodles for that meal.  Because this sauce comes from a different province, her mom didn’t know it, and she was learning it from me that day.  I sometimes find myself teaching Chinese regional dishes to Chinese friends from different provinces, which seems strange.

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noodle dough at my student’s home

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my student’s mother, making the noodle dough

I use Chinese yellow bean sauce for this, but you can use a Korean daenjang or a Thai fermented yellow bean sauce.

This version of the recipe has carrots and garlic shoots.  You can substitute most any other vegetables instead of the carrots.  I recently used spinach and taro roots in their place.  It might be difficult for you to find garlic shoots, and if that’s the case, you can double the amount of green onions.

Zhajiang Mian recipe: for 6 people with leftovers

oil

3/4 cup peanuts

6 eggs

1 block soft tofu

1/2 head of garlic

ginger: same amount as garlic

1 bunch green onions, white and green parts

2-3 TBS yellow bean paste

2 tomatoes

salt

ground dried red chile, to taste

ground Sichuan peppercorns, to taste (optional)

2 carrots

splash of soy sauce

1 bunch garlic garlic shoots ( or substitute another bunch of green onions)

3-4 TBS cornstarch

 

METHOD

Heat the oil in a wok over medium-high heat.  Fry the peanuts, then remove them from the oil with a slotted spoon.  Set the peanuts aside.

Beat the eggs in a large bowl.  Cut the soft tofu into a small dice, then carefully stir the diced tofu into the beaten eggs.  Heat a little more oil in the wok over high heat.  When very hot, add the egg-tofu mixture.  It will puff a bit like  a soufflé.  When fully scrambled, removed that egg-tofu mixture from the wok and set aside.

Chop the garlic, ginger, green onions and garlic shoots.  Cut the carrots and tomatoes into a dice.

Add a little more oil to the wok.  Add the yellow bean paste.  A few seconds later, add the ginger, garlic and green onions.  Then add the tomatoes and salt.  Cook for 2 minutes, and then add ground red chile and Sichuan Peppercorn powder, if using.  Add the diced carrots and a little soy sauce.  Then add the garlic shoots.  Let it cook several minutes.  Then add the egg/tofu mixture.  

Add about 1 quart of boiling water to the wok to thin out the sauce.  Mix the cornstarch with cold water, then add that cornstarch mixture to the wok.  Let this cook about 10 minutes while you boil the noodles in a separate pot.  Pound the fried peanuts with a mortar-pestle, and then add them to the sauce at the end.



Noodle Lessons in Nanjing
December 14, 2014, 6:02 pm
Filed under: Food-Focused Travelogues, Living in China | Tags: , , ,

When I moved to Nanjing two and a half years ago, I had a dream of befriending some folks at a noodle shop who would teach me how to pull noodles.

pulling noodles

I thought that would be a useful and fun hobby.  Back when I lived in China from 2000-2002, I took lessons from a chef who taught me how to carve fruit and vegetables into decorative flower and animal shapes.  That was a fun and quirky skill, but not especially practical.  I hoped this time around living in China I could learn to  make Chinese noodles instead.

During my first fall here I discovered several decent noodle places in my neighborhood, and a favorite was run by a friendly family.  I was planning on asking them to teach me, but they suddenly moved away.  None of the other families running noodle shops in my neighborhood seemed very friendly, not wanting to engaging in conversation besides taking my order.  I kept waiting to find the right place because I wanted these noodle lessons to emerge from a friendship first.

chao daoxiao mian

Over the months, I gradually forgot about this plan.  Then last spring I started going to a Xi’an noodle place downtown.  Their youpo mian 油泼面 is delicious.  Youpo means “throw the oil on,” and it’s a noodle dish flavored with a little oil in the bottom of the bowl sauteed with garlic, and topped with soybean sprouts, wilted leafy greens, cumin, red chile, and green onions.  You stir it at the table so the oil lightly coats the noodles.  The noodles have oil “thrown on” or tossed on them instead of being chao, or fried in oil.

youpo mian

Here is another beautiful bowl of youpo mian I had in Xi’an with the ingredients composed on top.

youpo mian in Xi'an

The family in this Xi’an noodle shop is so friendly.  They are from Xi’an themselves and we talked lots last spring about how my parents were going to visit soon, and I was going to take them to Xi’an for 5 days.  The man said, “In Xi’an, over there, you just walk down the street and it’s fun — 走路就好玩”  It’s true because Xi’an has great street life, and his comment became our trip motto “you just walk down the street and it’s fun”.

This fall when I returned from my summer travels, their faces beamed when I showed up for a bowl of noodles.  “Where were you?  We missed you!”  One night in September as my friend and I ate bowls of noodles after a lengthy Belgian happy hour, she encouraged me to ask them if they could teach me in their free time.  “Can we teach you?  Can we?  Of course!”  And that was that.  So far I’ve had 3 lessons.

making dough

One of my lessons was in the early morning to learn how they make their dough.  They use this machine to mix the flour, salt, and water.  They use the same dough for all of the different shapes of noodles, but for each designated shape, the dough rests for different amounts of time at different temperatures.

daoxiao dough

We started with dao xiao mian 刀削面, the wide cut noodles in my photos above.  These are the noodles that food writer Jonathan Gold describes as “fettuccine on steroids.”  They’re thick, chewy, and slightly irregular, which gives them a good mouth-feel.  The dough is formed into a log, and then refrigerated a several hours until firm.  Then the log of dough is placed on a wooden board so that you can prop it on your shoulder to cut the noodles.

tool for dao xiao mian

This is the tool for cutting dao xiao mian.  The blade is curved on the top left end of the tool.  You could use a paring knife, but this tool slides along the dough to cut the noodles more evenly.   Apparently you can only buy this tool in northwest China.  When one of his breaks, he has a friend back home in Xi’an send him a new one.

making daoxiaomian

We were practicing over a metal work table, but to make real noodles to serve, this kind of noodle is cut directly over a pot of boiling water, made to order.

Jessica doing daoxiaomian

I’ve been taking these lessons with my student Huang Xiaoming (Jessica) because she loves working with dough.   She grew up making noodles with her mom in the simple homestyle way, rolling dough out flat then cutting it into strips.  She has made those simple homestyle noodles in my home in Nanjing several times for student parties.  So she’s been really excited about joining me on these days.  She also helps translate a bit for me when the vocab gets too technical.

Jessica doing daoxiaomian

Here she’s practicing and making a pile of noodles.

my daoxiaomian

After practicing with the dough, we made our own daoxiao mian to eat ourselves.  We cut the noodles directly over the boiling water in a huge pot the size of a cauldron. I made these noodles myself!

chemian

For another lesson, we made chemian 扯面, the super-wide noodles from northwest China that are rolled out wide and pulled gently.  You start by forming the dough into smaller logs about an inch and a half wide and a little over a foot long.  These logs are dusted with cornstarch and placed in a cool spot next to a cold open window to chill slightly.  You can see a whole tray of these logs resting under wax paper.

rolling the dough

Once you are ready to work with the chilled log of dough, roll it out a little with your hands.

Jessica rolling out the chemian

Then it is rolled out with a slim Chinese rolling pin to stretch further.

rolling chemian

It’s rolled out into a strip about 2 inches wide.

pulling chemian

Then the strip is pulled gently a few times to stretch out.  These are not la mian 拉面 which are the famous thin pulled noodles.  These che mian are only pulled gently, and are still very wide.  Both la 拉 and che 扯 mean pulling, but la mian 拉面 and che mian 扯面 are pulled in different ways.

Jessica with chemian

Here Jessica is showing off one very long noodle.

my chemian

The che mian are so long and wide that only 1 or 2 noodles fit in a large bowl of noodle soup.  Here is the che mian that I made, in a classic tomato and egg soup.

my chemian

I look happy with my bowl of che mian!

Jessica's noodles

And Jessica looks happy too.

The family at the noodle shop won’t accept payment for these lessons.  They won’t let us even pay for the noodles we eat at the end of our lessons (because they say we shouldn’t pay for noodles we make ourselves).  In the Chinese style, we’ve tried throwing money down and leaving, but they grab it and stuff it in our bags and pockets before we can get out.  It’s very Chinese.  I’ve found that in these situations it’s usually more appropriate to give a gift for lessons instead of money.  So I bought them an expensive knife at a good knife store as a “Thanksgiving present to thank them for being my teachers.”  They accepted the gift, so I feel good about it.

I’m not sure if they’ll teach us how to make the thin pulled noodles, the lamian 拉面.  They are quite difficult and require many, many hours of practice.  The husband and wife at the noodle shop can make them, but they haven’t even taught their other staff in the kitchen how to make them.  He said we can keep coming to practice these shapes we’ve already worked on, but he’s not sure if he’ll teach us lamian.  So we’ll see.  I’m simply grateful for the experience I’ve had so far.