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It's exhausting, tricky, chancy ... noodle stretching.

It's exhausting, tricky, chancy ... noodle Forget the pasta machine, forget the rolling pin and knife--even forget jogging. The ancient Chinese art of stretching noodles can be your new culinary challenge, even your new fitness routine.

The activity is fun, though results may be chancy; we think a noodle-stretching session makes a good excuse for an outdoor summer party. If the project succeds, you've made dinner; if it fails, boil some spaghetti and have a party anyway.

You'll be flinging flour and swinging dough, and a roomy space helps you develop your noodle-working style without inhibition. Put some sort of drop-cloth on the group to protect falling noodles, and set up a large work table.

The arm action, like pulling taffy, jumping rope, or pumping iron, requires exertion; it's tiring work. But noodle makers can take turns.

Expert Daniel Choi, shown demonstrating key steps above, makes noodle stretching look easy--and he's using three times more dough than our recipe produces. Accomplishment is measured by how thin the noodles are and by how few strands break. It takes years of training to produce thousands of thred-thin noodles in just a few minutes; but an amateur can get edible results in an hour or so.

The flour-and-water noodle dough is surprisingly durable, so you can start and rstart the stretching many times. As you get a feel for movements required, the dough becomes easier to control. In the beginning, just keeping the rope uniformly thick is an achievement.

You can boil the oodles (or substitute dry spaghetti) and serve with the lively Chinese sauce that follows; add broth to turn each bowl of sauced noodles into soup, if you like.

Or you can fry noodles--think and thin--to serve as a crunchy snack. Follow with spaghetti in the Chinese sauce.

A special flour blend called cake-and-pastry flour is used professionally to make stretch noodles because it has the right elasticity. This flour is usually sold wholesale and in very large units, but some pastry shops or bakers will sell you a few pounds if you call ahead and bring your own container. But since it's unlikely your first few hours of training will bring you to the skill level for making very thin noodles, you can substitute equal parts unableached all-purpose flour and cake flour for the cake-and-pastry blend.

If you want to see noodles formed by someone who has mastered the art, inquire through Chinese restaurants; if you're lucky, you may find a noodle cook who's willing to put on a show.

Chinese Stretch Noodles About 8 cups (about 2 lb.) cake-and-pastry flour or 4 cups each all-purpose flour and cake flour water salad oil optional salt, optional

Stir flour; measure 8 cups (scrape top of measure level) and put in a large bowl. Add 2-1/4 cups water and stir to moisten evenly; mix with a fork or dough hook. If dough will not hold together, add water, mixing in a little at a time, unitl it does.

To knead by hand, scoop dough out onto an unfloured board and knead vigorously until dough is smooth to touch and elastic, about 10 minutes. Scrape dough off your hands and board if its sticks.

To knead by machine, beat with dough hook on medium-high speed unitl dough is smooth and elastic, about 5 mimutes.

Cover dough lightly with plastic wrap and let rest 20 to 40 mnutes so it will relax and not spring back when it is stretched.

On an unfloured board, roll dough with your hands into a 3-inch-thick rope (step 1). If desired, you can divide dough into smaller, more easily handled pieces and work each separately.

Place on hand, palm down, on each end of the dough rope and roll ends in opposite directions under each palm, twisting the rope 3 to 5 turns.

Take an end of the rope in each hand (step 2). Swing rope into the air, then thump or whack it firmly onto work surface. Dough will begin to stretch.

As you become more confident, you can swing the dough farther up or away from you as you work. Rhythmic, steady movement--a skill that develops with experience--is hard for a novice to maintain, but an important part of the technique. Kerky movement tends to tear the dough and make it uneven in thinkness.

Allow no more than 20 minutes to work dough before shaping noodles; otherwise, the dough dries too much.

When dough tears, squeeze pieces together, double rope, twist, and thump to work it smoothly back together (with increased expertise, tearing ceases to be a problem).

Repeat lifting and thumping 8 to 10 times. When dough rope is as long as you can hold with arms wide apart, hold the rope away from your body, quickly gather the two ends of the rope into one hand, and twist the resulting loop together, making a spiraled rope (step 3). Grasp the end of the loop in the free hand.

Repeat the lift and thump step, but when you make the rope spiral, turn it counter to the direction in which it was just twisted. Lift, thump, and spiral a total of 10 times. The dough will be pliant, velvety, and nonsticky. Dough made with cake-and-pastry flour reaches a point where it relaxes and becomes very stretchy; the cake and all-purpose flour blend never changes as much but does feel stretchy.

Now you are ready to try for noodles. Add a little flour to the board. Holding an end of the rope in each hand, lift, swing, and very gently thump it onto the board until it's arms-width in length. Gently jiggle the rope on the board to flour dough lightly. (If you see too much flour, the dough will absorb enough to lose some of its stretchiness. Should this happen, knead a little water into dough to return it to its original moistness; let dough rest, then start over at step 1 again.)

Then, on the board, gather the dough ends in one hand; grasp the end of the loop with the other hand. Lift, swing, and thump doubled rope to the same length as the original one (step 4).

Repeat the step of joining ends and grasping the loop; jiggle the resulting four thick dough strands in flour so they won't stick together. When the wad of dough in the gathering hand gets too big to hold easily, pinch off a lump; this can also be stretched into noodles (cover with plastic wrap if it stands).

Repeat stretching and folding as many times as you can (step 5). Each fold doubles the number of noodle strands; 1 fold makes 2 strands; 2 folds make 4; 3 folds make 8; 4 folds make 16; 5 folds make 32; 6 folds make 64; 7 folds make 128 (a respectable size for eating); 8 folds make 256; 9 folds make 512 ("skein of silk" size); 10 folds make 1,024 ("dragon whiskers"--this size and finer you should fry, not boil); 11 folds make 2,048; 12 folds make 4,096; 13 folds (a master's work) make 8,192; and 14 folds are nigh onto impossible.

If you're lucky, you'll get 4 or 8 strands. Most likely they will vary in thickness; pinch off thin ones as they develop, dust with flour, and cover with plastic wrap to keep moist. If noodles are wildly uneven, squeeze strands back together and start step 4 over again. Should you become totally frustrated, you can use a rolling pin to roll dough 1/8 inch thick and cut in wide noodles with a knife. When you have accumulated as many noodles as your skill permits, fry or boil them.

To fry, heat about 2 inches salad oil to 350 [deg.] in a 5- to 6-quart pan. Add stretch noodles, a handful at a time, and cook until golden, 2 to 3 minutes. Lift from oil with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Add salt to taste and serve.

To boil, bring 3 to 4 inches water to boiling in an 8- to 10-quart pan over high heat. Add noodles, 2 handfuls at a time, and cook, loosely covered, just until they taste done (take a bite) but are not mushy, 2 to 3 minutes. Scoop noodles out with a slotted spoon or ladle and set aside. Repeat to cook remaining noodles. Serve according to the following recipe. All the dough makes 20 cups cooked noodles; at best, you're apt to get half this amount. Allow 1 to 1-1/2 cups for a serving.

Chinese Stretch Noodle Bowl 2 tablespoons sesame seed 1/3 cup salad oil 1/4 pound ground lean pork 1/4 cup dried small shelled shrimp 1/4 cup finely chopped canned Szechwan preserved vegetable (salted and chili-seasoned radish) or cornichons Sesame sauce (directions follow) 3/4 cup roasted unsalted peanuts, minced 3 to 4 thinly sliced green onions About 6 cups hot, cooked, drained Chinese stretch noodles (preceding) or spaghetti About 6 cups hot regular-strength chicken broth (optional)

In a 10- to 12-inch frying pan on medium heat, stir sesame seen until pale gold, 3 to 5 minutes; pour seed from pan; set aside.

Add oil to the pan on medium-high heat. When oils is hot, add pork, breaking it up with a spoon. Cook, stirring, until pork loses its pink color, 1 to 2 minutes; remove from pan with a slotted spoon.

Add shrimp and preserved vegetable to pan; cook, stirring, until shrimp look translucent, about 1 minute. Return pork to pan and add sesame sauce. Stirring, bring mixture to a boil; use hot or reheat.

Spoon sauce equally into 4 to 6 soup bowls. Add an equal amount of noodles to each bowl. Sprinkle each serving with toasted sesame seed, peanuts, and green onions. If desired, ladle broth into bowls to serve as soup. Makes 4 to 6 servings.--Dorothy Louie, San Rafael.

Sesame sauce. Blend 3 tablespoons each dark soy sauce and light (not low-sodium) soy sauce (or 6 tablespoons regular soy sauce plus 1 teaspoon dark molasses); 2 tablespoons rice vinegar; 3 tablespoons each Oriental sesame oil, sugar, and sesame paste (or 3 tablespoons peanut butter); and 1 teaspoon hot chili oil.
COPYRIGHT 1985 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1985 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:recipes
Date:Aug 1, 1985
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