Spicy, Chewy, Hand-pulled Noodles: Biang Biang Mian

by Joel Penn, Executive Chef at Heirloom Cafe

Don’t let this list of ingredients or the fact that it’s a fresh pasta project scare you—these Chinese noodles are incredibly easy (and fun!) to make. The name Biang Biang Mian refers to the noise you get to make with the dough while stretching them: “bang bang noodles.” Any project where you get to stretch and slap your dinner on the counter before eating it is fun for the whole family. 

Feeds 4-6

 Family-style Biang Biang Mian. Photo: Joel Penn

Family-style Biang Biang Mian. Photo: Joel Penn

INGREDIENTS:

DOUGH

  • 4 2/3 c high-gluten bread flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt 
  • 2 c water
  • 2 Tbsp neutral vegetable oil (soybean, canola, corn, etc.)

CHILI SAUCE

  • 3/4 c chili oil*
  • 1/4 c black vinegar**
  • 1/2 lime, juiced
  • 1/4 c something sweet, like honey or sorghum syrup
  • 1 shallot, cut into very thin rings
  • 1/2” piece of ginger, peeled
  • pinch salt, to taste

FINISHING TOUCHES

  • thinly-sliced scallions and radishes
  • freshly-ground Szechuan peppercorns to finish

*Chili oil can be found in most Asian groceries, or if you’re feeling adventurous, you can easily make your own by steeping 30-40 dried chilis with stems removed (gloves recommended) in a few cups of a neutral oil on medium-low heat in a saucepot on your stovetop for about 20 minutes. Let cool, strain through fine mesh strainer. Will keep basically indefinitely covered in your fridge. Good on almost everything (especially pizza).

**Black vinegar is a dark, complex vinegar from China. Think of it as a cousin of balsamic or aged sherry vinegar. You could substitute one of those if you have to, but you should seek out the black vinegar because it’s awesome. Available in most Asian groceries.

 

INSTRUCTIONS:

For the Dough: Combine flour and salt in a food processor, and pulse a couple times to combine everything. (You’re using high-gluten bread flour because it will make the noodles more stretchy in the end. You could use regular flour, but I think it’s worth finding the bread flour.) With the processor running, add oil then water, both in a slow, continuous stream until the dough forms a cohesive, shiny ball that’s rolling around. Should take two minutes or so.

Dump dough ball out onto your workspace and gently knead for about two minutes. Cut in half and form each half into about a 10-inch cylinder. Wrap both tightly with plastic wrap and toss in the fridge. They need to hang out there at least overnight, and up to three days.

For the Sauce: Finely grate the ginger into a mixing bowl. Combine all other ingredients in the bowl with a whisk. Taste. Should be acidic but not overly so, with the sweetness balancing, and slightly spicy. Adjust as needed. Add some salt. Taste again. Once you have it where you like it, cover and toss in fridge. Will keep five days refrigerated.

Let’s Make Noodles: First, clean your countertop—you’ll need lots of space. This is the fun part and a good time to get the kids involved if you’ve got some hanging around. Very lightly oil your workspace (countertop) and unwrap your dough cylinders to let them rest at room temp for about 20 minutes. This will make them more pliable. Meanwhile, put a large pot of salted water on the stove at medium-low heat. Don’t be scared to boldly salt your pasta cooking water; it should always taste like the ocean and will make your noodles taste better.

After dough has rested for about 20 minutes, cut each cylinder into eight equal pieces. Working with one piece at a time, lightly oil both sides of the piece and squish it flat into a rectangle. Grasp the short sides of the rectangle and start stretching the dough, banging it on the counter while you’re stretching (biang! biang!). You want to get it really long, like almost 3 feet, but just feel it out and get it as long as you can without it ripping. It’s pretty fun. Once you’ve got it stretched, grab the middle of the stretched dough and rip it in half lengthwise to form two equally-long, stretchy noodles. Set aside and keep flat and oiled. Repeat with remaining pieces. Try not to let them stick to each other. Extra hands here are helpful.

Once you have all your long, skinny noodles ready to go, crank the heat on your pot to high and bring to the boil. Take your chili sauce out of the fridge, let it come to room temp and give it a shake. Working in batches (probably three rounds total), cook noodles until they float. You’re looking for a nice pleasantly-chewy texture here. Should take about one minute or so. Using a spider or slotted spoon, transfer noodles to mixing bowl and toss with chili sauce. Repeat with the rest of them. 

Divide among bowls and top with scallions, radishes and a dusting of Szechuan pepper. Add some chopped soft tofu if you’re feeling wild. Grab chopsticks. Enjoy.     

 

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