Lessons in family recipes and food ways brought me great joy during my visit to Hong Kong. The Wang family into which my brother will soon marry generously shared their knowledge of dumplings and other northern Chinese cookery with us on Chinese New Year’s Eve. A few nights later, Trey’s future mother-in-law taught us to make lamian or pulled noodles.
The recipe for pulled noodles called for high gluten flour (bread flour in North America) with water, salt and peanut oil to lubricate noodles for pulling with fingers (other vegetable oils might work well).
After kneading and resting the dough, Vivian’s mother pulled the dough ball into a long bar which she cut lengthwise many times into roughly equal-sized-lengths on an oiled wooden cutting board. She then rolled the long pieces by hand until roughly doubled in length and broke each piece in half. This might be repeated depending on the starting thickness of each segment of dough. During this process, she added just enough oil to maintain slickness of the dough.
At this point, Vivian’s mother called us to watch her demonstrate pulling the dough. She held a noodle steady in her right hand as she gently pulled the noodle from right to left with two to three fingers of her left hand. She periodically advanced the thicker right side of the noodle with her right hand until she pulled the entire noodle with her left hand into a consistently thinner shape.
In the final step she intertwined and looped lengths of the noodle around each finger on the left and right hand to form a web and then snapped the web of noodles onto the counter to further elongate the noodle. She set the noodle aside and reached for a new piece of dough to pull.
After pulling several noodles, she placed them into a pot of salted boiling water for about five minutes. When cooked, she strained the noodles with a wide slotted spoon and placed them in a cold water bath to stop them from overcooking and clumping.
She served the pulled noodles with several other common pairings: Chinese (Sichuan) cabbage and tomato gently stir fried with onion and dried red chili pepper; spicy and sour julienned potatoes finished with vinegar; pork stir fried with red and green peppers; and a wood ear mushroom salad tossed in sesame oil and Chinese chives.
Some restaurant chefs use a small amount of potassium carbonate to increase the strength and elasticity of the glutinous wheat noodles. Manufacturers use the deliquescent K2CO3 to make soap and glass. Vivian’s mother cautioned that many home cooks use more of the inorganic compound than is safe for human consumption. She never uses the additive because adding too much isn’t good for you.
I did not take notes on the ingredients for this recipe, but a quick google search produces several examples which I plan to draw on when I try to make my own batch of lamian.