Biángbiáng noodles

The only thing I wanted to eat when I was in NYC was Chinese food that I can’t get in Berlin. I succeeded.

This was exactly what I wanted.

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In addition to a lunch stop at Congee Village, I ended up having what is my new all time favourite Chinese dish, Biángbiáng noodles, from the Shaanxi province, brought to New York by Xi’an Famous Foods in 2005. I have since learned, from this great post on Lady and Pups, that “Xi’an famous foods” is a known phrase in Chinese referring to a collection of dishes from Xi’an, the capital of Shaanxi province. The chain has been so successful and influential that is even has its own Wikipedia entry.

Upon my return – actually, no, it was when I was still at Newark waiting for the plane home – I looked up how to get these amazingly sloppy, slippery wide noodles in Berlin. And the only way was to make them myself. Using the Lady and Pups recipes as my guide, I made a vegetarian version using a trio of mushrooms instead of lamb.

Doin’ it

Making chili oil and listening to the latest Joanna Newsom

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Alterations, and future alterations

As I mentioned, I used three kinds of mushrooms instead of lamb. I used 100g of oyster mushrooms – sliced, 100g of small button mushrooms – halved, and a handful of tree ear mushrooms – rehydrated and roughly chopped. I rehydrated the tree ear mushrooms by soaking them in cold water for 30 minutes.

The mushrooms did not need marinading like the lamb would, but I did drizzle them with a variation on the lamb marinate: the soya sauce, cumin, corn starch, chili flakes, sesame oil, garlic powder, black pepper. Next time, I would reduce the soya sauce, but load up on chili flakes and pepper in this drizzle.

I fried the oyster and button mushrooms until they were slightly softened, then I added the tree ear mushrooms with the onion and spouts. I then carried on following the Lady and Pups procedure pretty much exactly.

Tasting notes: Yes, it was great, but if I’m being honest, it was too oily, too dark, and not spicy enough. At least, I thought the amount of oil masked the heat. To fix this, next time, I will use less oil, less soya sauce, and more pepper(s) in “Seasoning B”. It also suspect I added too much oil to the mushrooms when I was lubing them up, pre-frying; I should have measured it instead of free-pouring.

Fronx wished for more sprouts. I agree that would have been an improvement. I eye-balled the 1 cup of sprouts, and maybe put in too few. Next time, I’ll double the amount I used.

I overheated the wok, which made the frying of the mushrooms a bit stressful, even though I recovered fine by removing it from the heat and opening a window. Note to self: don’t overheat the wok at the beginning.

Noodles: presented with the choice, I should err on the side of thick versus wide. Next time, I’ll cut the dough into 8 pieces, and only tear the longest two in half, and generally keep them wide and short.

Why mushrooms?

Now, you might wonder why I chose to make a mushroom version when I do eat and enjoy lamb:

  1. I found the lamb and beef versions very rich (we shared one plate of each), and “rich” is not something I want all the time.
  2. I was really in it for the noodles, and soft juicy mushrooms sounds like a great compliment.
  3. Ugh. So much meat when we were in New York. Time for a break.
  4. Fronx and I have been talking about meat and especially ethical meat, and I’d like try harder to refrain from meats that aren’t ethically raised. One easy route is to avoid meat when it’s not contributing much to our enjoyment. Mushrooms often sound at least if not more enjoyable to me than meat. Not always, but often.

Aside: I am also researching a mushroom based version of laab … stay tuned for that experiment.

ps: Our friend Ole asked me what kind of flour I used. Since I was a bit stressed about the flour, but then turned out happy with the result, so it makes sense to share that detail with everyone:

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