Henan braised noodles
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Henan braised noodles or Huimian (烩面, lit. "braised noodles") are a traditional Henan style of hand-pulled noodles dating back more than 800 years.
The noodle made via a ball of wet wheat powder containing salt and oil. It is then pulled it into 2cm wide slices by hand.
It is said that the first person who ate braised noodles was Li Shimin, the first emperor of the Tang Dynasty. When he was still just a poor soldier he became sick. It was a snowy and windy day and he had nothing to eat. He had no choice but to walk into a cottage and beg for some food. The hostess was very kind-hearted and prepared something immediately. However, her family was also very poor, so she made some wide noodles and boiled them in pure water. She put the boiled noodles out into a bowl and added some bone soup. Li Shimin liked the noodles very much. When he had finished, he was full of energy and didn't feel cold any more. After he became the emperor of the Tang Dynasty, he ordered his cooks to record the way those noodles had been made so the recipe could be passed to future generations. Another story of the origins claim this dish was invented during the Second Sino-Japanese War. A chef named Zhao Rongguang who loved eating noodles was forced to go hiding in dugouts when Japanese air raids commence. After the air raids, Zhao would braise the rest of the noodles with mutton soup and he discovered the re-cooked noodles is sometimes better than the original ones. He then added salt into the dough of the noodles to make the noodles more chewy which later became braised noodles.
Use in dishes
Dishes with Henan braised noodles can be divided into three kinds: noodles with beef, noodles with mutton and noodles with seafood. Noodles with mutton is the most common variety, especially in Henan locally. Ingredients can also include Chinese onion also known as scallion, a little kelp, and a little vermicelli made from starch.
Ingredients: Goat bones for the broth (if you can't find it, bouillon cubes would serve the same purpose), lamb meat (the best choice would be the meat on the legs), vermicelli (optional), parsley (optional), kelp/mushrooms (optional) and wheat flour for the dough. Chicken bones are optional if you want to make the broth more flavored. Sub-ingredients: Chinese bajiao (anise), tsaoko, fennel, salt and sesame oil. The Broth: Cut the mutton into medium chunks and wash it along with the bones, soak them in clear water for an hour and wash the grease off. Wrap the anise, tsaoko and fennel in a swath of cheesecloth to serve as the seasoning bag. Fill the cooking pot with water and add the meat with bones. Cook with maximum firepower until the pot is boiling. Take a ladle and scrape the floating blood-grease on top of the broth. Turn down the fire power and put the seasoning bag in. Cook for another 2-3 hours until the mutton is well cooked. Take the seasoning bag out, add the salt and leave the broth on the side to cool down. The Dough: Add a small amount salt into the flour, mix them well and add water. Make the dough out of this wheat flour. Cover the dough with paper/film for 20 minutes and take it out to knead it for 10 minutes, rinse and repeat for 3 times. Roll the dough into long and thick slabs, then separate them into smaller sections to roll each section into 1cm thick slabs. Paint the sesame oil on these slabs and cover them with paper/film for 20 minutes. The Actual Cooking: Add the broth into a big pot, cook until boiled before adding all the optional ingredients depending on your own taste. Remember to stir the broth from time to time. Take the small slabs of dough and start to stretch them into 1cm wide noodles. Add the stretched noodles into the pot and wait until it is cooked. Tips: Don't add soy sauce or vinegar to the noodles.
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