Congyou Banmian Recipe

The Shanghainese really love spring onions. At Lao Ji Shi, one of my favourite restaurants for dinner, their star dish is the ‘opium cod head’, which is covered in a thick layer of spring onions before being steamed. The onions are removed at the table, leaving their sweet and fragrant aroma behind.

In this dish, spring onions are infused slowly in oil to create a pungent dressing that, for me, is an unmistakeable flavour of Shanghai. Just a few tablespoons poured over noodles is transformational. The oil can be made in advance, ready to douse a portion of freshly cooked noodles for a quick breakfast or lunch at home. In fact, this is one of the few dishes I prefer to make at home, as sometimes the sauce served in restaurants is a little too delicate and I enjoy a rich onion taste. Some restaurants, for example Dong Tai Xiang, do add dried shrimp for an extra dimension of salty umami, but these are definitely optional if you want to keep it vegetarian (or even vegan depending on the noodles you use).

My method differs from the usual wok method, as I prefer to use the oven to slow-roast and confit a large batch of spring onions in oil and then finish it with soy and sugar in the bowl. This recipe makes enough for 15-20 portions of noodles. Keep the oil in a jar or airtight container in the fridge, and as long as the onions are submerged completely in oil it should last for up to a month.


TRY: Learn Michael Zee's recipes for Sheng Jian Bao and Hongyou Chaoshou!

This recipe is from Zao Fan: Breakfast of China by Michael Zee. (Bloomsbury Publishing, Hardback, £26)

Ingredients for Congyou Banmian

How to make Congyou Banmian

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/Fan 160C/Gas Mark 4.
  2. Spread out the spring onions in an even layer in a roasting tin and pour over the oil, making sure the onions are covered. Cover the tin with foil and roast in the oven for 90 minutes.
  3. Halfway through, turn the spring onions and add the dried shrimp, if using.
  4. When the spring onions have shrivelled and imparted all their flavour into the oil, remove from the oven and leave to cool.
  5. Pour the oil and spring onions into a jar or airtight container, making sure the onions are completely submerged in the oil.
  6. To prepare the dressing, heat 6-8 tablespoons of the spring onion oil in a frying pan over a medium-high heat (don’t add any of the spring onions yet), then add the light soy sauce, dark soy sauce and sugar. Bring to the boil and cook until the sauce has a glossy appearance and the sugar has dissolved. Add 2-3 tablespoons of the confit spring onions, then taste and adjust the sweetness or saltiness to your liking.
  7. Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil and cook the noodles according to the package instructions, then divide the noodles between two bowls and spoon the dressing over the noodles. Garnish with some extra confit onion, stir vigorously and serve.
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