How to make Sichuan soup noodles with minced pork topping

qingtang zajiang mian 清汤杂酱面

For those who don’t wish to start their day with a jolt of chilli and Sichuan pepper, these mild noodles make a delectable brunch or breakfast. The recipe can also be used as a template for making all kinds of soupy noodles, because you can vary the topping as you please. A spoonful of red-braised beef is delicious, perhaps with a garnish of chopped coriander; or you might use the remains of a stir-fried dish from the previous night. You could also serve the noodles in the remains of chicken and ginkgo stew.

Of course, since we’re talking Sichuan, noodle shops typically offer a spicy, tingly option too, which is known as ‘vegetarian pepper noodles with minced pork topping’ (sujiao zajiangmian). One of my favourite versions comes from Glasses Noodles, a hole-in-the-wall restaurant named, in typically charming Chengdu fashion, after the distinguishing feature of its bespectacled owner, Mr Zhang.

To make this dish, place in each serving bowl: 2½ tsp light soy sauce, 2 tsp crushed peanuts or sesame paste, ¼–½ tsp ground roasted Sichuan pepper, ½ tsp crushed garlic, 1½ tbsp Yibin yacai preserved vegetable (for best results, first rinse this and stir-fry briefly in a little oil until fragrant), 1½ tbsp thinly sliced spring onion greens and 1½ tbsp chilli oil with sediment. Add the freshly cooked noodles, spoon over the minced pork topping and then mix everything together before eating.

This recipe makes 2 servings.

Recipe by Fuchsia Dunlop, from cookbook The Food of Sichuan, £30 Bloomsbury

Ingredients for Sichuan soup noodles

  • 3 tbsp Yibin yacai preserved vegetable
  • 1 tbsp cooking oil
  • 1 tbsp melted lard (or cooking oil)
  • 4 tsp light soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 4 tbsp thinly sliced spring onion greens
  • 500ml everyday stock (see p 463) or chicken stock
  • 300g fresh or 200g dried wheat-flour noodles
  • A good handful of leafy greens, perhaps spinach or choy sum
  • Salt and ground white pepper

For the topping

How to make Sichuan soup noodles with minced pork topping

  1. First make the topping. Heat the cooking oil in a seasoned wok over a high flame. Add the ginger and stir-fry briefly until it smells wonderful, then add the pork and stir-fry until it changes colour, breaking the meat into small morsels with a wok scoop or spatula. Splash in the Shaoxing wine. When the pork is lightly browned and smells delicious, tilt the wok and push the meat up one side so the oil pools in the base. Add the sweet flour sauce to the pool of oil and stir-fry until you can smell it. Tilt the wok back and mix in the pork, then stir in both soy sauces and season with salt to taste. Set aside until needed.
  2. Rinse the preserved vegetable and squeeze dry. In a small pan, heat the cooking oil and briefly stir-fry the preserved vegetable until fragrant. Divide between two deep bowls, along with the lard, light soy sauce, sesame oil and spring onion greens. Add a good pinch of pepper and salt to taste to each one.
  3. Bring the stock to the boil and keep it warm. In another pan, boil the noodles to your liking. When they are nearly done, add the greens to the boiling water and let them wilt for a few seconds. Divide the hot stock between the bowls, then drain the noodles and greens in a colander and divide between the bowls too. Spoon over the pork topping and serve. Mix everything together before eating.
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