Homemade wheat noodles with soy sauce and sesame oil

Homemade noodles, memories of a peasant family at a noodle shop

Ingredients

  • 2.5 cup of plain four, more for dusting
  • 1 cup of hot water
  • 1/2 tsp lye water (‘kansui’, lye water, lkaline solution, 枧水), available from Asian stores
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Sauce

  • 1 portion of dark soy sauce to 1 portion of sesame oil
  • sesame seeds, toasted, to garnish
Homemade wheat noodles - lye water
Homemade wheat noodles – lye water

Making the dough

  • I used a bread maker – mix the lye water with hot water, pour in the bread maker; add flour and 1/2 tsp of salt;
  • Make the dough using the dough setting, approximately 20 minutes; wrap and leave the dough in fridge to rest for 2-3 hours.
Homemade wheat noodles - making the dough
Homemade wheat noodles – making the dough

Roll out the noodles

I used a pasty machine – simply roll out the dough, dusted with flour and put it through the pasta machine, first as a flat sheet, then as noodles; when making the noodles, dust some flour so the noodles won’t stick together.

Homemade wheat noodles - rolling out the dough
Homemade wheat noodles – rolling out the dough
Homemade wheat noodles - rolling out the noodles
Homemade wheat noodles – rolling out the noodles

Cooking the noodles

  • In small batches – bring a large pot of water to boil; add salt; drop the fresh noodles in the hot water; cook for 2 minutes, stir occasionally
  • Take out the noodles with a sieve and rinse under cold water; shake off the liquid
  • Toss with a splash of dark soy sauce and a dash of sesame oil
  • Garnish with sesame seeds
Homemade wheat noodles - boil the noodles in a large pot of water
Homemade wheat noodles – boil the noodles in a large pot of water
Homemade noodles - rinse the cooked noodles under cold water
Homemade noodles – rinse the cooked noodles under cold water

Memories of a peasant family at a noodle shop

A few evenings ago, I watched a kids news program with my 9-year-old boy. That particular evening, the program covered the famine situation in Sudan.

‘Did China have famines?’ my little boy asked. These few innocent words had brought back my memories of a peasant family begging at a roadside noodle shop. I could still see their shadows overcasting me even today.

In the early 1970s, my grandmother cooked communal dinners for extended families. Each family contributed to the cost of the food. We nearly never went out to eat – every penny must be accounted for.

One evening, we missed the communal dinner, and we went to a cheap roadside noodle shop. It was a shabby and warm place. The kitchen inside was steaming with hot water for cooking the noodles. There was a large pot of cold water to cool and rinse the noodles, a process called ‘crossing the cool bridge’, and a large pot of broth with nothing much in it. We found a table outside with wobbly chairs and started to eat our noodle soups. The soup had no meat nor vegetables, only a few green shallot pieces floating on top. But it was a rare and prestige treat for a little 5-year old girl.

Suddenly, three children in ragged clothes surrounded our table. They looked different from the city folks. They had dark and coarse skin, as they were farmers from the countryside. They were dirty and messy as they had been living on the streets. They spoke in a dialect that I never heard of. They would have travelled from afar, probably from another province where their crops failed.  They had such hungry eyes. The littlest one just devoured some leftover soup from the next table and redirected his attention to my bowl.

I looked up at my mother. ‘Eat up all your food’, she said sternly. When I left some food in the bowl at the end of the meal, she picked up the bowl and devoured everything, including the last drops of the soup. The children moved away to another table, motionless. My heart was heavy.

My memories of a peasant family during a famine
My memories of a peasant family during a famine

Many years past, my memories of that family did not fake. Most of all, I was puzzled why my mother was so indifferent to the begging children.  After all, she was an orphan herself. She would have understood the pain and suffering of that family, hungry, homeless and desperate?

This weekend, I made a large batch of noodles from scratch. I tossed the noodles with a splash of soy sauce and a splash of sesame oil. 

Life has been kind to our family and we really appreciate what we have.

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