Sunday, March 14, 2010

Sea-flavor noodles (hai wei mian)

When my Sichuanese cookbook author Fuchsia Dunlop indulged in fiery dan dan noodles in Chengdu, she often coupled it with a bowl of this tamer noodle soup to counterbalance the scorching heat of the dan dan. The sea flavor in this warming dish comes from dried shrimp, as fresh seafood was hard to come by in the inland province of Sichuan. You can find the tiny shrimp sold in plastic bags in any Asian market.

This was an intensely satisfying meal, just the thing for a rainy Sunday afternoon. Be warned — not for mushroom haters.

Adapted from Dunlop's Land of Plenty:

1. Soak 1 ounce of dried baby shitake mushrooms and 1 ounce of dried shrimp for 30 minutes in enough hot water to cover them. (Since I don't have a kitchen scale, I interpreted one ounce as "some.")

2. Cut 1/2 pound of pork loin into thin, 1/8-inch slices and season with salt. Slice 1/4 pound of fresh button mushrooms to match the pork. Slice 3 scallions thinly.

3. Heat 2 T. peanut oil in a wok over a high flame. Add the pork and stir-fry until it whitens. Splash in some Shaoxing rice wine around the edges and let it sizzle. Add the mushrooms and stir-fry another minute. Now pour in the bowl of dried mushrooms and shrimp with their soaking water, as well as 1 quart chicken stock. Bring to a boil and leave to simmer on low for an hour, until the pork is very tender.

4. Season the broth with salt and white pepper. Bring a separate saucepan of water to a boil for cooking the noodles. Add 1 package thin wonton noodles for just 60 seconds, then drain. Divide the noodles into bowls. Spoon the meat and mushrooms over the noodles and sprinkle the scallions on top, then fill the bowls with the soup. Feeds 3.

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