Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Pork & Ya Cai Noodle Soup (ya cai rou si mian)

Usually this soup is made with zha cai - preserved sichuan mustard tuber. On this occasion I decided to use ya cai, which is also preserved mustard tuber but the upper stems rather than the lower enlarged bulbous part.

Ya cai is slightly more pungent than zha cai and comes in convenient sachets - the particular variety I used here also has shredded black fungus in it. As it is very salty, you probably should rinse it (and squeeze out the water before use) but I tend to use it as is.

Both are salty, spicy and crunchy and to me, utterly addictive. Once I open a packet it’s difficult to keep helping myself to it as I cook!

Shaoxing wine is a Chinese rice wine used for both cooking and drinking - it can be found in any Asian supermarket (as can ya cai and zha cai) or at a push you could use pale dry sherry.

Zha cai (top), ya cai (left), ya cai & black fungus (right)

Ya cai rou si mian
Serves 2

175g pork loin, cut into short, thin strips
2 tsp light soy sauce
½ tsp white pepper (freshly ground if you have peppercorns or ready ground is fine)
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp potato flour (or you can use cornflour/cornstarch)
1 tbsp groundnut or rapeseed oil
a thumb sized (top joint) chunk of ginger, cut into fine matchsticks or shredded
1 large (or 2 medium) cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 tbsp Shaoxing wine
100g ya cai
750 ml stock - I used Marigold’s organic reduced salt vegetable bouillon
1-2 tsp of dark soy sauce
a large pinch of sugar
2 spring onions, chopped (including green parts)
½ red chilli, finely sliced
2 bundles of dried noodle sticks (about 170g)
Ya cai, Shaoxing wine, marinated pork strips
& noodles

Mix the pork strips with the light soy, white pepper, sesame oil and cornflour and leave to marinate for about 20 minutes.

If you wanted to rinse the preserved vegetable, do that now then drain and squeeze out excess water.

Heat a saucepan over a medium heat and add the oil. When it’s hot, add the garlic, stir for about 10-15 seconds so it’s sizzling and fragrant but not coloured. Add the pork & fry until it has lost its pinkness and the strands have separated.  

Add the preserved vegetable, ginger, a good splash of Shaoxing wine & the stock and let it simmer for about 10 minutes.

While simmering, cook the noodles as per packet instructions (I actually had to make this up as I went along as the packet I used had Chinese instructions - I think it was about 4-5 minutes).  When they are cooked divide between 2 bowls.

Add the dark soy & sugar to the pork & veg broth. Stir well then pour onto the noodles and sprinkle spring onion & chilli over. 

Wow, this was good! So good in fact, that I'm having it again tonight! Very simple, extremely tasty...


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  2. I love making this!! It's my favourite dish! I like to make it with chicken though, as strange as it sounds... :)