This Winter’s featured ingredient is Wheat, which we will be using to make delicious hand-pulled New Year’s Biangbiang Noodles.
Wheat is a grain archaeologists believe to have been originally domesticated in the northern Fertile Crescent (modern Turkey) about 8,000 to 10,000 years ago. Cultivation and repeated harvesting and sowing of the grains of self-pollinating wild grasses led to the creation of domestic strains. Domesticated wheat strains developed larger grains, and higher protein contents. 1
Wheat was a key factor enabling the emergence of city-based societies at the start of civilization, such as the Babylonian and Assyrian empires. It was one of the first crops that could be easily cultivated on a large scale, and stored long term.
Today, wheat is a basic staple food for Europe, West Asia and North Africa. It is grown on more land area than any other commercial crop, and is second only to rice as the main human food crop. 2
Whole grain wheat “berries” are composed of the carbohydrate-rich endosperm, oil-rich wheat germ, covered in fiber-rich bran layers. Micro-nutrients are concentrated in the germ and bran. White flour is made from just the endosperm.
Wheat flour or sprouted wheat berries can be used to make pasta, breads, biscuits, cookies, cakes, and cereals.
Wheat is a grain high in the protein gluten. Gluten gives elasticity to dough, helping it rise, keep its shape and giving the final product a chewy texture. When making noodles, gluten helps the dough stretch into long strands instead of breaking. An estimated 0.5-1% of people in the US have celiac disease an abnormal immune response to gluten. 3
Noodles are made from unleavened flour dough, formed into a variety of shapes. While long, thin strands are the most common, noodles can also be formed into tubes, waves, helices, shells and other shapes. Noodles are usually cooked in boiling water. They are often sauteed, and served with a sauce or in a soup.
At noodle shops, customers customize their bowl of noodles to taste with toppings, often on the table: soy sauce, vinegars, chili sauce, peanuts, cilantro, mint, pickled vegetables, and bean sprouts.
Noodles are widely consumed in Asia. Chinese mian noodles are made from wheat flour. La-mian is a traditional Chinese long thin noodle made by repeatedly pulling and stretching the dough by hand. It can take up to a year of practice to master making la-mian noodles. 4
In 2002, archaeologists found an earthenware bowl containing world’s oldest known noodles in Qinghai, China. The 4,000-year-old long, thin, yellow noodles are said resemble the hand-pulled la-mian noodle. 5
Biangbiang mian are long, wide, belt-shaped noodles from the Shaanxi province of China. They are also made by pulling, stretching, and “banging” the dough against the counter, but can be mastered by young and old in minutes. Their name is said to come from the banging sound they make when hit against the counter while forming the noodles. They are not intended to be perfectly shaped, but instead free-form with torn edges. They have a more chewy texture than Italian noodles. 6
During Chinese New Year, this year beginning January 31, long noodles are eaten in all corners of China. The long noodles represent having a long life. “Longevity noodles,” also served at birthday parties, are cooked and eaten whole, never cut or broken. Noodles are commonly eaten by “slurping,” sucking them into the mouth with a loud slurping sound.
This Winter’s Recipe is for New Year’s Biangbiang Noodles. Our recipe is an adaptation of Mission Chinese Food’s Danny Bowien’s. Our dish is made with a fresh shrimp (another traditional New Year’s food) and broccoli, for a complete meal in a bowl. Unfiltered peanut oil is available in most health food stores, and has a roasted peanut flavor. Liven up your New Year’s Eve or Chinese New Year with a biangbiang noodle pulling party!
New Year’s Biangbiang Noodles
Active Preparation Time: 1 hour
Total Preparation Time: 2 hours
Yield: 4-8 servings
Biangbiang Noodle Ingredients:
4 cups high-gluten bread flour
1 1/2 cups water
2 teaspoons kansui (alkaline water)
Pinch of salt
Unfiltered peanut oil or toasted sesame oil to coat dough
Noodle Dish Components:
Biangbiang noodles, boiled (above)
1 tub of medium to firm tofu, cut into cubes
1 bunch broccoli, cut into flowerettes, steamed
Seasoned rice vinegar or Chinese black vinegar
Unfiltered peanut oil or toasted sesame oil
Roasted salted peanuts, crushed
Toasted sesame seeds
Green onions, sliced
Heavy bottomed skillet
1. Choose toppings (above) and place each topping in a small bowl on the dining room table.
2. Put large pot of salted water on high heat, to begin bringing to boil. Put steamer pot with water on high heat to boil.
3. Whisk flour, salt, kansui and water together in bowl until dough starts coming together.
Gently knead in remaining flour to form a ball of dough.
Cover dough ball with plastic wrap and let rest for ~10 minutes.
4. Turn dough out onto a clean counter top. Knead and roll dough into a “log” about shoulders width.
Bring ends together and roll back into a log shape. Repeat process until dough is smooth.
Roll into a ball. Let rest for ~15 more minutes.
5. Cut dough into 6 equal size pieces.
Flatten each piece into a long rectangle. Coat both sides of each rectangle with a little oil.
6. Holding the dough between the finger and thumb of each hand, start gently stretching the dough to almost shoulder width. Then, begin slapping the dough “belt” against the clean counter top. The center line of the belt should be slightly thinner than its edges.
Next, tear the dough down the center, from one end to the other, leaving the joining end intact to form one long noodle. While pulling the rest of the dough, cover fresh noodles with plastic wrap to prevent from drying.
7. Place raw broccoli flowerettes into steamer pot, removing when bright green and tender. Heat pan on medium-high flame. Add a little oil. Saute shrimp until just cooked through. Remove from heat.
8. Drop fresh noodles into boiling salted water. Cook noodles just until they float to the surface and are desired tenderness, ~2 to 3 minutes. Drain in colander.
9. Place noodles, tofu and broccoli in serving bowls, and bring to table. Add toppings as desired.
10. Enjoy immediately.