In Xi’an, a traditional street vendor will always have a pot of boiling water
for noodles and a pot of oil kept right below smoking point, just so they can 1 make this dish. In fact, this is the most old-school way to prepare biang-biang noodles. You know how a burger is just a burger? Biang-biang noodles are just this—fresh hand-ripped strands topped with fragrant aromatics and spices, doused in the aforementioned hot oil, and quickly tossed to coat. Slurp it up fast, bowl in one hand, chopsticks in another. Try not to burn your tongue.
Feel that? That’s what street food should be like.
- To make the dough: Place the flour in a stand mixer with the dough hook attachment.
- In a Pyrex measuring cup or a container that has a mouth to pour, stir the salt into the room-temperature water until dissolved. Start the mixer at a low speed. Slowly add the salt water at the side of the mixer until all of the water is evenly incorporated. Keep running the mixer until the sides of the mixing bowl are flour-free and the dough is smooth. If the dough doesn’t seem to be coming together, you can add up to ¼ cup (60 ml) more water, a little at a time.
- Alternatively, if mixing by hand in a bowl, add the water ¼ cup (60 ml) at a time, using your hands to knead the mixture into a ball of dough. Knead until a dough is formed, 8 to 10 minutes.
- Remove the dough from the mixing bowl and knead on a floured board. You’ll need to use a bit of muscle, as the dough will be quite tough at first, but it will get smoother and springier the longer you work it. Knead until relatively smooth and springy. Cover with a moist towel and let rest for 5 minutes. Then uncover and knead the dough for a minute or so with clean hands on a floured board. Repeat this rest-then-knead process twice more. In total, you should have rested the dough for 15 minutes and kneaded it three times.
- After the final rest, flatten the dough into a rectangle to the best of your ability and cut the dough into 3½-ounce (100 g) pieces (about 6 pieces for one batch of dough). Use a rolling pin to roll each piece into a flat rectangle, a little over ¼ inch thick, 4 to 5 inches long, and about 1½ inches wide (or 6 mm thick, 10 cm to 12 cm long, and 4 cm wide).
- Brush the dough with vegetable oil and store without stacking them on top of each other. In the stores, we pack the un-pulled pieces on their edge, like books, sideways in a container. Rest, covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated, for at least 1 hour, up to 3 days.
- To pull and cook the noodles: These noodles cannot sit after being pulled, and are best eaten fresh. Be prepared to immediately boil, sauce, and slurp them down.
- Take the pieces of dough out of the refrigerator and let them warm up to room temperature. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. On a clean counter, warm up the pieces of dough by flattening them on the counter with your hands, until the dough feels stretchy and elastic.
- Evenly press the dough into a flat rectangular shape until it is about 6 inches long and 3 inches wide (15 cm long and 7.5 cm wide). Grab the ends of the rectangle with your thumbs and forefingers, as if you are checking if a bill is counterfeit in the light.
- Pull the dough gently, stretching it until it is about shoulder-width long. Start to slightly pull and bounce the noodle flat against the counter in an up-and-down motion.
- Pull and slap the dough against the counter until the dough is almost 4 feet (1.25 m) long. Be careful not to pull too quickly or grip too tight, as you’ll break the noodle. If the noodle does break, just grab onto the broken part and try to pull from there. When the noodle is the right length (4 feet/1.25 m), pick it up at the middle and rip it into two pieces like string cheese.
- Pull until you almost reach the end, but don’t pull all the way through. You’ll end up with a giant noodle ring. Carefully press the ends of the strands to stretch and even them out if they are too thick.
- Pull and rip the remaining noodles and throw all strands into the pot of boiling water at the same time. Stir with tongs to make sure they do not stick.
- They should be “swimming” in the water. Boil for 2 minutes. If the water is about to spill out, turn the heat down slightly but keep it at a boil. Add cold water to the pot if necessary. Your total boiling time should be capped at 2 minutes. Strain out the noodles and serve as directed.
- In a saucepan, combine all of the ingredients with 1⁄4 cup (60 ml) water and mix to combine. Bring to a boil over high heat.
- Once boiling, turn the heat down to a low boil and cook for 2 minutes. Then turn off the heat, cover the pot, and let sit for 10 minutes.
- Strain the sauce and use immediately, or let cool and store in an airtight container, refrigerated, for up to 3 days.
- Bring a large pot of water to a full boil over high heat.
- Pull the biang-biang dough into three noodles, following the pro- cess on page 57. Add to the boiling water and cook for 2 minutes. Remove the noodles from the water and set aside to drain.
- Cook the cabbage briefly in the noodle water. Strain out and place with the noodles.
- In a small metal skillet (preferably cast-iron), heat the vegetable oil over high heat until it just starts to shimmer but before it starts to smoke, 1 to 2 minutes.
- Meanwhile, add the noodles, noodle sauce, and cabbage to a serving bowl and stir to combine. Then place the chili powder, garlic puree, green onion, celery, and chive in a little pile on top of the noodles.
- Carefully and slowly drizzle the still-hot oil a little at a time over the pile of aromatics on the noodles, making sure every bit gets sizzled. Stir quickly and serve immediately.
Recipes reprinted from XI’AN FAMOUS FOODS: THE CUISINE OF WESTERN CHINA, FROM NEW YORK'S FAVORITE NOODLE SHOP by Jason Wang with Jessica Chou. Photography by Jenny Huang. Published by ABRAMS.