All right, there a lot of things to note about this recipe, so I’m putting the notes first and going step by step.
First, it’s important to have your mise en place prepped for this dish before you start cooking (or reheating) the noodles. Assembly goes quite quickly, and if left to sit for too long, the noodles will get sticky and soft as they absorb the sauces, which in turn makes the whole dish quite dry and difficult to eat.
- This dish can technically be made with any style of noodle or vermicelli; in fact most street vendors in Wuhan will also offer a version made with rice noodles. However, the original and most popular version is made with alkaline noodles, essentially the same as Japanese ramen noodles.
- A convenient brand of dried alkaline noodles widely available in the U.S. is Hime, or J-Basket brand Japanese Ramen Noodles; this recipe is based on that specific brand.
- Sesame paste
- You may be tempted to try using tahini for this, but Chinese sesame paste is made from toasted sesame seeds, whereas tahini is made from raw, so the flavors will be quite different. Chinese sesame paste should be available at any Chinese/Taiwanese supermarket in the sauces aisle; a popular brand is “Wang Zhi He,” a small glass jar with a yellow label and a red lid.
- We’re listing the “Easy Mode” version for beginners, which uses hot water to temper the raw garlic’s flavor. The more typical street vendor style is instead to ladle about a tablespoon of scalding hot oil over the raw garlic and toppings, searing them to temper the flavor and flavoring the oil at the same time. We highly recommend this if you feel up to it; the flavor and mouth feel is an improvement over “Easy Mode,” but it does carry an element of danger, and the final dish will be oilier.
- Sauces and Seasonings
- “Light soy sauce” is what you would normally think of as soy sauce.
- “Dark soy sauce” is much richer and more viscous, usually used in quite small amounts. Think of it like molasses versus maple syrup.
- Chinese black vinegar should be available in pretty much any Asian supermarket. We use “Chinkiang” vinegar, a tall glass bottle with a yellow label and a yellow top.
- Chili oil and MSG are optional as well, but highly recommended; especially if you’re chasing the street stall flavor.
- You’re free to add whatever toppings you like; generally it is a game to balance freshness, acidity and saltiness, and texture together. The recipe here is just a jumping-off point, with an attempt to use easily available ingredients.
Wuhan Hot Dry Noodles
- Pot of boiling water
- Strainer or chopsticks
- 90 g dry alkaline (ramen) noodles A popular, widely available brand is Hime/J-Basket. One bunch of noodles is 90g
- 1 tsp Chinese sesame paste See Notes
- 1.5 tsp water
- 1/2 Tbsp fresh garlic, minced or crushed Two medium cloves
- 1 Tbsp boiling water
Sauces and seasonings
- 1 tsp light soy sauce
- 1/4 tsp dark soy sauce
- 2 tsp black vinegar
- 1 pinch sugar about 1/16 tsp
- 1/2 tsp chili oil (optional)
- 1 pinch MSG (optional)
- 1 Tbsp green onions, chopped
- 1 Tbsp cilantro, chopped
- 1 Tbsp Chinese pickled mustard, chopped (optional)
- 2 Tbsp fried peanuts (optional)
- 2 Tbsp quick-pickled daikon, carrots, or cucumber (optional)
Prep the sesame sauce
- Combine sesame paste and water in a small bowl; mix until creamy and smooth.
Garlic OPTION 1 (Easy Mode): Garlic Water
- Combine garlic and boiling water in a small bowl; mix quickly and let stand.
Garlic OPTION 2 (Street Mode): Scald the garlic with hot oil
- As the last step in assembling your dish, place crushed or minced garlic in a mount on top of your dish, and then pour over a tablespoon of hot oil; you should hear an audible sizzle.
Prep the seasoning sauce
- Combine the light soy, dark soy, black vinegar, chili oil, sugar, and optional MSG in a small bowl; mix until well combined.
(Optional) Pre-mix your sauces and seasonings
- Combine your sesame sauce, garlic water, and seasoning sauce into one bowl.
Noodles OPTION 1 (Easy Mode) : Cook the noodles and combine sauces
- Cook your noodles according to the instructions on the package; adjust according to your preference. We like our noodles slightly firm.
- Strain the noodles, and combine them in a bowl with all of your sauces. Add your toppings, adjust seasoning and spice to taste, and serve hot.
Noodles OPTION 2 (Street Mode): Par-cook and oil the noodles, re-heat for each bowl
- Cook your noodles as above, but rinse them thoroughly under cold water to stop the cooking and remove excess starch.
- Combine cold noodles in a bowl with 1tsp of neutral oil (canola is fine) per serving; mix to coat.
- When ready to serve, dip each serving of noodles for 5 seconds in boiling water; quickly strain and combine with sauces and toppings, then serve immediately.
- Mix everything together in the bowl thoroughly, add soy sauce, vinegar, chili oil, etc. to taste. Often eaten along with a mian wo or you tiao, which we'll deal with another time.