Hot dry noodles are ranked as one of China’s top ten noodle dishes and are one of the most famous snacks in Wuhan. The bright yellow color is appealing and their high calories make them a good source of energy and staple food.
To say hot dry noodles are the soul of a Wuhan breakfast is fitting because those who go without their bowl of noodles suffer from the discomfort of an empty stomach all day.
They are great to get you off to a good start.
Why do the Wuhan people make such a fuss about hot noodles anyway, it’s just a bowl of noodles, isn’t it? There must be a good reason for handing down the recipe over hundreds of years, carefully passing on the ancestral secrets.
Well, not even the native Wuhan people know, all they know is that these noodles are good! And that’s a good reason.
The Origin of Hot Noodles
Cai Mingwei, the founder of the famous hot noodle shop, Cai Lin, started out as an apprentice in a traditional Chinese medicine shop and often found himself cooking up sesame oil noodles for the boss’ lunch. He got so good at it that he left the drugstore and began selling the noodles for a living.
Down the track, he added sesame and chopped green onions to the noodles, which the customers enthusiastically welcomed. Now, production speed is very important for a profitable business but the time to cook noodles cannot be sped up.
Cai Mingwei was a smart cookie and started cooking the noodles in advance to 80% done, stirred in the oil and dried the noodles. The next day he just reheated them in boiling water. It is through this continuous innovation that Cai Mingwei grew his successful business, and he and his brother Cai Ming Jing founded Cai Lin Noodle Shop.
The name “hot dry noodles” was around since the 1920’s but was not registered as a brand name by Cai Mingwei until the 1950s.
Firstly, alkali water must be used to make the noodles. The gluten content of flour from southern China is relatively low, meaning that salt must be added. The alkali will strengthen the gluten and give the noodles flexibility.
Getting the amount of alkaline right is half the success in producing delicious hot noodles.
Secondly, if cooked the night before, the noodles only need to be 80% cooked. When reheated the next day mix in the oil to dry, and then add the seasonings.
Thirdly, the sesame sauce is a decisive factor in whether you get a stunning and mediocre flavor with this dish. Some noodle shops use peanut butter instead of sesame sauce to reduce the cost, which is entirely a matter of business ethics.
As for the use of black sesame seeds or white sesame seeds, it is only a matter of opinion. Cai Linji used black sesame seeds, and to my understanding, black sesame sauce is easier to make than white sesame sauce.
The flavor of ready-made sesame sauce is not as strong, so to make a tantalizing bowl of hot noodles, it’s best to make your own sesame sauce.
Now that we have the alkaline noodles and sesame sauce, we can get started making Chinese Hot Dry Noodles.
List of Dry Hot Noodles Ingredients (10 servings):
- 10 portions alkaline noodles
- 100 ml grape seed oil
- 1 clove garlic
- 80 ml light soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons fine white sugar
- 40 ml Zhenjiang vinegar
- 1 teaspoon white pepper
- 120 g black sesame sauce
- 40 ml sesame oil
- 80 g dry hot Chinese radish, chopped
- 40 g green onion, chopped
- 40 ml spicy oil
How to Make Chinese Hot Dry Noodles:
Put 2 liters of water into a 20 cm soup pot and bring to the boil. Cook noodles one portion at a time. Commercial kitchens have larger equipment and can cook more, but at home, too many noodles in the one pot lowers the temperature of the water and affects the taste.
Cook 1.6mm thick noodles for 50 seconds. If you use thicker noodles, 70-80 seconds should be enough to get a satisfactory taste.
Quickly remove the cooked noodles, and hold them up in front of an electric fan to cool them. Cooling the noodles quickly contracts them and seals in the flavor.
Mix the grape seed oil through the noodles to prevent them sticking together. Each portion of noodles will need 10 ml of grape seed oil, then spread the noodles out to dry. The degree of dryness is purely personal preference.
If you want to enjoy the noodles the next day, the best way is to dry them to your satisfaction and cover with plastic wrap to prevent excessive drying.
While the noodles are drying, prepare the other ingredients. Soy sauce is another important seasoning in this recipe. Add the sugar to the soy sauce to balance the salty taste and stir to combine.
Chop the garlic very finely, or mince it, and stir it through the soy sauce and sugar mixture.
Put 2 liters of water into a 20 cm pot, bring to the boil and add the dry noodles. Cook for about 10 seconds, (just enough to heat them) fish them out with a strainer and put them on the serving plate.
When you buy take-away noodles, the seasonings are added randomly or as one mixed sauce, and care is not taken as to the order.
At home, with our family, we like to dine with more sophistication! It is not just the taste we are thinking about, but the whole eating experience. We like to take the time to eat and enjoy our meal, together.
The seasonings for Chinese Hot Dry Noodles are all added separately, and the order matters! As one flavor builds on another, rather than mix them all together into one sauce, they should be placed in individual dishes on the dinner table for everyone to serve themselves.
For best results put the Zhenjiang vinegar on first, one teaspoon per portion.
Next, mix in the soy sauce/sugar/garlic blend, and then add a pinch of white pepper.
Pour two teaspoons of the black sesame sauce onto the noodles.
Add 1 teaspoon of sesame oil per portion and toss through the noodles.
Finally, add the chopped radish and green onions.
If you like a bit of spice to your dish, add some spicy oil to taste.
To achieve an authentic effect with these noodles, you must choose the right alkaline water. If it’s not available in your supermarket or Asian grocery store, you will need to make your own.
The process of cooking the noodles is also critical. Take care to control the cooking times so as the noodles will be soft enough for eating.