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Homemade Silver Pin Noodles 

A childhood favorite to make with the kids

click to enlarge table_talk-magnum.jpg

Photo by Wendy Chan

There are many recipes for handmade Chinese silver pin noodles, sometimes called needle noodles or yin zhen fen. However my favorite is the one my grandma used to make for us when I was a kid. Every time I make these noodles, I think of the good old times with her in China. The fragrance of the freshly ground rice flour dough, the moonlight shining on our kitchen door, the endless songs from the frogs and crickets — and there we were making bundles of needle noodles in our tiny farm kitchen. Grandma would give me a handful after the first batch. I would sit outside on the still warm stone steps, eating one by one, counting the fireflies. We didn't have much then but those plain needle noodles were the most delightful snack of my childhood. Now I enjoy making them with my kids, too. I recently showed the kids at a Jefferson Community Center cooking class how to make them and we had a blast. I love the variety of dishes we can create with them, too. 

Little kids might enjoy the noodles plain for a healthier snack. I like them served with my garlic chili sauce (recipe below). My family likes them stir fried with meat and vegetables in chili sauce. The noodles are also excellent in soup. Their texture is springy and the taste delicious and light. 

click to enlarge Pin noodles with chili sauce, pan fried or straight from the pot. - PHOTO BY WENDY CHAN
  • Photo by Wendy Chan
  • Pin noodles with chili sauce, pan fried or straight from the pot.

Silver Pin Noodles 

Serves 4.

Ingredients:

2 cups rice flour

2 cups tapioca flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

2 cups boiling water 

1/2 cup rice flour for dusting 

To make the dough:

Mix the flours and salt together in a large mixing bowl. Add the boiling water and carefully stir with a pair of chopsticks or a wooden spoon. After the mixture is incorporated, add oil and combine. The dough will still be very hot, so I usually put on gloves to knead the dough. Or you can let it cool off a little first. But I find kneading the warm dough therapeutic. After kneading for 8 minutes, the dough will become soft and smooth. Cover it with a clean towel and let it rest for 5 minutes.

To form the noodles:

Snip a fingertip-sized piece of still warm dough and put it in the center of your palm. Use both palms to roll it into a rope about 3 inches long with tapered ends like a needle's point. Flour your hands as needed and work as quickly as you can before the dough gets cold and dried out (this yields broken needles). 

To steam the noodles:

Punch a few holes in a sheet of parchment paper and place it in the bottom of a bamboo. Scatter the noodles or group them in small bundles onto the parchment. Cover and place the steamer over boiling water for 8 minutes. Let the noodles sit for another 2 minutes before taking cover off. 

click to enlarge Savory chili sauce. - PHOTO BY WENDY CHAN
  • Photo by Wendy Chan
  • Savory chili sauce.

Spicy Garlic Chili Sauce

This sauce can be added to many dishes and brings a kick to your palate. Making it involves some smoke so have your range fan on.

Ingredients:

1 cup chili flakes or a handful of dried Thai chilis

3 tablespoons minced fresh garlic 

2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger 

¼ cup raw sesame seeds

1 teaspoon ground cumin 

1 teaspoon white pepper 

1/2 teaspoon Chinese five spice 

1/2 cup soy sauce 

1/2 cup vegetable oil

click to enlarge Pin noodles with chili sauce, pan fried or straight from the pot. - PHOTO BY WENDY CHAN
  • Photo by Wendy Chan
  • Pin noodles with chili sauce, pan fried or straight from the pot.

Toast the chili flakes in a warm pan for until just aromatic. If using whole dried Thai chilis, roast them on a baking sheet in an oven on low heat for about 10 minutes or just until they are aromatic, then crush them into flakes with a rolling pin or mortar and pestle.

Mix all ingredients except the oil together in a metal bowl on a heat-proof surface. Heat up a pan over medium-high heat, add the oil and cook until boiling hot — a tiny drop of water should sizzle in the pan. Slowly pour the hot oil into the chili mixture. It will immediately sizzle and smoke, so be very careful. After the mixture cools, stir well and serve. When placed in a clean jar and kept refrigerated, it can keep up to a couple of months.

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Wendy Chan

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