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Spicy Noodles for Immigrants' Lonely Hearts, 2021

Spicy, aromatic, and simple. After I moved from Shanghai to New York last year, one of the food that I miss the most is Chongqing “small” noodles. These noodles are covered in thick spicy seasoning with Sichuan pepper and pickled vegetable, while yellow peas and ground pork are optional toppings.

Back in Shanghai, I often biked to a Chongqing noodles restaurant near home when I don’t feel like cooking. It’s a family-run place with several tables, the steam from the kitchen often fogged up the glass door in winter. After a long day’s work, the warm light streaming through the door shined like a sanctuary: you know a flavorful bowl of hot noodles will be placed in front of you in five minutes. Always good, fast, cheap, and reliable.

In the past decade, Chongqing small noodles have sprung up all over China. I’ve never been to Chongqing, the birthplace of this beloved street food. But immigrants who opened up restaurants in Chinese big cities have trained my tastebuds, which were used to a very different style of light and sweet cuisine from my Cantonese hometown.

As a Chinese immigrant to the U.S., suddenly I’m entitled to claim food from all over China to my nostalgic list. And the disappointment of getting a completely wrong Chongqing small noodles from a popular Chinese restaurant in Manhattan, pushed me to recreate the dish at home for the first time.

The recipe is based on a few versions, including recipes from Yao Zhao(founder of a Sichuan pepper oil company), Fuchsia Dunlop(specialist in Chinese cuisine), and Chinese recipe site Xiachufang. You can get all the ingredients in a big Chinese supermarket.

Chongqing Xiaomian with yellow peas and ground pork
(1 serving)

100g dried wheat-flour noodles
A handful of green vegetables such as bok choy
100g ground pork
25g whole dry yellow peas. If you can’t find them, use cooked chickpeas instead
1 stem of scallions, thinly sliced
garlic and ginger, both minced 

1 tbsp chili oil or Lao Gan Ma
1 tsp Sichuan pepper oil
2 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp black vinegar 
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp Yibin Suimi Yacai, a kind of pickled vegetables from Sichuan province

1. Soak the dry yellow peas in cool water for a few hours. Put the peas in boiling water, add 1 tsp of salt, simmer until tender.
2. Heat the cooking oil in a wok or pan over medium heat. Put the ground pork, season with a pinch of salt, minced garlic, ginger, and soy source. Stir-fry until fragrant.
3. Make ginger garlic sauce: put the minced garlic(1 clove) and ginger(1 inch) in a bowl and pour in boiling water. Stir to bring out the flavor from ginger and garlic.
4. Get a big bowl, put in soy sauce, vinegar, chili oil or Lao Gan Ma, Sichuan pepper oil, sesame oil, and the ginger garlic sauce. Use a spoon to stir and mix them well. 
5. Boil the noodles, follow the instruction on the noodle packaging. Add the bok choy to the boiling water for a minute.
6. Drain the noodles and bok choy. Put them in a deep bowl, add the seasoning, yellow peas, and ground pork. Garnish with scallion greens and preserved vegetables. Mix everything together before eating.
7. Enjoy the spicy and tingling noodles!

This is part of “You Stir the Pot: Recipes for Change” project.