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Does quenching noodles actually do anything?

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One very traditional chinese way of cooking noodles & dumplings is to put the noodles/dumplings into boiling water, wait until it returns to a rolling boil and then adding a cup of cold water to the pot. This process is repeated 2 or 3 times and then noodles/dumplings are declared done.

Does this have any effect on the final texture of the noodles or is purely a timing thing?

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That's the way we cook dumplings in my family. The only thing I've been told is that it's a timing thing. It'll be interesting to find out if it actually makes a difference in the final product.

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This concept pops up in the Japan forum too....is it just a hangover from the days when people couldn't regulate their cooking flame easily, or is it still relevant today?

When the topic comes up, Hiroyuki says he's long since stopped adding cold water, and just turns the heat down to keep the pot at the required level of boil. I prefer to add the cold water - my reasoning is that I rarely have a really huge pot of water, and I want to ensure that water rapidly being lost by evaporation and absorption (especially with noodles) is being replaced, so that the amount of loose starch in the water is kept as low as possible. For me, the handy rules of thumb about time are just a convenient byproduct.

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This is also supposed to be the traditional way of cooking white cut (poached) chicken.

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The directions on some dried "soba" noodles have that bring to a boil and then add cold water direction. I followed it once and they were nice and chewy (toothsome?). Not sure if I had just boiled them if the result would have been the same.

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I doubt if 99 out of 100 people could detect the difference. Please excuse the cynicism...

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In (I think) the Sous Vide Eggs thread I speculated that some cooking techniques that are passed down to us were developed because they rely on visual cues rather than kitchen timers or other gadgets. Cooking in water is well suited to this because boiling water (altitude notwithstanding) is a pretty exact temperature. So I suspect this is about timing.

But the question that comes to mind is, since adding 1 cup (or whatever) of cold water is specified, is the beginning volume of water specified as well? For this to work on any level it seems as though it would have to be.

Assuming we started with, say, a couple of quarts of water, I doubt that one cup of cold water would have enough impact to justify the term 'quench' (although I have a pretty vivid mental picture of that term left over from my high school metal shop classes).

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The packet of soba I cooked specified the initial water amount as well. Of course I do not have the packet but will check at the market

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I know the packaged food does specified the initial amount of water and how much you should put in after. However, I don't think it was specified back in the day when they were using this method to cook wontons, dumplings, etc.

When we make fresh wontons or dumplings at home, the amount often varies. Therefore, we would began with different pots and different amount of water each time. Even the cup/bowl we use to as a measure for the cold water would differ. Generally, the amount of water added is enough to calm the boil. Sometimes its 2 additions, sometimes its 3. So, a dumpling from each batch is usually tested after the pot comes back to boil after the 2nd addition of water.

With dumplings, there are more variables than noodles. When making dumplings, especially when you have several people making them at the same time, the size would vary. Depending on what type of filling you use, that can also influence cooking time.

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Assuming we started with, say, a couple of quarts of water, I doubt that one cup of cold water would have enough impact to justify the term 'quench' (although I have a pretty vivid mental picture of that term left over from my high school metal shop classes).

The initial amount of water will not affect cooking time very much although it will affect cooking temperature.

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I've wondered about this. The directions to do this are on my pack of frozen dumplings. I figured it had something to do with the texture of the wrapper...shocking it with cold water setting the starch or something along those lines...

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Doesn't the cold water simply and briefly reduce the temperature of the water? It doesn't have the same effect, for example, of lifting the noodles out and into an ice bath. So you're just cooking the noodles at a lower temperature.

Maybe this method is a combination of lore and practicality at a time when turning down the heat (over, say, a wood stove) would be a bigger chore than tossing in a cup or two of water to maintain temps around 95C/200F.

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As mentioned, this is likely a throwback to the days when the pot of water boiled over a wood fire, and the only way to regulate it was to add cold water.

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My little old lady friends have told me that this allows the jiaozi to fully cook through to the center while keeping the dough from turning to mush. It might also have to do with timing; the bowls of water are added to the pot three times, with the water brought to a boil each time before the next bowlful is added. It always has worked for me, at least, even with fillings that have to be fully cooked this way, such as pork.

As for fresh noodles, the main directions I've seen have been to bring the pot to a boil, add the noodles, bring to a boil again, and then remove them as soon as they float.

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As for the timing aspect, it would depend on the temperature of the "cold" water as well as the amount of noodles/water in the pot - longer in winter, shorter in summer, unless one had heat/air conditioning set to the same temperature year round, and let the cold water equilibrate to room temps.

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