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Making Hand-Pulled Noodles

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Hi,

On my current visit to China, I've had a few lessons on making La Mian Noodles. When making them, the restaurant owner I get lessons from uses a powdered chemical which is added to water and then added to the noodle dough. It changes the dough's constitution and makes it more stretchy. I've heard that baking soda may be used but my teacher said that it's no good. What he uses is something called 'Peng Hui' which I've been told isn't that healthy (to say the least) to consume.

My question is, what would the noodle restaurants in say the UK or the US use as a noodle agent? I know there are at least a few in London with Gordon Ramsay the famous British TV chef challenging one to a noodle making competition. It's all on Youtube but unfortunately I cannot view it here due to government restrictions. I would be very grateful if somebody could help me crack this one....or maybe 'Peng Hui' is exportable to the UK, US, Europe etc?

I found a ling with some related material dating back a few years on this sit:

http://forums.egullet.org/index.php/topic/72299-lye-water/page__st__30

Thanks.

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Take a look at this more recent thread:

http://forums.egulle...pulled-noodles/

Penghui is ground mugwort potash. I don't think it's unhealthy when used properly and in small amounts (as with lye or other strong bases, you wouldn't want to consume it directly, or have much direct skin contact with it undiluted), but to answer your question more directly, "lye water" (which can actually be a couple of different types of alkaline substance) is probably the most readily available substitute, at least here in the US. You don't have to use an alkaline substance to get noodles which can be pulled, or which have "Q", but it does up the Q factor a bit, and I think it may add a subtle taste as well.

I think Borax is sometimes also used, both in noodles and as a tenderizer, but according to Wikipedia, that's péngshā (硼砂). Not the same peng as pénghuī (蓬灰), though both are second tone. Unlike penghui, I'm pretty sure that using Borax is illegal in some places, though I'm not qualified to speak on the relevant legal or food safety issues.


Edited by Will (log)

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In the US, it's called Kansui and you can buy the Koon Chun brand at most asian markets. A bottle looks like this. Alternatively, you can make baked soda from baking soda which will give you sodium carbonate but not potassium carbonate.

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Thank you both for your replies. Anybody know if pénghuī (蓬灰) is available outside China eg the US?

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Interesting explanation on those videos from Will's post. That guy have explained on good way!

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Thank you both for your replies. Anybody know if pénghuī (蓬灰) is available outside China eg the US?

I would assume so. The area where I live probably has it somewhere -- I haven't seen it, but haven't gone out of my way looking for it either. The place in NY mentioned by this article supposedly uses / used it, but I don't know if they import it, or obtain it locally (you don't need much, and obviously, sneaking a few packages in wouldn't be hard).

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/26/dining/26noodles.html

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Thank you Will. That's a great article. I havn't been able to watch the videos as the internet is pretty slow here. I've got another noodle pulling lesson in a couple of hours. It really is quite difficult and added to that the communication problem since I have only a smattering of Chinese. It's also very hot and humid here. I'll let you guys know how I get on.

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I just wanted to thank Sazji and Luke Rymarz for their inspiration.

Sazji: your detailed account about your noodle making adventures have been very helpful to me. Luke, thank you for providing a base recipe that has been verified to actually work by others. Even if this recipe didn't work for me (I just can't find the same flour here in the UK), Luke - You've also been an inspiration by letting the world know it took you over 20 tries to get the dough right. I respect your determination. Myself, I've only tried 13 times so far.

It would be great if any of you that are making hand-pulled noodles now could confirm if my dough has the right sort of consistency. It seems to stretch more or less OK but not as evenly as I'd like. I'm thinking part of it might be due to my poor technique (which I can live with as it's something that I can work on).

As a lot of work seems to be going into breaking down gluten (thanks for the tips guys) so I figured one might as well start by keeping the initial gluten content down. My base recipe with which for me so far has resulted in the greatest degree of success is:

1 cup regular, white wheat flour (label states 9.1% protein. If you must know- it's the economy brand of the local supermarket);

1 cup tapioca starch

1 cup warm (60°C) water (close enough to the 31% of moisture that Luke uses!)

Mix and knead for a few minutes, cover and leave to rest in the fridge for a few hours. Re-knead and start pulling.

Pulling and twirling (alternating between clockwise and counter-clockwise) seems to help quite a bit to make the strands stretch more evenly. If after about 15 minutes the strands keep breaking on the first pull, add a bit more starch. If the dough seems too runny, use a bit more wheat flour. If you add flour or starch, after adding it, keep folding and pulling until the dough is uniform again.

However, I'm finding that when pulling before the dough is ready, my strands tends to thin out in the middle a bit. As a result, after pulling and folding a few times, the noodles get quite thick on one side and quite thin on the other. The window of time in which the strands pull evenly seems to be quite short.

I've avoided corn starch due to the non-Newtonian fluid thing that it does (but perhaps it would actually help?) Other than trying different kinds of starch, any suggestions on what else could be done to make the strands stretch more evenly or to extend that window?


Edited by kleinebre (log)

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Picture of try 13: Nice effort, but ended in disaster (and never made it into boiling water as I didn't flour this try).

noodles_try13.jpg

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Replying to Mark's query upthread, "how many food use geometric progression?"

Two words: Puff pastry.

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The Chinese use High Protein Flour.

Do you have anything to back this up?

It is nonsense.

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Are you suggesting that I am lying?

This is what I was taught when I was in China. The best noodles are made using flower with Protein levels above 12% . I am not at my computer now but I can give you a list of the names of the flours they use or rather believe are the best to use. This comes from information I received from people who emanate from Lanzo.....which is the home of La Mian. I've watched Lukerymarz 'make' 'noodles' and he's nowhere near creating what they should be like. I'm not sure if his recipe is any good. I may take a look at it this week when I've got some Lye.

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I basically don't speak any Chinese, but I've gone as far as using Google Translate to translate my queries ("la mian dough recipe") to Chinese (拉面面团配方), then searching Baidu (the leading search engine in China) for that.

http://www.tfysw.com...525/lamian.html seemed a promising link with a full explanation but only does one strand at a time rather than forming lots of strands via geometrical progression. The query 拉面面团配方面筋温度 ("la mian dough recipe gluten temperature") was another one I tried, hoping to get more technical detail. http://blog.sina.com...a70100umaf.html seemed to offer that sort of detail, kindly translated by Chrome. After getting used to the idea that the word "surface" actually has to do with the dough/flour, this seemed halfway usable to draw some conclusions:

  • For the real thing, higher protein content seems to be recommended;
  • Desired target temperature for mixing the dough would be at around 30°C;
  • Flour-to-water ratio 2:1; (hey, where have I seen that before?) - this also explains why to start with warm water or cold water, depending on season, to maximize gluten formation;
  • The article suggests a resting time of about 20 minutes
  • "Surface, water, salt, alkali ratio: 1:0.5:0.01:0.01. 100 g surface (=flour), 50 g of water 1 gram salt, 1 gram alkali."

There's more there which you're free to have your browser translate for you, but here's probably the most interesting translated section of the above page:

5 reasons for failure

1. the dough sticky hands, may be due to the poor quality of flour or too much water, or the Punta gray is too big.

2. the dough placed on the collapse of the frame, probably due to poor gluten quality, short settling time, weakening

the high enzyme activity, or add too much water or salt too little, or too hot or placement time too long; The flour mill is too small, damaged starch content is too high.

3. Place [of] the flour fermentation, probably due to the high temperature is too high or place too long, or flour, enzyme activity, or infected with bacteria.

4. The fourth is the dough feel ribs, the original because of the dough is low or poor quality of gluten or less salt, the dough will not pull out, or the Peng gray by adding less or dough is too hard, it could be flour.

5. boiled off, because the pot not open when the water or the water too few noodles for a long time not float, glued to the bottom of the pot or rod obsolete on the mixing, or poor quality of flour or Punta gray add too much.


Edited by kleinebre (log)

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Google Translate is hilariously inept at translating Chinese. I'd be very sceptical. Especially on numbers and weights. It gets them wrong all the time.

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  • For the real thing, higher protein content seems to be recommended;
  • Desired target temperature for mixing the dough would be at around 30°C;
  • Flour-to-water ratio 2:1; (hey, where have I seen that before?) - this also explains why to start with warm water or cold water, depending on season, to maximize gluten formation;
  • The article suggests a resting time of about 20 minutes
  • "Surface, water, salt, alkali ratio: 1:0.5:0.01:0.01. 100 g surface (=flour), 50 g of water 1 gram salt, 1 gram alkali."

Thank you. And what I waw told as being 'higher' meant above 12%.


Edited by Ader1 (log)

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Google Translate is hilariously inept at translating Chinese. I'd be very sceptical. Especially on numbers and weights. It gets them wrong all the time.

Google translate inept at translating Chinese? I have no idea what you're talking about.

""King on foot, his hands hold two one stretch, a jitter rejection documented on two head cross left hand grip, right thumb and middle finger grasp the middle section into the other end, and homeopathic right outside the direction doubled stretch shaking in surface stretch long."

Yep, I'll be a bad-ass noodle maker in no time now.

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Google Translate is hilariously inept at translating Chinese. I'd be very sceptical. Especially on numbers and weights. It gets them wrong all the time.

Google translate inept at translating Chinese? I have no idea what you're talking about.

""King on foot, his hands hold two one stretch, a jitter rejection documented on two head cross left hand grip, right thumb and middle finger grasp the middle section into the other end, and homeopathic right outside the direction doubled stretch shaking in surface stretch long."

Yep, I'll be a bad-ass noodle maker in no time now.

I was told, with Google Translate in one language, the following translation from one to the other:

The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak

becomes:

The wine is good, but the meat is terrible.

dcarch

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It is supposedly Russian and was "The vodka is good, but the meat is rotten". However, amusing as it is, it is probably a myth.

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Google Translate is hilariously inept at translating Chinese. I'd be very sceptical. Especially on numbers and weights. It gets them wrong all the time.

Are you suggesting that I got my above 12% Protein figure from a Google translation? Fine. I'll let you continue watching Lukerymarz et al videos and combining All purpose with whatever.......LOL!

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Are you suggesting that I got my above 12% Protein figure from a Google translation?

No. Not at all.

If you read the previous posts, you would realise anything I said about Google MisTranslate was in response to kleinebre who posted about using it.

No reference to you or anything you ever said. Sorry.


Edited by liuzhou (log)

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The Chinese use High Protein Flour.

Do you have anything to back this up?

It is nonsense.

This is what you said earlier. I was unhappy about that. Kleinebre posted a google translation of a La Mian recipe and you just rubbished google's Chinese translating abilities when it agreed with what I said. Fairi enough that may well be true. However, I am right on this one regarding the Protein content of the Flour which is desired for making La Mian noodles.....well almost. I stated 12% Protein. In actual fact, it's above 12.5%. But, a La Mian master can work with Flour with lower Protein levels but for the desired end product....above 12.5%. Do you have information to the contratry?


Edited by Ader1 (log)

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Ask an engineer, according to the laws of physics, the weakest link in a chain theory, there is no possible way you can make pulled noodles becuase the weak spot in a strain of noodle will get weaker much sooner and break faster.

Therefore I conclude that all the pulled noodle demonstrations and videos are illusions and magic tricks. :-).

I have tried high gluten, low gluten, and no gluten, lye water --------, nothing worked so far.

dcarch

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My rubbishing of Google's translating abilities was nothing to do with whether it agreed with you or not. Surprising as it may seem to you, you were not even on the radar of my thinking.

My rubbishing of Google MisTranslate is slightly more to do with the fact that I do speak Chinese and can see immediately how inept it is.

I was merely warning that it often gets quantities and weights wrong.

As to the Chinese using high protein flour, I'd love to see you come here and try to find any.

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Good, so after experimenting and having some degree of success with a mix of plain flour, tapioca starch and water... I'm back to the drawing board. I've got myself a bag of the highest quality, strongest flour I could find. Protein content: 14.8%. Let's see how that works out over the next 5 tries or so.

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