Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Recommended Posts

I noticed the recipe for the regular mooncake crust asking for “lye water.” I also found it as a component of the dough for char chiu bao. As far as I know, only chinese (or chinese influenced) recipes require this ingredient and only those recipes that involve rice or wheat flour. In indigenous Filipino cooking, it only shows up in two items, both of them kueh-type snacks and appears to be as flavouring. A few drops is also used to release the flavour/colour of achiote (anatto) seeds. My question is, what exactly is the role of lye water in Chinese cooking?

Gato ming gato miao busca la vida para comer

Link to post
Share on other sites

From the research on google, it says that lye water allows the flour to absorb water better and makes it more elastic. The lye water can also be used as a preservative and neutralize the acid.

Since lye water is a bit bitter, it is common to add vinegar when eating wonton noodles to cover the bitterness.

Lye water can be found in Southern style noodles, zonghi, and dumpling skins.

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

I wonder if it has something to do with the springy bouncy toothsome texture that is well liked by the chinese, or to act like vitamin c or ascorbic acid in bread making which tighten the dough and acts as an astringent . I have been looking at various cookbooks but non of them explains its function.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 1 month later...

Hello all,

Lye water "Gan sueh" in Cantonese, or Kansu in Japanese is an essential ingredient in making ramen noodles in Japan.

It is what gives japanese Ramen noodles as well as many Southern Chinese style

egg based noodles their chewy springiness.

For many years, the use of lye water and similar alkaline and even toxic chemicals like borax, "Pang sah" has been a controversial subject in Chinese cooking.

Lye water and relatively weaker alkaline ammonia based solutions and potentially toxic Pang sah, or borax is used to give prawns in Chinese restaurants springy almost elastic texture. and are added extensively to Wonton noodles especially in Hong Kong and Southern China.

I had a patient who was a Cantonese chef who told me years ago about how borax was used.

In a nutshell, the prawns are treated with the borax, and rinsed at times for over two hours in restaurants to remove as much of the chemical.

In recent years, health authorities in Hong Kong have tried to prohibit the use of pang sah, and from what I hear, all these other related alkaline solutions, but its use is still prevalent all over Chinese restaurants in countries where the health authorities are not vigilant, or simply unaware. Pang sah is sometimes even added to rice sheets or cheung fun and as a chef once admitted to me, radish cake. :huh:

When you encounter prawns in dishes like hargow or Crystal or "Emerald prawns"

and the texture is extraordinarily chewy and elastic, chances are it has been treated with borax or a similar alkaline chemical. :unsure:


Link to post
Share on other sites
  As far as I know, only chinese (or chinese influenced) recipes require this ingredient and only those recipes that involve rice or wheat flour. 

There are other cuisines that use lye or similar alkaline solutions. The nixtamalization process that maize goes through to become hominy. Usually, in this process lime is used instead of lye, though.

I always attempt to have the ratio of my intelligence to weight ratio be greater than one. But, I am from the midwest. I am sure you can now understand my life's conundrum.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  As far as I know, only chinese (or chinese influenced) recipes require this ingredient and only those recipes that involve rice or wheat flour. 

There are other cuisines that use lye or similar alkaline solutions. The nixtamalization process that maize goes through to become hominy. Usually, in this process lime is used instead of lye, though.

Yes, as I subsequently discovered in my search to find answer to my original question. Foremost among them is what you just mentioned and also for firming up fruits for candying (squash, winter melon and breadfruit) where lime (cal) is the preferred alkali. The ludefisck (sp?) of the Scandinavians is another that quickly comes to mind. Apparently they also use an alkali spray to make pretzels take on that glossy varnished look. But Danjou's red flag about borax is quite sobering.

Gato ming gato miao busca la vida para comer

Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi all

apologies for the uncorrected posting above :smile:

Anyway....here are some more thoughts about alkaline solutions.

Food grade lye water is used extensively in the class of noodles in Southern China called "Gansueh Meen", or literally, "lye water noodles"

When made well they are delicious; but in the fiercely competitive Hong Kong noodle restaurant business, some noodle restaurants, specifically the wonton noodle restaurants are resorting to more unusual basic alkaline solutions to make their noodles achieve an even more chewier texture which is so prized by the Cantonese.

I have been quite alarmed at the strong whiff of ammonia I have encountered at several top notch wonton noodle restaurants in Hong Kong.

A Japanese chef told me that many ramen lovers in Japan actually view the flavor

of kansu or lye water as an intergral part of the flavor of ramen. Indeed, I have eaten in many ramen restaurants in Japan and have noticed that the taste of the kansu in the noodles will vary from restaurant to restaurant, ranging from strong to mild, and this correlates with the amount of kansu used, which I also observed, is proportional to the "springiness" and elasticity of the resulting ramen.

Alkaline chemicals like lye water are also used in the Chinese rice dumpling called "kansueh jiong" in Cantonese, or Lye water dumpling, but if made properly and well, and eaten in sweet red bean soup or simply dusted with sugar or topped with a bit of syrup they are delicious.

In Chinese restaurants all over, especially Cantonese restaurants, you will probably notice that at times the beef in classic dishes like "oyster sauce beef" or "Chinese style steak" and many other stir fried beef dishes, and especially in San Francisco's Chinatown, "Steak kow" are extraordinarily and almost unnaturally tender, chewy and succulent. It means that baking soda was used to tenderize it. :hmmm:

Pang sa, or borax has been used for a long time, but exactly when it began I am not sure. It was only available from Chinese medicine shops and I recall it being mentioned by Cantonese chefs when I was a kid during the Sixties.

I knew that the extraordinarily crunchy and delicious prawns we would eat at many reputable and famous Hong kong restaurants were in many cases, treated with a white powder called pang sa, but did not realize it was borax until much later, when many years ago, I noticed a huge sack of borax at a Chinese restaurant supplier's shop. I innocently remarked to the proprietor that I did not realize they also sold detergent, to which he replied, "Oh that is pang saH" :shock::shock:

Nowadays, most good Chinese chefs do frown on the use of pang sa, and there are many safe and natural techniques to achieve the prized crunchiness in prawns without using any chemical or additive.

But I still encounter it in restaurants all over Asia where government regulations are lax. I suspect in many cases, unscrupulous restaurant owners and their line chefs use it to cut losses, especially when the prawns are no longer fresh, as it firms up the flesh; and although it is rinsed for hours literally, I doubt it is completely washed away.

Pang sa was added to all sorts of things, especially commercial, mass produced fish cake, fish balls, and as i mentioned above dim sum restaurant items including at times radish cake, as well as fresh flat rice noodles and even some dried soy bean sticks "Foo Juk".

Commercial, non artisanal and extraordinarily chewy fish cakes and fish balls were, and in some places are still are treated with pangsah.

I think it is the fierce competition in the Chinese restaurant business and food industry all over Asia is only one of many reasons why many establishments used and still use borax, especially in countries where government regulations on its use are poorly enforced or non existent.

But over the years, many genuinely good Chinese chefs, the ones who are purists and true artisans at heart, have tried to stop the use of this chemical, especially in recent years when the potential risk to health became apparent.

I know for certain that many of these great chefs are trying to teach a higher standard of food safety to their students and to do things the more difficult but safe way rather than use these chemical short cuts.



Edited by danjou (log)
Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm still trying to figure out what role lye water plays in mooncake skins. One thing I noticed when making them is that the dough is initially very wet, almost the consistency of soft serve ice cream. But then as the dough is rested it firms up to the point that it can be rolled out. Is it the lye water that causes this to happen?

There also another recipe that uses lye water--Chinese almond cookies. I plan to make those after I've done with the mooncakes, and I'm wondering what the purpose of lye water is in that recipe.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for the explanations, danjou.

I also had heard of borax (Pang Sa) used to tenderize beef in restaurant cookings when I grew up (in the sixties/seventies). The soft texture in those "steak balls" always amazed me.

I always wondered about those shrimps in "crystal shrimp" (ball lei ha kao). They look almost transparent instead of an opique white color. The taste is so unlike the natural, cooked shrimp.

How about the dried squids? When I was small, I passed by some wet market and I saw merchants used buckets of water to soak the dried squids. The dried squids swelled up to about 3-4 times the original size. I knew it's more than water that's in the bucket but did not know what else was used. Do you know if they use lye water?

W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
Link to post
Share on other sites

Isn't it soda that's normally used with beef and prawns,and other meats too?as with the question of MSG I used to be a purist and wouldn't touch it, but used in the very smallest possible quantities it gives such a good result that it's too difficult to ignore. It also is a very good 'defisher' ie defusing slightly rank odours that have no place in Cantonese food. Utter discretion is needed, however. Maybe Borax is what's used with dried squid . Here in London it used to be possible to buy soaked squid of the most extraordinary tenderness. Maybe I should try-anyone know the right amount to use?

Link to post
Share on other sites

Greetings and "magandang gabi" from Manila to all of you,

Yikes, this is the first time I have heard of the use of pangsa on beef ....the horror....the horr... :sad:

The addition of baking soda in Cantonese beef dishes is as you all probably know, an old tradition.

Even the chewy springy consistency of steamed beef balls cannot be achieved without first treating the beef with soda or "Soh Dah Fun", and of course, water chestnut flour and pork fat.

Used sparingly and carefully one can achieve that silky succulent texture " Waht" and "Chueh" so loved by the Cantonese. I try to be a purist too, but I concede

dishes like "Jung sik Ngow lao" or Chinese style beef steak just does not taste right without first treating the beef.

The texture can be a bit odd to Westerners however.

There were also economical reasons why many restaurants tenderized their beef with soda; this was simply because they need not buy more tender but expensive tenderloin and instead use cheaper and tougher cuts which they would just slice up and tenderize with baking soda.

Indeed baking soda is also used to treat prawns, and even though it is far safer, it is apparently less effective than borax, which is a much stronger base.

The archetypal dish is the "Boh lei har kow" or Glassy prawn balls you mention, as well as "Ching chow ha yun" or stir fried shrimp as served in Shanghainese or Peking restaurants and frequently a lot of the shrimp based dim sum fillings like hargow even in upscale Chinese restaurants are treated with borax or soda.

Another reason why borax was favored is that baking soda also leaves an unusual and rather odd odor and taste even after thorough rinsing and a lot more baking soda had to be used to achieve that chewy and truly unnatural texture.

I always remember how my mother, herself a student of the Hong Kong chef Chan Wing long ago, would always frown when she tasted soda treated beef in restaurants. :huh:

I completely avoid the use of any chemicals and much prefer the natural taste and texture of fresh prawns.

Although it is possible other chemicals are sometimes used, lye water is usually the main ingredient used for making "dew peen" or dried and cured cuttlefish/ squid. It is essential and it gives the dried squid its characteristic appearance, texture and taste.

Famous Singaporean dishes like "Jiu her eng chye" , which is cured cuttlefish dressed with a hoisin based sauce on top of blanched water convolvulus or "Kangkong" just does not taste right if fresh squid is used.

One of the well loved Hakka dishes is 'dew peen' and fresh cuttlefish stir fried together with salted shrimp paste :raz::biggrin:

I do recall that Lye water is also used to treat dried jelly fish.

And I also wish to add, as a warning to people who love salted fish, that the often exotic chemicals used in curing salted fish in some areas, like apparently ammonia containing chemicals :blink::huh: has resulted in a product which has been linked to the high incidence of nasopharyngeal cancer in the coastal regions of South China and Southeast Asia....but that is another tale.

cheers to all


Edited by danjou (log)
Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for the fascinating information, danjou, I've always wondered what those packets of Borax powder were for. Is it really very dangerous? I'm quite tempted to try it. Any idea how long soda has been used? I must say I find stir fried beef tenderloin pretty unpleasant, particularly untreated. The only time I don't use soda is when I have skirt available. I'd be thrilled to know your mother's method for preparing beef!

Link to post
Share on other sites

Although mentioning “lye” summons images of a very caustic chemical and of paint stripper, most of the food quality lye we use is home made. We gather a weed called locally as kulitis (amaranth), dry them and burn them to cinders. Gather the ash in a cracked earthenware pot, pour some water into it and catch the dripping in a clean receptacle. We use this as a coloring/flavoring for a steamed pudding called kutsinta and a steamed rice stick snack called suman sa legia. For the hominy-like corn snack called binatog though, ash is directly boiled with the maize to leach it out. This makes the hull separate easier and more importantly, activate more protein and certain nutrients that otherwise would remain dormant.

But I have always wondered about those dishes that you (Danjou) mentioned such as the beautiful chewy prawns, the beef steak that you can slice with a chopstick no less, and the reconstituted dried giant squid slices that were gelatinous instead of chewy tough. Are they toxic? How dangerous is eating these as to eating say, Scandinavian lutefisc?

Thanks again.

Edited by Apicio (log)

Gato ming gato miao busca la vida para comer

Link to post
Share on other sites

NOOOOO Caustic soda is crystal lye. Depending on the quantity of dried squid you want to experiment with just use the lye water in a bottle you can pick up in a Chinese food store. And use the smalles possible container so you do not have to dilute it too much. Use the largest container of water though and frequesnt change when flashing it out. Let us know.

Gato ming gato miao busca la vida para comer

Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi folks,

I check egullet after several days...and what have you kids been up to...omigosh....playing with chemicals :blink::shock::shock:

I don't have time for a more detailed reply, but I am alarmed.

I am confused....and to quote my mom.."Aeeeyah " :wacko: ,

muichoi, are you going to hydrate dried squid ?

Don't add lye water to the dried squid :shock:

The dried squid has already been processed with lye water and dried.

You have to soak it in fresh water until soft. I think this might reqire a few changes of water.

Dew peen or cured dried squid and most varieties of dried fish all over Asia, from hahm yue or kiam hee or salted fish in South China to Tuyo here in Manila were all developed as a result of the need to preserve seafood in the days when there was no refrigeration.

Lye, soda and borax are bases which denature proteins; which means the protein is changed but not destroyed.

I think the reason for the use of lye and borax was that they also kill bacteria and is therefore a preservative as well as possibly making the protein more easily digestable and as we have seen, firms up the texture.

But borax poses a very signficant danger to health, which caused its apparent ban in Hong Kongas well as in many other countries, yet its use is still widespread in places where government is uninformed and enforcement is poor.

Please read the following bulletin released last year by the Bureau of Food Safety and Consumer Protection in Canada:


here is another warning, from Thailand:


Muichoi, my mother tries to follow an artisanal approach to Chinese cooking and never uses any soda or chemicals in her beef dishes and prawns.

From as long as I recall, she feels this trend toward treating food with all these chemicals is completely repulsive and poses a grave health risk.

She is able to make her prawns wonderfully firm and crisp without ever having to add any chemicals.

Prawns that are treated with borax or soda always lose their natural taste.

I am certain these chemicals also alter things like the natural carbohydrates and vitamins aside from changing the proteins; which probably accounts for the drastic reduction in flavor of treated prawns. The taste or flavor has to be restored by seasoning the treated prawns .

it is the same with soda treated beef, the natural flavors disappear when it is treated with soda. The flavor then has to be restored with the addition of marinade.

Sorry for the long rambling post....

I'm getting sleepy :unsure:

let's cook, eat and stay healthy :smile:

Edited by danjou (log)
Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks Danjou-certainly makes sense and of course I agree with your mother! Really, though, I remember this soft and inflated dried squid with great pleasure, and was wondering whether this could be replicated by soaking in a borax solution which is then rinsed away-the pleasure of dried squid is not in its natural flavour anyway! Chinese food though is very much about texture-and warm water prawns simply aren't very good in general-so I don't have a problem about salt-washing them, and adding a bit of soda to the first wash-only 30 seconds contact or so-likewise beef-if i'm poaching or grilling ,for example, soda would be stupid, but in a saute/stirfry the meat is so denatured anyway that the smallest bit of soda is only an enhancement-such dishes are not designed to show of the excellence of an ingredient, which is possibly the main criticism to be made of chinese cuisine as a whole-which is strange given the cantonese ability to encapsulate the freshness of chicken, fish and vegetables like no other. Does your mother marinate beef at all?

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Similar Content

    • By liuzhou
      Chinese food must be among the most famous in the world. Yet, at the same time, the most misunderstood.

      I feel sure (hope) that most people here know that American-Chinese cuisine, British-Chinese cuisine, Indian-Chinese cuisine etc are, in huge ways, very different from Chinese-Chinese cuisine and each other. That's not what I want to discuss.

      Yet, every day I still come across utter nonsense on YouTube videos and Facebook about the "real" Chinese cuisine, even from ethnically Chinese people (who have often never been in China). Sorry YouTube "influencers", but sprinkling soy sauce or 5-spice powder on your cornflakes does not make them Chinese!
      So what is the "authentic" Chinese food? Well, like any question about China, there are several answers. It is not surprising that a country larger than western Europe should have more than one typical culinary style. Then, we must distinguish between what you may be served in a large hotel dining room, a small local restaurant, a street market stall or in a Chinese family's home.

      That said, in this topic, I want to attempt to debunk some of the more prevalent myths. Not trying to start World War III.

      When I moved to China from the UK 25 years ago, I had my preconceptions. They were all wrong. Sweet and sour pork with egg fried rice was reported to be the second favourite dish in Britain, and had, of course, to be preceded by a plate of prawn/shrimp crackers. All washed down with a lager or three.

      Yet, in that quarter of a century, I've seldom seen a prawn cracker. And egg fried rice is usually eaten as a quick dish on its own, not usually as an accompaniment to main courses. Every menu featured a starter of prawn/shrimp toast which I have never seen in mainland China - just once in Hong Kong.

      But first, one myth needs to be dispelled. The starving Chinese! When I was a child I was encouraged to eat the particularly nasty bits on the plate by being told that the starving Chinese would lap them up. My suggestion that we could post it to them never went down too well. At that time (the late fifties) there was indeed a terrible famine in China (almost entirely manmade (Maomade)).

      When I first arrived in China, it was after having lived in Soviet Russia and I expected to see the same long lines of people queuing up to buy nothing very much in particular. Instead, on my first visit to a market (in Hunan Province), I was confronted with a wider range of vegetables, seafood, meat and assorted unidentified frying objects than I have ever seen anywhere else. And it was so cheap I couldn't convert to UK pounds or any other useful currency.
      I'm going to start with some of the simpler issues - later it may get ugly!

      1. Chinese people eat everything with chopsticks.

      No, they don't! Most things, yes, but spoons are also commonly used in informal situations. I recently had lunch in a university canteen. It has various stations selling different items. I found myself by the fried rice stall and ordered some Yangzhou fried rice. Nearly all the students and faculty sitting near me were having the same.

      I was using my chopsticks to shovel the food in, when I noticed that I was the only one doing so. Everyone else was using spoons. On investigating, I was told that the lunch break is so short at only two-and-a-half hours that everyone wants to eat quickly and rush off for their compulsory siesta.
      I've also seen claims that people eat soup with chopsticks. Nonsense. While people use chopsticks to pick out choice morsels from the broth, they will drink the soup by lifting their bowl to their mouths like cups. They ain't dumb!

      Anyway, with that very mild beginning, I'll head off and think which on my long list will be next.

      Thanks to @KennethT for advice re American-Chinese food.
    • By liuzhou
      Wowotou buns ( 窝窝头 wō wō tóu), also known more simply as wō tóu are originally from northern China. The name means "nest" and they come in many forms. These are the ones I use. As you can see, they are usually stuffed with whatever the cook decides. These are stuffed with spicy pork and pickled greens, but I've also served them with a seafood stuffing.

      This is the recipe I usually use.
      350 grams all-purpose/plain flour
      150 grams black soya bean flour
      3 grams instant yeast
      260 grams  milk
      Mix the flours well, dissolve the yeast in the milk and stir into the flour until a dough forms. Knead the dough until smooth. Cover with plastic
      wrap and leave in a warm place until double in size.
      Sprinkle flour on the chopping board, knead the dough, adding more flour if too wet. until all air is expelled and the dough has a smooth surface.
      Form the dough into six even-sized balls and rub between the palms until smooth and round. Flatten slightly, then use your thumb to press the dough into a nest shape.
      Steam covered for 30-35 minutes.
      Note: The flours used vary a lot. Corn or sorghum flours are very popular, but I don't like corn and sorghum isn't the easiest to find here in southern China. Use what you like, but the overall quantity for this recipe should be 500 grams. It has been suggested that pure corn flour is too sticky, so probably best to mix it with regular wheat flour.
      They freeze well.
      Recipe adapted from 念念不忘的面食  by 刘哲菲 (Unforgettable Wheat Foods by Liu Zhefei). This isn't a direct translation, but retelling of the gist. Any errors are mine. Not Ms. Liu's.
    • By liuzhou
      Stir-fried Squid with Snow Peas - 荷兰豆鱿鱼

      Another popular restaurant dish that can easily be made at home. The only difficult part (and it's really not that difficult) is preparing the squid. However, your seafood purveyor should be able to do that for you. I have given details below.


      Fresh squid. I tend to prefer the smaller squid in which case I allow one or two squid per person, depending on what other dishes I'm serving. You could use whole frozen squid if fresh is unavailable. Certainly not dried squid.

      Snow peas aka Mange Tout. Sugar snap peas can also be used. The final dish should be around 50% squid and 50% peas, so an amount roughly equivalent to the squid in bulk is what you are looking for. De-string if necessary and cut in half width-wise.

      Cooking oil. I use rice bran oil, but any vegetable cooking oil is fine. Not olive oil, though.

      Garlic.  I prefer this dish to be rather garlicky so I use one clove or more per squid. Adjust to your preference.

      Ginger. An amount equivalent to that of garlic.

      Red Chile. One or two small hot red chiles.

      Shaoxing wine. See method. Note: Unlike elsewhere, Shaoxing wine sold in N. America is salted. So, cut back on adding salt if using American sourced Shaoxing.

      Oyster sauce

      Sesame oil (optional)


      Preparing the squid

      The squid should be cleaned and the tentacles and innards pulled out and set aside while you deal with the tubular body. Remove the internal cartilage / bone along with any remaining innards. With a sharp knife remove the "wings" then slit open the tube by sliding your knife inside and cutting down one side. Open out the now butterflied body. Remove the reddish skin (It is edible, but removing it makes for a nicer presentation. It peels off easily.) Again, using the sharp knife cut score marks on the inside at 1/8th of an inch intervals being careful not to cut all the way through. Then repeat at right angles to the original scoring, to give a cross-hatch effect. Do the same to the squid wings. Cut the body into rectangles roughly the size of a large postage stamp.

      Separate the tentacles from the innards by feeling for the beak, a hard growth just above the tentacles and at the start of the animal's digestive tract. Dispose of all but the tentacles. If they are long, half them.

      Wash all the squid meat again.


      There are only two ways to cook squid and have it remain edible. Long slow cooking (an hour or more) or very rapid (a few seconds) then served immediately. Anything else and you'll be chewing on rubber. So that is why I am stir frying it. Few restaurants get this right, so I mainly eat it at home.

      Heat your wok and add oil. Have a cup of water to the side. Add the garlic, ginger and chile. Should you think it's about to burn, throw in a little of that water. It will evaporate almost immediately but slow down some of the heat.
      As soon as you can smell the fragrance of the garlic and ginger, add the peas and salt and toss until the peas are nearly cooked (Try a piece to see!). Almost finally, add the squid with a tablespoon of the Shaoxing and about the same of oyster sauce. Do not attempt to add the oyster sauce straight from the bottle. The chances of the whole bottle emptying into your dinner is high! Believe me. I've been there!

      The squid will curl up and turn opaque in seconds. It's cooked. Sprinkle with a teaspoon of so of sesame oil (if used) and serve immediately!
    • By liuzhou
      Big Plate Chicken - 大盘鸡

      This very filling dish of chicken and potato stew is from Xinjiang province in China's far west, although it is said to have been invented by a visitor from Sichuan. In recent years, it has become popular in cities across China, where it is made using a whole chicken which is chopped, with skin and on the bone, into small pieces suitable for easy chopstick handling. If you want to go that way, any Asian market should be able to chop the bird for you. Otherwise you may use boneless chicken thighs instead.


      Boneless skinless chicken thighs  6

      Light soy sauce

      Dark soy sauce

      Shaoxing wine

      Cornstarch or similar. I use potato starch.

      Vegetable oil (not olive oil)

      Star anise, 4

      Cinnamon, 1 stick

      Bay leaves, 5 or 6

      Fresh ginger, 6 coin sized slices

      Garlic.  5 cloves, roughly chopped

      Sichuan peppercorns,  1 tablespoon

      Whole dried red chiles,   6 -10  (optional). If you can source the Sichuan chiles known as Facing Heaven Chiles, so much the better.

      Potatoes 2 or 3 medium sized. peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces

      Carrot. 1,  thinly sliced

      Dried wheat noodles.  8 oz. Traditionally, these would be a long, flat thick variety. I've use Italian tagliatelle successfully.    

      Red bell pepper. 1 cut into chunks

      Green bell pepper, 1 cut into chunks


      Scallion, 2 sliced.

      First, cut the chicken into bite sized pieces and marinate in 1 1/2 teaspoons light soy sauce, 3 teaspoons of Shaoxing and 1 1/2 teaspoons of cornstarch. Set aside for about twenty minutes while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

      Heat the wok and add three tablespoons cooking oil. Add the ginger, garlic, star anise, cinnamon stick, bay leaves, Sichuan peppercorns and chiles. Fry on a low heat for a  minute or so. If they look about to burn, splash a little water into your wok. This will lower the temperature slightly. Add the chicken and turn up the heat. Continue frying until the meat is nicely seared, then add the potatoes and carrots. Stir fry a minute more then add 2 teaspoons of the dark soy sauce, 2 tablespoons of the light soy sauce and 2 tablespoons of the Shaoxing wine along with 3 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to medium. Cover and cook for around 15 minutes until the potatoes are done.

      While the main dish is cooking, cook the noodles separately according to the packet instructions.  Reserve  some of the noodle cooking water and drain.

      When the chicken and potatoes are done, you may add a little of the noodle water if the dish appears on the dry side. It should be saucy, but not soupy. Add the bell peppers and cook for three to four minutes more. Add scallions. Check seasoning and add some salt if it needs it. It may not due to the soy sauce and Shaoxing.

      Serve on a large plate for everyone to help themselves from. Plate the noodles first, then cover with the meat and potato. Enjoy.
    • By liuzhou
      Clam Soup with Mustard Greens - 车螺芥菜汤

      This is a popular, light but peppery soup available in most restaurants here (even if its not listed on the menu). Also, very easy to make at home.


      Clams. (around 8 to 10 per person. Some restaurants are stingy with the clams, but I like to be more generous). Fresh live clams are always used in China, but if, not available, I suppose frozen clams could be used. Not canned. The most common clams here are relatively small. Littleneck clams may be a good substitute in terms of size.
      Stock. Chicken, fish or clam stock are preferable. Stock made from cubes or bouillon powder is acceptable, although fresh is always best.

      Mustard Greens. (There are various types of mustard green. Those used here are  芥菜 , Mandarin: jiè cài; Cantonese: gai choy). Use a good handful per person. Remove the thick stems, to be used in another dish.)

      Garlic. (to taste)

      Chile. (One or two fresh hot red chiles are optional).


      MSG (optional). If you have used a stock cube or bouillon powder for the stock, omit the MSG. The cubes and power already have enough.

      White pepper (freshly ground. I recommend adding what you consider to be slightly too much pepper, then adding half that again. The soup should be peppery, although of course everything is variable to taste.)


      Bring your stock to a boil. Add salt to taste along with MSG if using.

      Finely chop the garlic and chile if using. Add to stock and simmer for about five minutes.

      Make sure all the clams are tightly closed, discarding any which are open - they are dead and should not be eaten.

      The clams will begin to pop open fairly quickly. Remove the open ones as quickly as possible and keep to one side while the others catch up. One or two clams may never open. These should also be discarded. When you have all the clams fished out of the boiling stock, roughly the tear the mustard leaves in two and drop them into the stock. Simmer for one minute. Put all the clams back into the stock and when it comes back to the boil, take off the heat and serve.
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

  • Create New...