Basic Recipe

( Be sure to read all the notes, these are real easy to screw up. )

You will need: thin wheat noodles, oil, soy sauce, a non stick fry pan, a pot in which to boil water and noodles, water, tongs.

Start water warming, you want it boiling, and start warming fry pan, hotter is better. Combine half soy sauce, half water in a container that you will be able to quickly pour over noodles. Oil should also be ready to be poured. When water is boiling, take a deep breath, get ready. Place a serving of noodles in the boiling water.

The noodles should only stay in the water until they've become just soft. This is long before al dente, we're fully cooking them in the fry pan. The chinese noodles I recommend will take just about a minute to get to this state, depending on how much adding the noodles to the water dropped the temperature.

This next step needs to be done quickly. Put oil in the hot pan, using tongs immediately transfer noodles from water to pan and move noodles around pan quickly to coat with oil. If you do this slowly, the oil can burn or some of the noodles may stick. Once your noodles are scattered about the pan, they're cooking very quickly; you don't want them to burn.

Take the soy water mixture and pour about cup over noodles. It should immediately boil up and the noodles will hungrily drink the liquid. Move the noodles around, making sure all noodles get some liquid. When liquid seems gone, repeat. Continue to move and pour liquid on noodles until they seem fully cooked. If they refuse to absorb liquid, they're close to overcooked or the pan isn't hot enough.

Little crispy bits are tasty ( though carbonized smoky bits are not. ) If you leave the noodles in one place toward the end of cooking you'll get some crispy. You're frying, don't be afraid of the crispy.

When the noodles first hit the pan they will be white in color. They should be a rich brown from both soy and fire when done. Serve hot.

With hot water and pan, the amount of time from dry noodles to finished product is about three to four minutes.

Alternate method

Moving the noodles directly from water to fry pan was a technique born of necessity and fortune. The necessity of speed and the good fortune of using a non stick pan rather than a cast iron wok. I wouldn't try the oil, splash, and scatter method without non stick.

The alternate method is to remove the noodles from the water and immediately transfer them to a bowl with oil in it and toss them to coat. From here, you can place them directly into a pan without worry ( well, less worry, noodles are sticky. ) Or, better for large scale presentations, you can put your oil coated noodles aside and fry them later. I left noodles sitting like this for over an hour with no apparent ill effects. You should be able to prepare a large quantity like this and then put on the wok show.


Starch is the enemy. It's extremely easy to get stir fry glue if you're not careful. The best way to avoid this is high heat, a balance of liquid and dryness, and don't skimp on the oil. It's doesn't have to be greasy, but every strand wants some oil, like a cold noodle salad. The alternate method with a non stick pan would give best control of oil for those concerned.

Peanut oil is the preferred grease of the wok, it has a very high heat tolerance. It's also an allergen for some. We used refined olive oil. Olive oil has a crappy smoke point, but no one is allergic to it. The refined oil is better for heat and seemed to work fine. Try the peanut oil at home, it will give a more familiar chinese food flavor.

The water sauce mixture of half soy sounds basic, but it's very tasty. Do not be tempted to use just soy sauce, it's too rich and will make the final product too salty. Using water then sauce is also bad, because the noodles will taste watery. In addition to soy, fish sauce and rice wine are good additions. Only use sesame oil as a final seasoning and only if you're familiar with how it behaves; it can overwhelm a dish.

The noodles you want for this are cheap, basic, dry noodles. They have only three ingredients, wheat, iced water, and salt. They are very thin, but not vermicelli (misua) thin. Closest to what the Japanese call somen. Italian style pasta, commonly made with semolina, will not work; it takes longer to cook and behaves differently.

For the home cook, fresh noodles are nice, or Cantonese style curly egg noodles. These are also the most expensive. Fresh noodles probably don't even need to be boiled but you'll want to rinse them in warm water, to both refresh them and also wash off some of the starch they're packed in.

Whatever you choose to use, it's easiest if the noodles still need a little move cooking before you throw them into the pan. They need to be able to take on the liquid you add to the pan, not just because it adds flavor but because the steam can help keep the noodles from sticking.


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