Xi’an Biang Biang noodles (video demo)

Thick, broad, hand pulled noodles seasoned with chilli, garlic and Sichuan pepper, Xi’an Biang Biang noodles offers a delectable taste and texture.

I had my parents over to our Red House in England last holiday season. I spent lots of time with them cooking in the kitchen as this is our favourite way to connect. Today I’m sharing my mum’s favourite childhood dish Biang Biang Noodles, a hand-pulled noodle dish originated from her home town, Xi’an.

Biang Biang noodles refer to wheat flour noodles that are hand-pulled to a long, thick and broad shape (can be as wide as a belt). They have a chewy texture and are often served with a pungent, spicy dressing. This dish is not only famous for its delectable taste and texture , it’s also renowned for the special character used in its name. 

The character for “Biang” is considered to be the most complex Chinese character. Depending on the variation, it has between 42 to 71 stokes. It’s so complicated that even today this character can’t be written by computer. The photo on the left is a Biang Biang noodle stall that I saw in Xi’an on my last Culinary Tour of China. See how complicated the first two characters are!

Choose the right flour

For Biang Biang noodles, I use British standard plain flour (all purpose flour) with a protein content ranging between 10% and 11%. If your flour has a higher protein content (over 12%, eg. bread flour), I suggest you add a little cake flour. Otherwise the dough might be too elastic, tending to easily return to its original form after pulling.

My recommended flour water ratio is 2:1 in weight. After the first kneading, the dough needs to be medium firm and it will get softer over time. The ratio may vary slightly depending on the brand. Adjust accordingly.

Allow time to rest the dough

You only need three basic ingredients to make the dough for Biang Biang noodles: flour, water and a little  salt. However, another “intangible ingredient” plays an important role if you’d like a fail-proof experience. That is patience. In other words, you need to allow the dough enough time to rest. I know the importance of this trick from watching my parents cooking long ago, but I didn’t know the reason why resting makes dough stretchy until I read a scientific article about dough:

From the moment you bring a liquid ingredient (such as milk or water) in contact with wheat flour, the individual gluten proteins in the flour unravel and hook onto one another, creating strong bonds. With time, an elaborate network of interconnected gluten strings forms…… It is the gluten network that holds a dough together and gives it elasticity and the ability to stretch .

——The Scientific Secret of Stretchy Dough, SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN

Plan ahead and never rush. If you keep to this golden rule, you will find it so easy to make hand-pulled noodles. The resting process takes place in three stages:

  1. The first resting procedure applies to the situation where you knead the dough by hands. Roughly combine the ingredients to form a dough. Leave it to rest for about 15 minutes then knead it again. This will help you to achieve a very smooth dough without too much effort (If using a stand-mixer, simply knead at a low speed for 5 minutes).
  2. After dividing the dough into small pieces and coating each piece with oil, leave them to rest for at least 3 hours.
  3. When ready, flatten the dough piece into a rectangle shape. Do not pull it straightaway. Allow it a little time to rest again. By the time you’ve flattened other pieces, the first piece will be ready to be pulled.

Make a pungent dressing

Biang Biang noodles is also called You Po Che Mian (油泼扯面) which literally means “Oil pouring over hand-pulled noodles”. This name explains a particular method of seasoning “You Po”: place chilli flakes, chilli powder, ground Sichuan pepper, minced garlic and spring onion on top of the cooked noodles, then pour hot oil over. The heat immediately releases the full flavour of all the herbs and spices. I love it when the pungent fragrance suffuses my kitchen. Simply irresistible!

Biang Biang noodles
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Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 8 minutes

Yield: 2 servings

Biang Biang noodles

Ingredients

    For the noodles
  • 250g / 9oz all purpose flour
  • 125g / 4.5oz water (See note 1)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Vegetable oil (for coating the dough)
  • For the seasoning
  • 3 tablespoons cooking oil
  • 1 tablespoon spring onion, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons garlic, minced
  • Dried chilli flakes, to taste
  • Chilli powder, to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground Sichuan pepper
  • Salt, to taste
  • 2 teaspoons light soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon black rice vinegar
  • You may also need (optional)
  • Some green leafy vegetable, eg. Pak Choy, spinach, etc.

Instructions

  1. Prepare the dough: Mix flour, water and salt by hand (or a stand mixer with a dough hook). Knead until well combined and very smooth (See note 2). Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces. Knead each one again and roll it into a gherkin shape. Thoroughly coat each dough piece with oil then place them on a plate (or in a container). Cover with cling film then leave to rest for at least 3 hours (See note 3).
  2. Pull the noodles (please refer to the video in the post): Heat up a pot of water. While waiting, flatten each dough piece into a rectangle shape with a rolling pin. When the water begins to boil, start the process of noodle pulling: press the dough in the middle lengthways using a rolling pin or a chopstick. Hold each end of the dough and pull gently until it stretches to your preferred thickness. Put the noodle on a surface. Break it apart from the middle line to make a loop.
  3. Cook the noodles: Put the noodle into the boiling water. Repeat the procedure to pull other noodles. Cook four noodles at a time (It takes about 1 minute to cook through) then place in a serving plate (bowl).
  4. Season the noodles: Heat up the oil in a small pan. Place spring onion, garlic, chilli flakes, chilli powder, Sichuan pepper and salt on top of the noodles. When the oil starts to smoke, pour it over the seasoning. Add soy sauce and vinegar. Stir to coat the noodles evenly.
  5. Optional vegetable: To make it even healthier, you may blanch some green leafy vegetable, such as Pak Choy or spinach, and serve with the noodles.

Notes

1. The flour water ratio is 2:1 in weight. It may vary slightly depending on the brand. Adjust accordingly. The finished dough should be medium firm and smooth.

2. You may find it difficult to achieve a smooth dough kneading with hands. If so, leave it to rest for 15 minutes then knead a second time.

3. You can store the dough in the fridge for next day use. After taking out of the fridge, make sure you allow enough time for the dough to go back to room temperature before cooking.

https://redhousespice.com/biang-biang-noodles/

I will be visiting Xi’an, the home to Biang Biang noodles, on my next Culinary Tour of China. Can’t wait to reconnect with my old favourites and discover more unknown specialities. 

An enthusiastic cook with a Chinese palate and a global mindset.

Thick, broad, hand pulled noodles seasoned with chilli, garlic and Sichuan pepper, Xi'an Biang Biang noodles offers a delectable taste and texture.
Thick, broad, hand pulled noodles seasoned with chilli, garlic and Sichuan pepper, Xi'an Biang Biang noodles offers a delectable taste and texture.

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