Chinese egg noodles | Salted duck eggs

Waste not, want not. Who hasn’t heard that kids should be grateful and finish their meals because ‘think of all the starving children in Africa!’.

But how does eating your food help those hungry kids? It doesn’t. Until you experience true hunger yourself, it can be hard to feel grateful.

Chinese noodles served with slices of char siu and spring onion

Chinese alkaline noodle, simply dressed and served with char siu and spring onion

If you minimise wastage of fresh ingredients then you’re making the most of whatever you have. For me, that applies to eating as much as possible of a whole animal too. If you’re going to eat meat, then you should at least try to be open to that idea.

The other week I posted about bamboo leaf sticky rice parcels and specified salted duck egg yolks* as an ingredient. But what to do with the remaining salted egg whites? Make noodles! That way, nothing goes to waste. Salted duck egg whites freeze very well so don’t feel any pressure to use it up all at once.

These egg noodles are something my mum made often. She lived next to an elderly Italian couple in the 1970s. Spying their Italian hand cranked pasta machine, she thought it would be perfect to make her own Chinese egg noodles. So while the recipe isn’t Italian, the apparatus used is. My brother and I liked nothing more when we were children than to help her out by kneading the dough and cranking the machine.

Chinese alkaline noodles, ready to cook

Nothing says Sunday like homemade noodles

You can purchase thin, yellow Chinese egg noodles but they’ll have a strong lye water flavour. The lye water makes the noodles yellow, ‘al dente’ and also means that fewer eggs can be used (much cheaper to produce for the manufacturers). If you use bought noodles, never simmer them in any liquid that you want to serve as the lye flavour leaches into the water, spoiling your stock. Keep it separate and you’ll have a much cleaner result.

A tiny bit of lye water is used in these homemade noodles but the final noodles don’t taste strongly of lye at all. A batch feeds a family of four for at least two meals. Be aware that these noodles aren’t suitable for stir frying as they’re very tender.

Flour-dusted Chinese alkaline noodles

Noodles sliced and about to be dusted in a little more flour

The best tip I can give you is to cook these noodles very briefly. By that, I mean less than a minute. Forget two minute instant noodles, these are even quicker and not fried in palm oil beforehand.

Feeds: About 8 people
Start cooking: 2 hours before eating

Chinese egg noodles

Ingredients:

  • 1 kg x plain flour (bread flour is good if you can get it)
  • 8 x eggs (use all chicken eggs or follow these proportions 1 chicken egg for every salted duck egg white)
  • 2 teaspoons x salt
  • 1 tsp x lye water for every 2 eggs used – so this batch would require 4 tsp x lye water
  • Extra flour for dusting while rolling (another 2 cups) and after cutting

Method:

  1. Crack the eggs into a large bowl. Add the salted egg whites if using and gently whisk for a minute. Stir in the lye water and salt (omit salt if salted egg whites were used).
  2. Place the kilo of flour onto a clean bench. Create a space in the middle so the flour becomes shaped like a moat. Pour in the egg slowly into the middle of the flour.
  3. Moving your hand in a circular motion, slowly incorporate the egg mixture into the flour, bringing it together into a dry dough.
  4. Knead for 15-20 minutes until firm and smooth.
  5. Rest the dough for 30 minutes.
  6. In the meantime, prepare your hand cranked pasta machine. Use a Kitchenaid and similar attachment if you want, but follow your appliance instructions as I’ve only ever done this by hand.
  7. Form the dough into a log and cut inch thick slices.
  8. Take a slice and press with your fingers until just flat enough to press through the thickest setting on the pasta machine. Roll through twice, dusting with flour in between if too sticky.
  9. Continue rolling at each setting, getting progressively thinner until you’ve rolled it through the finest setting.
  10. Then cut the noodles to your desired width. I think these taste best skinny but it’s up to you. Toss gently with a teaspoon of flour as you complete each small batch and store in a sealed container. The noodles will keep for up to 7 days in the fridge if well sealed.

For serving:

  • Soy sauce
  • Oyster sauce
  • Sesame oil
  • White pepper
  • Spring onion, finely sliced
  • Char siu (Chinese BBQ pork)
  • Chinese leafy greens
  • Tabasco sauce (optional)
  1. To cook, boil 3-4 litres of water in a large wok or pot.
  2. These are easiest made to order per person (one large handful each). Drop the noodles into the boiling water and using chopsticks, gently move the noodles around in the hot water for just less than a minute.
  3. Drain using a Chinese mesh strainer – the kind used for frying – and place into an individual serving bowl.
  4. Toss warm with some spring onion, teaspoon of soy sauce, a teaspoon of oyster sauce, 1/2 teaspoon of sesame oil, a dash of white pepper and Tabasco to taste.
  5. Mix through some blanched Chinese green leafy vegetables such as choi sum and thinly sliced char siu if desired.

These noodles taste best if cooked within the first three days but will keep in the fridge uncooked for up to 10 days.

* Bonus recipe! How to make salted duck eggs.
You can use chicken eggs too, although duck is more commonly used. Salted chicken eggs are less rich and the egg whites are softer and smoother than the salted duck eggs. Chicken eggs will only take a month to cure.

  • Heat up at least 4 litres of water in a large pot until boiling. Stir 1 1/2-2 cups of rock salt into the water until saturated. You’ll know when this has happened when the salt stops dissolving.
  • Cool the salted water completely. Gently place two dozen raw duck eggs into a large ceramic or glass container. Pour the cold brine inside until the eggs are submerged and leave covered in a cool, dark place for 40 days. It may take a week longer to cure in very cold weather.
  • Once cured, remove from the brine (so it doesn’t get any saltier) and store in the fridge. It will keep for up to 2 months.
  • To cook the eggs, steam or boil whole for 8 minutes or until firm and then peel to eat. The white will be firm and the yolk will have a sandy texture. It will be very salty so is best used as accompaniment to rice or congee.

Or use it as a cooking ingredient in zongzi (bamboo sticky rice parcels).
A simple recipe that uses salted duck eggs is Amaranth and salted duck egg soup.
If you’re interested in Chinese charcuterie, this is a recipe for Chinese pressed preserved duck.

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