I mentioned a couple posts ago that one of the very best ways to enjoy homemade wontons is with noodles and charsiu (roast pork), i.e. as part of a perfect plate of wonton mee. What I should have said also is that to really make that dish special, you should also make the charsiu and the noodles yourself.
Before you start getting freaked out, let me assure you that both are surprisingly easy to make. Just give yourself some time to prepare both items properly. And I promise that if you do make the effort and take the time to make not just your wontons but also your mee and charsiu, you will be super pleased with the results. And your guests — or whomever you decide to serve these to — will be in a state of culinary euphoria.
The recipes that S and I have found most trustworthy for charsiu and mee both come from the same amazing food writer and restaurateur, Barbara Tropp. Her cookbook The Modern Art of Chinese Cooking is still, to us, today unrivalled among Chinese cookbooks for its accuracy, clarity, and ease of use. It still sometimes amazes us that a diminutive Jewish-American woman is the authority we trust most when searching for a great Chinese recipe. Of course, as all home cooks do, we’ve tweaked Ms Tropp’s recipes a little to suit our own tastes as well as our kitchen equipment. You may also find that for your tastes and in your kitchen you might need to make some necessary adjustments.
Once your ingredients are all ready, preparing a hearty bowl of wonton mee is easy. All you have to do is slice the pork, cook your wontons and drain them, then cook your noodles. The only thing you need to worry about is the sauce in which you are going to toss all of these yummy ingredients. Hailing from Singapore, I will admit, I like a very local version in which tomato ketchup is a main ingredient. I’m also not big on spicy food so I leave out the heat in my sauce. Hot food fans out there are welcome to add in anything from spicy bean paste to chilli oil, to taste. A breakdown of my favourite sauce which should be enough for 2-3 portions of noodles is 3 tablespoons ketchup, 2 teaspoons oyster sauce, 2 teaspoons hoisin sauce, 1/2 tablespoon light soy sauce, 2 teaspoons Thai fish sauce, 1/2 tablespoon sesame oil, 1 tablespoon rich chicken stock, and 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar. All of this gets stirred up in a mixing bowl or measuring jug. Make sure you taste it. You might like your sauce sweeter or saltier or with a stronger sesame taste, etc. Place your noodles and wontons in a large bowl, spoon sauce over it to taste, and mix gently but quickly. Then plate and place your roast pork slices on top of the noodles. You can also serve this with some blanched green vegetables or some diced spring onions.
Adapted from Barbara Tropp’s The Modern Art of Chinese Cooking
1kg Berkshire or Kurobuta pork neck (as usual, we encourage Singaporean readers to buy their meat at Huber’s Butchery)
6 scallions, sliced into 2 inch lengths and smashed
8 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
3 tablespoons regular soy sauce
2 tablespoons Chinese rice wine
3 tablespoons sugar
2.5 tablespoons hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons rich chicken stock
1 teaspoon sesame oil
Mix all the marinade ingredients together well.
Cut the pork lengthwise into strips around 2.5-3 inches wide and 2 inches or so thick. Cut strips crosswise, if needed, into pieces 6-8 inches long. Place in a large baking dish that can accomodate all the pork in one layer. Pour the marinade over the pork. Seal the dish with clingwrap overnight, at least 12 hours and ideally 24 hours. Turn the pork a few times during the marinating process. Keep in the fridge but bring to room temperature right before cooking.
Preheat your oven to 180 degrees C. Fill a large roasting pan half-way with water. Over this, place a large wire rack that fits over the top of the pan. Drain the marinade from the pork and lay the pieces on the wire rack (and over the water in the roasting pan). Pop this in the oven for 40 minutes. After 40 minutes, increase the heat of the oven to 230 degrees C for 5 minutes or until the pork gets a nice dark, golden, crispy crust.
Enjoy fresh from the oven or store and slice when needed.
Chinese Egg Noodles
Adapted from The Modern Art of Chinese Cooking
yields 1.5 pounds of fresh noodles
3 cups bread flour or all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
2 large eggs
9 tablespoons cold water
1/8 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 cup cornstarch, used during the rolling stage
Sift the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl. Make a deep well in the center of the flour. Lightly beat the eggs with the water and then add into the well. With chopsticks or a wooden spoon, stir slowly at first from the center to incorporate the flour, then vigorously to form a firm dough, adding water by droplets if needed to bring the dough together. Turn out onto a lightly floured board, then knead by hand until fingertip-firm, smooth, and elastic enough so that the dough bounces gently when pressed with a finger, about 10 minutes. Smooth the oil over the dough, seal airtight in clingwrap, then set aside to rest for 20 minutes to 3 hours at room temperature, or overnight in the fridge. Bring to room temperature before rolling out.
You’ll need a pasta machine to roll out the dough. Cut the dough into 4 equal pieces and cover with a cloth against drying. Remove and flatten the first piece with your palm or several rolls of a rolling pin into an approximate rectangle, about 1/4 inch thick. Smooth cornstarch on both sides, then pass the dough through the widest roller settimg. Fold the dough into thirds, folding one end towards the middle and the other on top. Flatten firmly so that the dough passes through the rollers without tearing. Smooth cornstarch on both sides and turn the dough 90 degrees so it enters the rollers on an unfolded end. Feed through the roller. Repeat this process 2 or 3 more tumes at the same setting. The dough needs to be smooth and unwrinkled.
Turn the machine one notch to the next thinnest setting. Dust the dough with the cornstarch and feed it through the roller. Proceed to turn the setting one notch thinner, dust the dough, and feed it through until you have a band that is 1/16 inch thick.
Spread the dough on a towel to dry, about 7-8 minutes on each side, or until the dough has firmed up slightly and will pass through the cutters with ease. As soon as one band is done, proceed with the next piece of dough. You can keep the thin bands supple by covering them with a towel.
The dough must be cut while supple and slightly firm. Fit the machine with the 1/16 inch head. Dust cornstarch on both sides of the first dough band, then send it through the cutter. Stretch the noodles in one long hank and use a sharp knife to cut it crosswise in two, to yield noodles about 15 inches long. Toss the noodles on a cornstarch-dusted surface to coat the newly cut edges, then spread to dry on a terry towel-lined tray. Fluff occasionally, allowing the noodles to firm up 5-10 minues before cooking.
You can leave the noodles uncovered 1 hour before cooking. Or if you intend to hold them longer, cover with plastic wrap or a towel and place in your fridge.