Why It Works
- We use par-cooked noodles so there's no need to boil them, a gently fry in a moderately hot wok is all it takes to get them crisp, browned, and ready for saucing.
- Blanching the extra-moist seafood expels excess moisture, making it easier to stir fry.
- Stir-frying in batches ensures that all ingredients—the scallops, shrimp, fish balls, and squid—are cooked perfectly before finishing in a light gravy.
From crispy pan-fried noodles to a bowl of wonton noodle soup, fresh Chinese egg noodles are a staple of Chinese restaurants. Just like Italian pasta or ramen, when cooked properly, they should have a firm bite and springy texture, and the wide variation in thickness and springiness makes Chinese egg noodles some of the most versatile to cook with. (Check out the entire Asian noodle guide here.)
Crispy and a little saucy, egg noodles pan-fried until they form a crunchy-on-the-outside, tender-in-the-middle cake is a classic Hong Kong and Guangzhou dish. A nest of egg noodles is fried in a wok until golden brown and topped with a combination of stir-fried meat, seafood, or vegetables. Here's how to make my favorite version, topped with seafood in a light gravy.
When buying the proper noodles for this dish, look for thin egg noodles that are labeled Hong Kong Style Pan Fried Noodles or Chow Mein. You could also use fresh wonton noodles, but the main benefit of using the pan-fried variety is you don't need to boil them before frying (check out our Chinese Egg Noodle Style Guide for more info).
Making the Noodle Cake
There are two important elements to this dish, the noodle cake and the toppings. We'll start with the noodles. The method to get it crispy and golden brown is called leung mein wong (both sides golden) in Cantonese, and oil and heat control are very important when trying to achieve this.
Start by gently separating a half-pound of noodles by hand, working any large clumps. The goal is to have a light, air-filled cake.
Next, heat up a tablespoon of oil in a wok until it's shimmering. Keep in mind that you are pan-frying noodles and not deep-frying them, so you don't need to use a ton of oil. Two tablespoons of oil (one tablespoon per side) is enough to get it nice and crispy without being oily.
Gently slide the noodles into the oil, swirling them around to get a nice even shape, then turn the heat down to medium. With stir-frying you're usually told to keep the heat on high, but when pan-frying noodles in non-restaurant size woks, cooking on high heat is not ideal. Woks used in Chinese restaurants are big. They're deeper and larger than the standard home woks. This large cooking surface area means the noodles have more room to move around which prevents them from burning. With a home-size wok, the cooking surface area is smaller. If the noodles are pan-fried on high heat the entire time, you'll end up burning them before they can get evenly brown and crisp. Cooking the noodles at a slightly lower heat gives you more control, allowing you to check on their progress along the way.
Next, add a quarter cup of water to the pan to help create some steam. This will heat the noodles in the center without allowing the outer noodles to burn. You'll also want to continue sliding them around now and then to ensure that they're crisping evenly.
Use a spatula to carefully lift the bottom and peek underneath. Keep in mind that the center of the wok is the hottest part, so you want to check under there and slide the edges of the noodle cake towards the center to get them nice and crispy. If your wok begins to get smoky, turn down the heat a little.
When the bottom of the noodle cake is golden brown, slide it out of the wok and onto a plate. Working quickly so that the bottom stays crispy, place a second plate on top of the noodles and flip so that the crisped side is facing up.
Wipe the wok clean so that there are no little pieces of noodles remaining, then heat it up again with one tablespoon of oil over high heat until smoking. Swirl the oil around the wok and slide the noodles back in. Move the noodles around so that the bottom part is covered with oil. Turn down the flame to medium and continue cooking, swirling regularly, until the noodles are completely cooked and crisp on both sides. Slide the cake out onto a plate, and keep it warm while you prepare the sauce.
The Seafood and Sauce
The second element of this dish is the topping, and the varieties are endless. Shredded pork with yellow chives is a classic, as is chicken with mushrooms, and I've had ones topped with chunks of lobster in a ginger scallion sauce. But my favorite one is seafood. You can add a mixture of different ingredients. Can't find fish balls? Try crab sticks or just add more shrimp. Not a fan of shiitake mushrooms? Substitute it with cremini or none at all. Instead of choy sum, you can use bok choy.
When cooking with shrimp, I always soak them in a bowl with baking soda, a technique that helps keep them extra plump (read more about the science in Kenji's article on wonton soup). A 30-minute soak in an ice-cold baking soda solution is enough.
Next, I blanch my other ingredients. Choy sum is simmered just until tender. Then I reheat the water and simmer squid, scallops, and fish balls for under a minute. Though you're cooking in water, this actually helps expel some of their internal moisture, allowing you to stir-fry them more efficiently.
Now we're ready to stir fry. Start with the fresh shiitakes and stir-fry in hot oil until tender and nicely browned. I transfer them to a bowl, reheat the wok with some more oil until smoking hot, then add the drained, soaked shrimp, stir-fry just until barely cooked, and then add them to the bowl with the mushrooms. Finally, I reheat the wok and stir-fry the rest of the seafood. The goal here is to cook all of our ingredients in batches to ensure that the pan stays extra hot. This helps color them and develop flavor without overcooking them.
Our sauce consists of a mixture of chicken stock, oyster sauce, soy sauce, white pepper, garlic, and sesame oil, all lightly thickened with cornstarch.
Cornstarch needs to come to a boil to fully thicken, so add your sauce and heat it until it starts simmering. Finally, return your mushroom and seafood to the gravy and toss them to coat.
The seafood is already mostly cooked through, so don't let it simmer for too long or it'll get tough—just enough to heat it through. Pour the sauce and seafood over your crisp noodle cake, and serve immediately with your blanched greens.
1/4 pound shrimp
1 teaspoon baking soda
5 tablespoons vegetable oil
3/4 teaspoon white pepper powder, divided
1 cup chicken stock
2 cloves garlic, finely minced (about 2 teaspoons)
2 teaspoons oyster sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/4 pound choy sum or other Chinese greens
4 Chinese fish balls, cut in half
1/4 pound bay scallops
1/4 pound squid
8 ounces Hong Kong Style Pan-Fried Noodles
8 fresh shiitake mushroom, about 1/2 pound
Combine shrimp, baking soda, 1 teaspoon oil, 1/4 teaspoon white pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a small bowl. Cover with cold water, stir to combine, and set aside.
Combine stock, garlic, oyster sauce, soy sauce, white pepper, sesame oil, and cornstarch in a medium bowl. Stir to combine and set aside.
Heat 2 cups of water in the wok until boiling. Add choy sum and cook just until tender, about 30 seconds. Remove with tongs, run under cold running water to stop cooking, then set aside to drain.
Add fish balls to water and simmer for 30 seconds. Add scallops and squid and continue to cook for 30 seconds. Drain and run under cold water to halt cooking.
Gently break apart noodles with your fingers to separate any large clumps. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a wok over high heat until shimmering. Add noodles and cook, swirling gently, for 30 seconds. Reduce heat to medium, add 1/4 cup of water, and cook, swirling pan occasionally until beginning to brown. Gently peek under noodles by lifting the edges with a spatula and pushing the edges in towards the center. Continue cooking, swirling, until golden brown underneath, about 5 minutes total.
Slide noodles out onto a large plate. Top with a second plate placed upside down. Grasp both plates by their edges and flip, transferring the noodle cake to the second plate with the crisped side facing up. Heat another tablespoon of oil in the wok until shimmering. Slide noodle cake into wok and continue to cook, swirling regularly, until golden brown on second side, about 5 minutes longer. Transfer to a large plate and keep warm.
Heat another tablespoon oil in the wok over high heat until smoking and add mushrooms. Cook, stirring regularly, until browned and tender, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and set aside.
Carefully drain shrimp. Heat another tablespoon oil in the wok over high heat until smoking and add shrimp. Cook, stirring regularly, until barely cooked through, about 1 minute. Transfer to a bowl with mushrooms and set aside.
Heat another 2 teaspoons oil in the wok over high heat until smoking and add the fish balls, scallops, and squid. Cook, stirring regularly, until barely cooked through, about 1 minute. Transfer to a bowl with mushrooms and shrimp and set aside.
Return wok to heat. Stir sauce mixture and add to wok. Cook until simmering and lightly thickened, about 30 seconds. Return seafood and mushroom mixture to pan and toss to coat. Season to taste with salt. Pour mixture over noodle cake, surround with choy sum, and serve immediately.
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Servings: 3 to 4|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 27g||35%|
|Saturated Fat 3g||16%|
|Total Carbohydrate 26g||9%|
|Dietary Fiber 3g||9%|
|Total Sugars 3g|
|Vitamin C 9mg||47%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|