Why would anyone bother to make their own noodles?
I’ve been obsessed with being able to prepare all my favourite comfort foods from scratch. I guess as the years go by, I’ve become more conscious of the gradual erosion of flavour in our street food. And to recapture some of the magic of the dishes I cherish for my children, I’m determined to learn how to make iterations of my flavour memories at the very least.
Penning these recipes down (after many rounds of recipe testing) is equally important to me, because it’s about trying to ensure that these flavours are somehow preserved.
So, I’ve played with versions of this noodle recipe for some time. I first started out using it for our char siu and wonton noodles. I fell in love with it, used it repeatedly, then promptly forgot about it.
When I wanted something I could use in ramen, I tested a whole range of ramen noodle recipes and failed miserably. You cannot imagine the number of blank stares I’ve gotten from trying to grill Japanese chefs about kansui, the ingredient that is supposed to give ramen noodles their signature texture. I never managed to get my hands on the ever elusive Japanese kansui powder (although I know that there is a simple hack floating around out there). And for the record, I could never get the kansui water used in dimsum to work for me on this front either.
In the meantime, this noodle recipe remained forgotten.
Later, I became obsessed with trying to make my own version of mi goreng. Like most university students of a certain generation, I fueled a good part of my education with this spicy and umami instant noodle dish, preferably made using Indomie Mi Goreng, then topped with an egg fried sunny side up. I wasn’t about to cop out and use instant noodles. And I wanted a noodle with a nice bite to it (what Singaporeans refer to as a QQ texture). It was only when I revisited my original wonton noodle recipe for my mi goreng, that it occurred to me that it would work just as well in ramen!
My next obsession is going to be attempting to create a version of Mamezen‘s utterly unique and addictive soy milk ramen. These noodles are definitely going into it!
Noodles are such a fundamental, basic ingredient. Good noodles can really make a dish. I like my noodles to have a bit of bite to them, so it’s important to me that I make them from scratch. Cooking them for no more than 60 seconds is also vital. If you keep them boiling for too long, you’ll end up with flaccid noodles.
I like that these noodles really don’t take much time to whip up. I often make the dough two days ahead of when we need the noodles, before I go to bed, and roll it out the following evening. Even when I’m pressed for time (which I often am) I can still get away with rolling out the dough after the kids have gone to bed and just before (or as) our guests arrive.
The addition of wholewheat flour is just a personal quirk. I try to squeeze in wholewheat whenever I can. But I am also thinking about incorporating some semolina flour into the recipe (I like the way it gives pasta a nice bite). And I can’t wait to try making these noodles with the noodle flour we’ve just bought in Osaka!
Versatile and simple, this is a nifty pantry basic worth mastering. Mi goreng recipe to follow soon!
Fresh egg noodles
Makes 650g fresh noodles
(enough for 8 to 10 people as part of a multi-course meal)
300g all-purpose flour
125g superfine wholewheat flour (or substitute with equal quantity of all-purpose)
1 teaspoon kosher salt or smoked salt, crushed
2 large (60g) eggs
125ml cold water
1/8 teaspoon sesame oil
Cornstarch, used during the rolling stage
Place the flour(s) and salt into a large mixing bowl and whisk to blend. 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 (I use a flat bamboo spatula used for blending dim sum dough), stir slowly at first from the center to incorporate the flour, then vigorously to form a firm dough, adding additional water by droplets, if needed, to bring the dough together. Knead by hand until smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes). I usually do this in the bowl, but you may find it easier to turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. The dough should bounce back gently when pressed with a finger (see top image).
Smooth the sesame oil over the dough, place in another bowl and seal tightly with clingwrap. I’ve found the texture of the dough easiest to work with when it has sat overnight in the fridge. It tends to roll out smoother and not require much dusting with cornstarch. Bring it to room temperature before rolling out.
You’ll need a pasta machine to roll out the dough. Cut the dough into 4 equal pieces (I use a pastry cutter) and cover loosely with clingwrap. Remove and flatten the first piece with your palm into an approximate rectangle, about 1/4 inch thick. Smooth cornstarch on both sides, then pass the dough through the widest roller setting. Fold the dough into thirds, folding one end towards the middle and the other on top (envelope fold, see second image from 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 times at the same setting. The dough needs to be smooth and unwrinkled. If the dough develops a rippled appearance (like a nasty case of cellulite), fret not. Just keep folding, dusting with cornstarch and rolling until it’s smooth. My sister-in-law once described it as needing to be “as smooth as a baby’s bottom”.
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 it has achieved your preferred thickness. I usually stop at No. 4.
Trim the lengths of dough to the desired length (I usually go for 30cm, see third image from top) then spread it on a tea 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. I tend to leave one batch of rolled out dough to dry as I roll out the next, pausing to cut the first batch into noodles using the narrowest cutter after laying out the second batch to dry. If the edges of the dough get too firm to cut through easily, just trim off about 0.5cm off one edge.
Dust the noodles with cornstarch to coat the newly cut edges, then spread to dry on a tea towel-lined tray. Fluff occasionally, allowing the noodles to firm up 5-10 minutes before cooking.
The noodles can be stored uncovered 1 hour before cooking. If you intend to hold them longer, cover with plastic wrap or a towel and refrigerate.
We like to cook our noodles in salted water (the same way we do our pasta). The water should taste like the ocean. Bring a large pot of it to the boil, place the noodles into the water, let the water return to the boil, then cook for 60 seconds. Drain immediately and serve tossed in preferred dressing or in a broth.