Friday 20 July 2018

Cold Noodles with Sesame Sauce

Earlier in the summer I visited Murger HanHan on an invite from the PR company. Located in Mayfair down a back street, it's a real blink-and-you-miss it. Awful pop music was playing, and it was full of people slurping down on noodles. I think we chose a bit badly, actually; wide belt noodles with tomato, egg and garlic dipping sauce came in a vat of broth so huge we could have bathed in it, while the tomato and egg was comforting, it was also very sweet and devoid of garlic. Should have gone for the biang biang noodles. Impressively long noodle, though.

The pork murger, which is a flatbread cut open and stuffed with meat (the original burger, apparently) was quite bland, and very very fatty - though they do offer it on the menu with lean pork only. But there was seemingly no flavour to it other than the pork itself and a little salt. I get the feeling that this is super traditional, though having never been to Xi'an I can't confirm. The spicy beef murger with peppers and cumin is on the list for next time.

What we did love, though, was this cold steamed rice noodle with sesame sauce. Thick, chewy noodles were mixed up with slivered cucumber and beansprouts underneath, giving essential crunch to the slippery noodles, the creamy sauce being full of rich sesame flavour. They sent me the recipe, hurrah! So I set to making it myself.

I can't find rice noodles that are shaped like this - cut to a square shape, basically - they're all flat like pho or ho fun, or round like bun noodles, or too fine like vermicelli. I set about making my own, though to do this I trialled two methods; mung bean jelly noodles, and cold skin (liang pi) noodles.

More on the latter later, because mung bean jelly noodles were my favourite. The sauce could have clung to them a little better, I guess their surface is too smooth, but in terms of satisfaction of chew these guys really swing it.

For the noodles: 

100gr mung bean starch 
500gr water 
A pinch of salt 

Mix the starch well with half of the water in a large bowl, and add the salt. Bring the other half of the water to the boil and on a low heat, add the starch mixture bit by bit, mixing the solution until it is well combined, with a whisk. Cook on a low heat until the mixture becomes more transparent, then take off the heat, grease a tupperware box and pour into it. When cooled, place in the fridge until needed.

To use, slice thinly width ways and then slice again to the width of the noodle desired. For this I sliced into cube shape. 

Here is Murger HanHan's recipe for the sauce; it's practically verbatim except I've reduced the soy sauce down because it was plenty salty enough. This makes quite a bit - enough for 4 - 6 portions. 

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
7 tablespoons Chinese sesame paste (this is a darker colour to tahini, and tastes richer but you can use tahini at a push)
6 tablespoons of warm water
5 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper (I used chilli oil here, and upped it to 1 tbsp)
1/2 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
1 cucumber, chopped to thin slice 
1 small bag beansprouts (I blanched mine because I don't love raw beansprouts)

In a large jar, combine all the ingredients except the cucumber and the beansprouts, and shake vigorously. Layer the beansprouts, cucumber and noodles, then drizzle the sauce over it and toss well. I added coriander, more chilli oil and some steamed choi sum to make it a full meal, and you could add chicken or crispy tofu too. It's a great lunch salad, but keep the sauce separate till you're ready to eat it.