Spicy Pork Noodles – A Beloved Dish in Shanghai

Spicy Pork Noodles – A Beloved Dish In Shanghai

Spicy Pork Noodles (辣肉面), or “La Rou Mian,” is a quintessential dish in Shanghai‘s rich culinary repertoire. This noodle dish has a fascinating history intertwined with the development of Shanghai’s own distinctive “Benbang” cuisine, which emerged during the late Qing Dynasty. As Shanghai opened up to foreign trade and influence, local dishes evolved to distinguish themselves from the influx of “Kebang” (guest) cuisines brought by immigrants. Amidst this culinary evolution, Spicy Pork Noodles were born, combining local ingredients with flavors inspired by broader Chinese gastronomy. Following the economic reforms of the late 20th century, the dish grew in popularity, becoming a beloved part of daily life for many Shanghai residents.

Ingredients and Preparation

Key Ingredients

The primary ingredients for Spicy Pork Noodles include noodles, minced pork (or pork strips), doubanjiang (fermented broad bean paste), and a mix of aromatic vegetables and spices such as scallions, ginger, garlic, and green and red chili peppers. Noodles can be either hand-pulled or machine-made, selected based on personal preference for thickness and texture. The minced pork requires marination to enhance its flavor and tenderness, typically with soy sauce, cooking wine, pepper, and a bit of cornstarch.

Cooking Process

  1. Preparing the Spicy Pork Topping:
    • Start by marinating the minced pork with soy sauce, cooking wine, pepper, and cornstarch. This mixture is allowed to sit to absorb the flavors.
    • In a wok or large pan, heat oil over medium heat and add the marinated pork. Stir-fry until the meat changes color and begins to brown.
    • Incorporate doubanjiang, along with finely chopped scallions, ginger, garlic, and diced green and red chilies. Continue to stir-fry until the pork is fully cooked and the spices are well-blended, creating a rich, aromatic topping.
  2. Cooking the Noodles:
    • Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook the noodles until they are tender yet firm to the bite, typically following package instructions. Cooking time can be adjusted for desired firmness.
    • Once cooked, drain the noodles and rinse them briefly under cold water to remove excess starch and prevent sticking.
  3. Preparing the Broth:
    • While the noodles are cooking, prepare the broth by bringing a pot of stock (or water) to a boil. Season with salt, chicken bouillon, and white pepper to taste. Let it simmer until ready to use.
  4. Assembling the Dish:
    • Place the cooked noodles in a serving bowl. Top with the spicy pork mixture, ensuring an even distribution of meat and spices.
    • Ladle the hot broth over the noodles and pork. Garnish with freshly chopped scallions or cilantro for an added burst of flavor and color.

Unique Characteristics

Flavorful and Aromatic Pork

The hallmark of Spicy Pork Noodles is its intensely flavorful and aromatic pork topping. The combination of doubanjiang and fresh chilies infuses the meat with a complex spiciness, balanced by the savory depth of soy sauce and the freshness of ginger and garlic. This meticulously prepared pork topping elevates the dish, providing a rich and spicy kick that complements the noodles perfectly.

Rich and Savory Broth

The broth in Spicy Pork Noodles is another defining feature. Typically made with a base of high-quality stock, it is enhanced with seasonings like salt, chicken bouillon, and white pepper. This results in a deeply savory and flavorful soup that envelops the noodles, adding a comforting warmth and complexity to each bite.

Chewy and Elastic Noodles

Selecting the right noodles is crucial for this dish. Whether opting for hand-pulled or machine-made noodles, they must be chewy and elastic to provide the ideal texture. Properly cooked noodles should be firm yet tender, absorbing the rich flavors of the broth and the spicy pork topping without becoming mushy.

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