Ken Albala is a professor of history and chair of University of the Pacific’s Food Studies MA program in San Francisco. He has authored and edited 23 books on food including Eating Right in the Renaissance, Food in Early Modern Europe, Cooking in Europe 1250-1650, The Banquet, Beans (winner 2008 IACP Jane Grigson Award), Pancake, Grow Food, Cook Food, Share Food and Nuts: A Global History.
The following is an excerpt from his forthcoming book on Noodle Soup, to be published by the University of Illinois Press.
Xinjiang, China: Uyghur Laghman
Serves 3 or 4
These noodles can be found all through central Asia, the former Soviet Republics and into Russia. The word is likely a variation of la main and it is a pulled noodle similar to the Chinese version that seems to have traveled along the Silk Road with traders. The technique is a little different than in China and a lot easier. This is the pulled noodle for beginners.
- 3 cups all purpose flour
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 cup water
- 1 c olive oil
Put the flour into a large stable bowl and add the egg and salt. Start working the dough by grabbing fistfuls and squeezing the pressing them into the bottom of the bowl. Sprinkle on a little water with your fingers now and then. Work this ragged dough, constantly adding a little water, for 15 minutes. Very slowly it will come together as a dough, but it should be very stiff.
Press down on the dough with your fists. Then cover it up with plastic wrap and leave it for one hour. After that time, roll out the dough with a rolling pin on a wooden board to about ½ inch thick and 12 inches long.
Rub oil all over the dough and cut it into strips about ½ inch wide. Oil these well and let them rest in a bowl about 15 minutes, covered.
Here the technique is essential. With your well oiled fingers horizontal to your wooden board, roll each strip out back and forth slowly moving your hands apart so the foot long strip is gradually perfectly evenly round and about 3 feet long. You’ll have to let it drape over the side of the board and pull it along as you roll it. It will be about the width of a sharpie marker. Coil these on a plate starting from the inside and working out, keeping them well oiled all the time. You should get about 12 coils in two layers. Cover these in plastic and let rest for about an hour.
Here’s the final stretch. Using the same finger rolling technique, start at one end of the noodle, roll with your right hand and pull VERY gently with your left. Make your way all the way down the noodle. Then start again. It should take 2 or three runs of pulling and stretching to get your noodle to about 10 feet.
Boil these in three batches which means about 4 super long noodles per batch. After about 2 minutes, drain in cold water, and set aside with a drizzle of oil.
1 batch of laghman noodles
- 1 lb lamb shoulder or mutton in fine strips
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 3 tbs oil
- 1 each red and green bell pepper, in thin strips
- 1 onion, sliced into thin strips
- 1 large tomato, chopped
- 9 c water or lamb stock
- 1 c small cubes of squash
- 1 potato cubed
Season the lamb with salt and pepper and brown in a pot with oil. Add the peppers, onion and brown and lastly add the tomato. Then add the water or stock and cubes of squash and potato and simmer until cooked through. Place the noodles in a bowl and pour the thick soup on top.