You’ve probably wondered why fried rice or fried noodles ordered from a Chinese restaurant often taste a lot better than those prepared at home.
That’s because of wok hei (鑊氣), which literally means “the breath of the wok”.
It’s an abstract idea referring to the flavor or spirit that comes out of a sizzling Chinese wok and is transferred to the food in the process of stir-frying.
Truth to tell, you can also inject the essence of wok hei into your homemade dishes. The key is to keep the portions smaller.
First, I have to stress that in preparing a dish of Cantonese fried noodles with shredded pork (肉絲炒麵), you should not deep-fry the noodles.
The authentic way is to pan-fry the noodles till they turn crispy.
Ingredients:100g whole egg noodles, dried or freshly half-dried ones75g pork, shredded15g Chinese mushrooms, sliced40g garlic chives40g bean sprouts1 shallot1 garlic3 tbsp canola oil1 tsp Shaoxing wine
Marinade for the pork0.5 tbsp water1 egg white1/6 tsp Himalayan salt1/4 tsp brown sugar3/4 tsp light soya saucePepper powder3/4 tsp potato flour mixed with 1 tsp water1/4 tsp sesame oil3 tsp canola oil
Sauce for the noodles1/4 tsp Himalayan salt2 tsp oyster sauce1/2 tsp soy sauce1/2 tsp brown sugarPepper powder120mL hot water120mL chicken brothPotato flour mixed
For whole egg noodles, there are dried ones from grocery stores and the fresh half-dried variety from traditional noodles factories.
If you’re using dried noodles, first put them into a pot of boiling water and give the noodles a stir to loosen them up till they are cooked thoroughly.
Cool them by rinsing with running water for one minute. Set aside for 10 minutes.
Preheat a nonstick pan fully and add a spoonful of oil. Then turn on a medium-low fire before adding the noodles.
Pan-fry one side for six to eight minutes with some salt and one or two spoonfuls of canola oil till it turns golden yellow. Repeat this step on the other side.
Marinate the shredded pork and refrigerate it for two hours in advance.
Preheat the wok with garlic and a spoon of oil. Pan-fry the pork fully.
Add the Shandong wine and Chinese mushrooms and stir them for one minute.
Stir-fry the shallot, garlic chives and bean sprouts. Then add the pork for another 30 seconds.
Prepare the sauce in the wok and adjust the thickness by adding suitable amount of potato flour mixed.
Place the pan-fried whole egg noodles on the plate, topped with shredded pork, sliced Chinese mushrooms, garlic chives, bean sprouts and the sauce.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Sept. 8.
Translation by Darlie Yiu with additional reporting
[Chinese version 中文版]
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