Noodles in soup

In China, noodles are served in soup (the name for it is tang mein) far more commonly than fried. Why this should be so is hard to explain. On the surface, there is little difference in ingredients used in both dishes, and the methods of preparation are practically the same. The recipe given below is again a basic one which you can alter to suit your preference or according to what is available.

1/2 lb (225 g) egg noodles or spaghetti
1/2 lb (225 g) meat (pork, beef or chicken)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
1 tsp cornflour
1/4 lb (100 g) bamboo shoots
1/4 lb (100 g) leaf spinach(or young greens)
4 tbsp oil
1 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp rice wine or sherry
1-2 spring onions, thinly shredded
a few drops sesame seed oil


Cut the meat into thin shreds and marinate in a little salt and cornflour. Thinly shred the bamboo shoots, mushrooms, spinach and the spring onion.

Cook the noodles or spaghettini in boiling water according to the instructions on the packet. (Normally this would take about 5 minutes, but freshly made noodles will take only 2 minutes or less). Be careful not to overcook them, or they will become soggy. Drain the noodles and rinse in cold water, then drain again. Place in a large serving bowl; bring the chicken broth or stock to a boil and pour it over the noodles.

Stir-fry the meat and vegetables as for chow mein, only this time pour all the ‘dressing’ on top of the noodles and garnish with finely chopped spring onions. Serve hot.

Strictly speaking, you are not supposed to serve this dish as a main meal, and definitely not at the same time as rice – just as you would not serve potatoes and spaghetti together. Noodle dishes in China are normally served in between meals as a snack. Traditionally, though, they are always served at birthday celebrations, partly because the length of noodles represents long life to a Chinese mind.

Noodles in soup are sometimes used for medicinal purposes. I remember on many an occasion when I had a cold as a child in China, my nanny would cook me a large bowl of vermicelli – fine noodles – in steaming hot vegetable soup with masses of ground pepper. It had asharp taste and my eyes would be streaming with tears. But I would always feel much better afterwards. I suppose it had the same effect as an old-fashioned mustard bath!

© Deh-Ta Hsiung and reproduced with his kind permission.