If, as a netizen has headed up his blog, “Life is a bowl of spaghetti made with jagged noodles”, then it could be I have found the meaning of life. No, please…hear me out…
Regular readers will remember that a friend of mine – Lixue – came over to my pad not so long ago to show me how to make Liaoning-style jiaozi. Jolly good they were too and I told her she was welcome back anytime to give me another cookery lesson.
Well guess what, dear blog fans…. ’Xue’s culinary yearnings have brought her back to my front door – after yet again sending me a list of ingredients to procure from the local store.
Flour, pork, garlic, eggs, spring onion, green coriander, mushroom, soy…what can it be, I hear you gagging to find out. Patience, dear Wonderboy-fans. Patience!
At the appointed hour I go meet her at the subway station. ’Xue is the only female I have ever met who is always early by some 10 minutes as opposed to 99.99% of the world’s female population who are invariably 10 minutes late. (Not, he adds quickly, that he has worked his way through all 99.99% - yet - but you get my drift.)
It appears she has forgotten a couple of things from the above list, so instead of heading back to your favourite blogger’s pad, we head in the opposite direction to Wumart. A short search along the spice aisle leads her to a packet of bean paste, deep brown and gloopy in its thick plastic wrapping. And after picking up a few other inconsequentials, we are off to start the cooking.
First things first; and after a quick what-can-I-get-you-to-drink opening, ’Xue has already grabbed some flour and with some water is kneading it all into a big ball of dough. It then sits there, “thinking”, while we down a drink or three and plan a campaign of action.
If, regular blog fans, you are already getting a feeling of déjà vu, please hold on in there for a while.
Clearing as best I can the only flat surface I have in my miniscule kitchen, ’Xue then deftly rolls it out into a thin flat disc and lightly folds it onto itself three times over…
…before slicing it into strips…
Aha! Methinks you have worked it out now. Yes – it’s noodle day at Chȃteau Brian!
As usual it all looks so easy when an expert is doing it; and before long the said Liaoning-style noodles are tossing away in a pan of boiling water while we prepare the rest of today’s feast.
Veg all needs chopping – spring onions, green coriander and garlic chives.
Just like last time, the pork is chopped into smithereens, together with the mushrooms that until that moment had been sitting around idly minding their own business.
Greenery, pork and mush are unceremoniously tipped into the frying pan which has been heated with garlic and ginger…
…and this is followed by a good dollop of the pièce de résistance – the bean gloop.
One thing I have learned in Chinese cooking – never be put off by the disgusting look of the stuff until it is all finished. Today is gonna be one of those days where this rule holds true…
’Xue realises that “we” have forgotten to cook the eggs; so we quickly make amends by scrambling them up in a bowl, creating an omelette and then tearing it apart for throwing into the general melée.
A bit more greenery is added, and already the mix is starting to look a bit more palatable.
The noodles are drained, poured into cold water and drained again; and the entire caboodle is dished out into waiting plates while a pot of jasmine tea waits patiently in the background.
“Quick and easy” it may be, but the faces say it all. ’Xue has once again reached the parts other meals don’t always reach. Today, happiness, as they say, is noodle shaped.