Thursday, 17 January 2013

How to make Asian egg (alkaline) noodles



First off, sorry for the long space between posts these days. Now that I'm into my final year, the work has been crazy and I only hope you guys don't get bored of waiting and never come back. I'm not very good at multi-tasking and separating work from play, or just one part of my life from another part of my life. But it doesn't mean I give up one for the other, it just means that I tend to throw my two interests together and hope something exciting/delicious happens. If you follow me on facebook or twitter, you should have an idea of what I've been pulling my hair out over these days.

Noodles.

Yes the weird sorts of things that occupy my mind when I should rightly be concerned about deep world issues while expressing mad genius creativity. It started with a bowl of wanton noodles. My fellow diners launched into an hour-long discussion about the subtle differences between noodles, throwing words like saang mein, you mian, mee kia, jian shui, and QQ around, to the confusion of the only English guy sitting there. I felt almost sorry for him.



Asians have so many kinds of noodles it's crazy people think we only eat rice. Some are clearly distinctive, but some look similar yet taste or feel kind of different because of the ingredients used. There's noodles made from rice, wheat, egg, mung bean, sweet potato , buckwheat, oats and probably more; there's the usual long noodle threads in thin, fat, or curly shapes; there's the more obscure noodles in the shape of cat's ears or rat's tails... Add to that the confusion between the names people from different regions call the same noodle, and you get a complete nightmare. I've been trying to sort that nightmare into an infographic (and more, let's see how far I can push myself for this project), but for now, I bring you a teeny tiny piece of my mind.

Besides riling all my chinese foodie friends on twitter with my constant noodle questions and spending too much time staring at noodles on the shelves of Chinatown, I've been doing a bit of experimenting myself. Yes, as if it's not enough having noodles in my sketchbook, my Illustrator window and my dreams, I'm having noodles for dinner a lot these days. (See last few Instagram photos/ posts). 

And I decided to try make my own Chinese egg noodles. Egg noodles, fyi, don't actually have eggs. Well, sometimes they do, but what really turns it that shocking yellow and gives it that characteristic chewy texture and that jian taste is a magic ingredient, kan sui. Most recipes call for this highly alkaline lye water but if you want to do it without hunting down obscure ingredients in the Asian stores, you can mimic the results by using baked baking soda. Yep, by baking this common household ingredient, you turn it from sodium bicarbonate into sodium carbonate which is a stronger alkaline (though not as strong as lye). These noodles are actually not too difficult to make and strangely satisfying, because I know that they contain none of those nasty preservatives and colourings, and because, well, I MADE MY OWN NOODLES COME ON, so they aren't just a result of project-related insanity and are well worth trying for yourself.


HOW TO MAKE ASIAN EGG NOODLES
Credits to norecipesHarold Mcgee's NY Times article, David Chang's Lucky Peach article
makes 2 massive/ 3 normal portions

Ingredients
225g organic unbleached plain flour*
2 tsp baked soda (see below)
100g lukewarm water

for baked soda
baking soda (I baked a whole small tin since you can do more at a go and store)

*For a harder, more chewy texture, like in mee pok, you can use bread flour. If you're making the hokkien egg noodles aka you mian 'oil' noodles, which are a bit more slippery and soft, don't use bread flour; I get away with using my favourite white spelt flour even. 

Method
1. To make baked soda, spread it out evenly on a lined baking tray and bake at about 120 degrees celsius for one hour. You will lose about 1/3 of its weight in water and carbon dioixide. Keep this in a tightly sealed jar for future egg noodles/ramen making to prevent it from absorbing moisture in the air. Be careful not to touch it, it's not as strongly alkaline as lye, but it's still strong enough to irritate!
2. Dissolve 2 tsp of baked soda in the warm water, and then add this alkaline water to the flour slowly, mixing it in just till it comes together to form a shaggy dough. I don't like to add it all at a go just in case I need less or more, so play by ear, but do note this dough is kind of rough and crumbly. You will see the flour turn yellow almost instantly. Magic. 
3. Knead the dough for 5 minutes, then clingwrap and set aside for 20 minutes. Work those biceps again for another 5 minutes or till you get a nice pliable dough. It's actually quite hard to knead so don't give up.
4. Wrap again and give it a final rest in the fridge for anytime from 1 hour to overnight, I did for 2 hours.



5. Cut the dough into 2 or 3 portions. Roll out each portion using a pasta machine, going from the thickest setting down to as thin a setting as you like. The final thickness and width is up to you. Keep it well floured to avoid sticking.
I've done the hokkien noodle, mee pok, and non-curly ramen noodle (in pasta terms, think spaghetti, fettucine, and spaghettini respectively).
For hokkien noodles, I only did it till the 3rd setting, and then I used the spaghetti cutter to cut into round noodles.
For mee pok, I did it till the thinnest setting, and then I just sliced it into 5mm wide flat noodles.
For ramen noodles, I did it till the 2nd setting, and then used the spaghetti cutter (if you have an angel hair cutter, even better).
6. To cook, simply drop these noodles into boiling water till cooked. The timing will depend on the type of noodle, but note as these are fresh noodles, they take really quick. 
Mee pok and ramen noodles will only need a very quick blanching to keep them al dente, while hokkien noodles should have a slightly softer texture.



It's not as shocking a yellow as your usual lye-added (or, more likely, artificial colouring-added) egg noodles, but it is yellow, and it's got the right texture and taste of these noodles. Slightly chewy and with a slippery feel that makes for exceptional slurping, and that distinct jian taste. If you choose to enrich your dough with an egg yolk or as in some traditional Hong Kong noodle houses, a duck egg, you might get noodles that are more golden and also richer in taste. Or maybe you can cheat by boiling in water with a shake of turmeric, if you really must get that bright yellow.

But even sticking to this one recipe, depending on the way you cut your noodles, you could get a lot of different results (trust me, looking at the mindmap of noodles in my sketchbook, it is A LOT, in caps). I've done those three because these were the most straightforward, but you should go wild.

Now back to ..more noodles. Oh one last bit, thanks Charlene for the pasta machine :) Best birthday toy ever!

**

Other handmade noodles recipes:

And some ideas for what to do with your noodles:
BAK CHOR MEE (noodles dry-tossed in crack)
Smother in Black Bean Sauce (how to make bbs noodles from scratch)
Fry with Sambal Belachan (aka mee goreng)
Toss with Ginger-garlic-springonion Miracle Sauce (momofuku-improved)
Make fishball noodles soup or mee pok tah (how to make bouncy fishballs!)
Spend 16 hours boiling pork bones for Tonkotsu Ramen
Or simmering chicken bones with malay spices for Soto Ayam for the soul


ps. Londoners, I'm making bak chor mee for this sunday's plusixfive supperclub, COME EAT!


83 comments:

  1. Wow, looks great! Very informative. I've made Italian- style pasta, but have never tried making Asian noodles. After reading this post, I think I should give it a go.

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    1. You definitely should, if you've made italian style pasta fresh before you should have no rpovlems!

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  2. Amazing. I think I need a pasta machine immediately...

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    1. I feel my life became more complete after I got mine :p

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  3. wow! U made your own alkaline noodles...I am going to try out soon, I like to eat alkaline noodles when I was back at home, can't find it here..thanks for sharing!

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  4. and your noodle sketch made me know more about noodles...thanks

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    1. yay glad to know it's helpful! let me know how it goes :)

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  5. I've been meaning to make my own noodles for quite a while now, but I'll admit I'm a bit scared of the lye water I bought. If using that, how much should you add do you think? (I know I could bake baking soda but I have the lye water now!)

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    1. check out the post by that norecipes guy, he used lye water! and er be even more careful with the lye water because it's a much stronger hence more irritating!

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  6. Wow SH! You made your own mee pok and hokkien mee? CLAP CLAP....

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    1. haha come on you are the one who sous vides eggs.

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  7. This is so impressive Shu Han. I never realised how many different types of noodles there are out there. Again, you are educating me :) As always, amazing photos too.

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    1. thanks caz!! I never realised how many there were until I started this project too (regretting it already)

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  8. Shuhan, I'm so impressed!! Scraggy dough becomes noodles? I see why your mind is on these =) They look so tender and delicious!!

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    1. thank you :) haha my mind is on these for sure, though lately it's one of stress and slight annoyance at how overly creative our asian forefathers were :/

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  9. Love the recipe but I have no pasta machine :( ... I guess I have to work my muscles :)

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    1. I didn't have one till very recently too, but it's one of my favourite toys now :) hehe maybe you coudl invest in one, it isn't expensive; or yea, work those biceps girl ;)

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  10. Fascinating! Your noodles look so perfect, I would never guess they are homemade. It's funny to discover another use of baking soda! I love noodles from all around the world (my favourite are I think Korean sweet potato noodles, but of course I couldn't have them only with such an array of different kinds and shapes...). Have fun with supperclub! I do envy Londoners a lot! (Or those who can jump into a last minute flight to London).

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    1. I love jap chae noodles too :) I think my favourite is good old flat rice noodles though, either called kway teow (chinese) or hor fun or pho (viet). my comfort food :)
      Thanks about the supperclub, I wish you lived in London....

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  11. Wow, these look great! I'd never thought of making my own noodles, but I'll definitely be trying now. And I love your drawing of all the different noodles, it's made me realize just how many types of noodles there really are :)

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    1. thanks mia! I'm glad it's helped. It's a bit mad how many there are, I'm so overwhelmed myself!

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  12. Hi Shu Han, bravo to you, made your own noodles. Yours look excellent, thanks for sharing with us. I enjoyed making my own noodles too, nothing can compare to home cook meals. :)

    Have a wonderful weekend, regards.

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    1. thanks amelia! yay you make your own noodles too? you must be the expert then!

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  13. Interesting to learn baked soda! Thanks for sharing this piece of info..

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  14. Well done! You really are the Noodle Queen!

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    1. wah, coming from THE mr noodles himself.

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  15. Awesome post! It took me over a week to make up my mind on buying a pasta machine because i just don't have the room for it in my kitchen (sigh the life in NYC). However once I got I absolutely loved it! The homemade noodles just take so much better than the store bought version. I'll probably soon start to share some of my noodle recipes as well.

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    1. I had the same issues putting me off, but then I got this machine as a present from a friend, and now I'm so glad I have it now :)

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  16. MY PASTA MACHINE DOESN'T HAVE A SPAGHETTI CUTTER OR AN ANGEL HAIR CUTTER. *Stomps around angrily* But I have been meaning to make my own ramen noodles for well, as long as I've had the Momofuku cookbook, so a while. I will do this.

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    1. Haha make the flat ones, i.e. mee pok noodles, can just cut like fettucine :)

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  17. How wonderful, I'm still getting to grips w making pasta, so will leave noodles for now, but what a beautiful blog and as I'm having noodles for dinner, this was perfect timing to find your recipes :-)
    Gina

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    1. yay thanks gina! i'm sure you'll move on from pasta in no time at all anyways! x

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  18. Great post, I love your doodles and pictures it makes it so easy to follow. Really interesting to see all the names of the noodles too.

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  19. Home made noodles are definitely the best. Must try this out. And thanks for sharing the tip about using duck egg for a brighter colour. Brilliant.

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  20. Noodles look amazing. i know what I'll be cooking tomorrow.=)
    Want to share an article about how to cook time-efficiently:
    Recipes & Ideas for On-Campus Cooking

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  22. I realise I am a bit behind here, however, would you happen to know if these freeze well if I want to make them in advance (at the weekend) and have them available for midweek feasting?

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    1. Ahhh sorry for the late late late reply! Yes tey definitely freeze well, but cook them from frozen for a bit longer, don't defrost them first.

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  23. I was looking for this recipe. Thanks for the recipe.

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  24. Can I use dough mixer instead of hand?

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    1. I think you could, will definitely take the tired biceps factor out! ;) But with machines it's harder to get a gauge of when the dough feels right, so play by ear x

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  25. Wow! Thanks for sharing! I've never heard of 'baked soda' before, let alone making it yourself, but it makes sense for using it in place of lye water. I love this - I'll be making it soon! Just stumbled on your blog and I love it!

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    1. Woo! Thank you! :) Let me know how it goes if you get round to making this x

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  27. Hi Shu llan, I managed to do the yellow noodle, but the texture was not firm enough to make mee goreng instead I made mee rebus. Any advise to firm the noodle. When I rolled the noodle into the pasta maker did not dust any flour could this be the reason?

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    1. Try using bread flour for a firmer noodle. You might also want to try adding a tiny bit more baked soda (the taste of the alkali will be stronger though). This doesn't mean adding more of the alkali water- make a stronger solution. You want to use less water and knead more to get the rough, crumbly dough to come together using as little water as possible. GOOD LUCK :)

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  28. Hi there, can't wait to try this recipe. Do I need to change the quantity of water if I use an egg yolk?

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    1. Yeah play around with it! The dough should overall feel rather dry and hard to knead.

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  29. Thanks for your reply. I decided to make them without the egg yolk and they were amazing. I was a bit impatient and only let them rest once for about 30mins. They were also more yellow than I expected. Very happy, thanks again.

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  30. Replies
    1. Woo! Makes my day to hear something like that. Thank you :)

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  31. Hi, i stumbled on your blog while searching the web for mee pok noodle recipe. I made my first scracth tagliatelle yesterday and was somehow reminded of mee pokand became curious of whther they are in fact the same noodles. Anyhowsss, a quick question, is it necessary to line your bakingsheet with parchment oaper or aluminum foil when baking the soda? Worried it could affect the baking sheet? Thank you, and you have an awesome blog! Love the noodle chart! :) Dora

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    1. sorry for the incredibly late reply I completely missed this one out! It's not necessary if you use a non-reactive pyrex, but if you can, just line it, it will make your life so much easier when you need to tip it into a jar to keep. And thank you so much Dora! Made my day! :D

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  32. Cooking baking soda is how I make washing soda for laundry. It has a bitter soapy taste. Do the noodles not taste soapy?

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    1. Hello! You only add a teeny bit to the dough, enough to make the noodles have a nice elastic bite. o It shouldn't taste soapy. There is a slight alkaline taste though, the kind you usually get with asian egg noodles. x

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  33. I tried this! Is it supposed to smell eggy and sort of vinegar sting like after you boil? Maybe I should put in less of the baking soda water next time :)

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    1. Eggy yes but not sure about the vinegar sting... How does it taste??? And how is the texture? x

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  34. Thanks very much for your recipe. I did this today and they come out quite good; I used only 2 teaspoons of baked baking powder in 500 g of bread flour.

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  35. Great Article :)
    Thank you for the recipe
    I will try to cook

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  36. Thanks so much for posting:) I've been looking for 'mee' recipes high and low because its not available in the Asia markts in Germany. :( now I can try out hokkien mee at home. ;)

    One question, wad is the model of your pasta machine? Do you have a picture of it? I'm considering in getting one if my cravings for mee kicks in every now and then.

    Thanks!

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  37. Chinese foods are very spicy and tasty, thanks for sharing....!
    Chinese Food

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  38. Can you use all-purpose flour or does it have to be plain white flour?

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    1. Yikes so sorry for the very late reply, I hope you see this... yes plain white flour in the UK is the same as all-purpose flour in the US.

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  39. Thank you for your recipe - so thorough. Made these noodles last night for laksa and they were INCREDIBLE!

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  40. omg can i just say, i love you for sharing this post. I LOVE the alkaline noodles (I call it "Ki") and I am so happy to read that I can recreate it easily. THANK YOU

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  41. Hi, thank you for the recipe. I had tried the recipe with general purpose flour and 2 tsp of baked soda. It turned out to be quite "hard" to the bite. So I reduced it to 1 tsp of baked soda and it is also "hard".

    I use the machine to knead the dough. I knead it until it comes together into a ball and then stop. Is that the reason it is hard ?

    Thanks for any reply.

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    1. Only stop kneading when the dough comes into a bouncy and smooth ball, it can be quite craggy and hard at the start! So you might have to knead further actually. Also the resting time is important for the dough to relax. The baking soda creates that alkaline taste and slight springiness but shouldn't be what causes it to be 'hard'. Also, how long did you boil the noodles for? Thicker noodles might need a longer boiling time! Let me know if you still need help :) x

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  42. So are these the type of noodles you'd find used in a Mongolian Grill and other Asian restaurants for their stir fries/yakisoba/whatever you want to call it?

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  43. i need to do this recipe for a Home Ec assignment. I need to 1/2 the recipe and i need to do it in a shorter time frame and i dont have a pasta machine. What Do I do?

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    1. Oh no just saw this, hope it's not too late. Will you be able to prepare the dough beforehand? If not just let it rest as long as you can, cooking takes really quick anyway. Just roll out with a floured rolling pin but you probably will take much longer doing it by hand...

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    2. Thank You that helped a lot i ended up getting a very high!

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  44. I let it sit in the fridge covered and moist enough so it doesn't get dry for half an hour. Then, while the soup and meat are getting ready, I flattened the dough, cut jn half, continued making it thinner until the thickness I wanted, then fold in half and cut by hand. i have a pasta machine, but I like the uneven handcut version as it really looks handmade. I just made it and we all loved it!

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    1. Perfect! So glad your family enjoyed this!

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  45. Hi Shu Han

    I just bought myself a phillips pasta + noodle maker and will be trying out your recipe in it (but it looks like it will only be helpful to me with the exrusion side of things) but i wanted to ask if you had created a recipe for bouncy udon noodles yet? :)

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    1. Argh I only just saw this comment! Unfortunately no, but I will update the blog once I do :)

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  46. Hi shu han, love ur effort on the noodles. I had got the craze u had few years ago about asian noodles. I am currently researching on dai bu mian, a traditional hakka noodle dish. I would love and appreciate if i could ask u further more on ur knowledge in noodles.

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  47. Hi Shu Han. Something I'm noticing and this could make me sound super noob... Egg Noodles with no eggs in the recipe? �� Whaaaaat? Please enlighten this newbie home hobby cook. ��

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    1. Hi Charles, so sorry for the late reply, I've only just seen this comment! I know it sounds weird but what really gives 'egg' noodles their characteristic yellow is the alkaline water. Some HK recipes do add a duck egg yolk to enrich the dough and make it even more yellow, but to get that chewy bouncy texture the key ingredient is the alkaline water :)

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  48. Just tried this recipe today, and we really like it. I don't have a pasta machine, but a floured rolling pin and floured workspace works just fine. After following the directions, I rolled it out, folded and cut thin. Dropped in boiling water with some Better Than Bouillion roasted chicken base for 4-5 mins, removed and sprinkled with Mrs Dash Garlic and Herb seasoning. It was delicious. My husband is looking for more! I will try some of the other recipes too, thank you so much for this.

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    1. This just made my day! Thanks so much for dropping by to leave such a sweet note :)

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