Pork Noodle Soup? Where in the world has the very best rice noodles?
I think if you asked most people, their answer probably be Vietnam. And it’s a strong choice, no doubt, but also consider Thailand or Myanmar, both of which also bring a pretty strong game.
And for China?
The Fujian province’s got their famed Char Kway Tiao [chao guotiao], and of course, you’ve got Guangdong that’s got Beef Hofun and Changfen rice noodle rolls.
But there is an eternally under-rated cuisine that I don’t think gets quite enough international acclaim for the sheer depth of their rice noodle culture – the autonomous region of Guangxi, sandwiched between Guangdong and Vietnam.
Because of this one small province? It’s got practically an entire country’s worth of rice noodle dishes: the ever-popular Guilin mifen, of course, but also Liuzhou’s snail rice noodles, Nanning’s ol’ buddy rice noodles, Quanzhou chili oil rice noodles, Yulin’s beef jerky rice noodles, Longlin chicken soup rice noodles, various juantongfen – rice noodle rolls, roast duck rice noodles, cold rice noodles, shengzhafen, fenchong, this list goes on and on.
Walk into a market in Nanning and you’re immediately greeted with rice noodle stands front and center – vendors complete with an impressive mélange of shapes, sizes, and textures of rice in noodle form.
Wake up early and head down the street, and you’re bound to see scores of people, perched upon plastic stools, slurping down a Guangxi-style Char Siu rice noodle soup for breakfast.
So. There is a lot of stuff we wanna cover here, but it’s that breakfast-style noodle, Char Siu rice noodles, that we wanted to show you today. It’s a soothing, delicious dish, and unlike a lot of street food classics is actually relatively reasonable to whip up at home.
That said, if you do want to have it first thing for breakfast, it will take a bit of prep in advance, but as long as you have your components ready you’ll be able to whip up a bowl in no time flat.
So. In Guangxi, this is served basically buffet style where you can add your toppings of choice.
And further confusing things many restaurants have their own mix.
But the constants here would probably be rice noodles, of course, pork bone stock, char siu barbecue pork, scallion, and pickled bamboo shoots.
Now, I know. Before you despair on the pickled bamboo shoots front, while fresh bamboo is annoyingly tough to source outside of Asia, pickled bamboo shoots luckily are not.
Whether online or at your local Chinese supermarket, the product that you’ll likely be able to find should look something like this.
They’re not quite as good as a home pickle, but with an extra step or two, can fill in just as well.
So right. We’re gonna be prepping enough stuff for 12 servings, so first julienne 300 grams of your packaged pickled bamboo shoots, then grab them and squeeze out the excess liquid.
We’re gonna be toasting these, so we’ll want them as dry as feasibly possible.
So then, to a dry wok, toast those bamboo shoots over a high flame for about five to six minutes, or until the surface of the bamboo shoots are, for the most part, no longer moist to the touch.
After that, toss in two tablespoons of oil, and over a low flame optionally go in with a tablespoon of chili powder and give it a brief fry.
Then, add back your bamboo shoots and if your pickled bamboo shoots came with a couple of pickled chilis, you can also add those in as well.
Swap the flame to high, and fry that all together for two to three minutes until mixed & fragrant.
Then just jar it all up, and this should last at least a couple of weeks in the fridge.
Component number two: the titular Char Siu.
Now, if you live somewhere that you can conveniently just buy some Char Siu barbecue pork, just go ahead and do that.
Cantonese Char Siu isn’t the same as Guangxi-style, but it’s good enough for government work, no doubt. But if you’re not so lucky or if you’re just interested in making the Guangxi sort, let’s just show you how to whip that up real quick.
So. For this, you’ll want a kilo’s worth of lean meat.
The loin’s fine, leg’s fine, the neck’s fine anything lean will do the job.
Then, to marinate that, the marinade’s actually a bit simpler than the Cantonese Char Siu, first just grab 100 grams of scallion, and to that toss in 50 grams of smashed and roughly chopped ginger,
50 grams of smashed and roughly chopped garlic, and start to rub it all together.
Just rub until the scallion wilts a bit, then add in your spice mix.
This was one gram of cinnamon stick, three grams star anise, a gram of licorice root, and just skip this if you can’t find it, three grams sand ginger, and you can sub that for dried galangal or dried ginger if you have to, and six grams white peppercorn all ground into a powder.
Just toss that in together with ten grams of salt and thirty grams of sugar.
Now just continue rubbing that for about three minutes, until the scallion’s released much of its liquid, then toss in 60 grams of soy sauce, 10 grams dark soy sauce, 30 grams water, 30 grams of a high proof liquor – this was fenjiu, but you could also use vodka or a clear rum – together with an optional four grams of red yeast rice powder.
That red yeast rice is just for color, you could alternatively toss in a couple of drops of red food coloring or, really, just skip it.
Then just toss in your pork and give that a real good mix – massaging the marinade into the meat for about five minutes, or until your hands start to feel a bit hot and spicy from the ginger.
Then just move that over for storage, and marinate that for at least twenty-four hours, or ideally 48.
So. Two days later now, transfer your pork together with the marinade over to a non-stick skillet and start to cook that down over medium-high heat.
Cooking the pork in this way will dry out the pork – making it easier to thinly slice – as well as letting the meat really absorb that flavor.
This’ll take a bit, about twenty minutes – flip a couple of times… you’re looking for the pork to be completely cooked through at this stage.
Then, transfer the pork pieces over to a big bowl, and give it a real good rinse. And now, we can fry.
So, here we’ve got a wok of oil, but alternatively, feel free to just shallow fry this as well.
Get your oil up to about 170 centigrade, fry the pork for about a minute until the exterior deepens in color, then take it out and toss on a paper towel-lined plate.
Work through your Char Siu, then toss those in the fridge for at least a half-hour to cool down before trying to slice.
For one portion of noodles, thinly slice about 40 to 50 grams worth, and toss the remainder in the fridge.
It’ll last about a week there, but it also freezes really well – just split it into servings, and it’s good to use whenever.
Next up, pork bone stock. Just a bog-standard Chinese pork bone stock here – first just get a pot of water up to a boil and toss in a kilo of pork bones, ideally the sort with a bit of meat still attached. Blanch those for about three minutes, then transfer over to some cool water and rinse.
Now to a stockpot with five liters of cool water, toss in your now blanched pork bones together with two inches of smashed ginger and about thirty grams of scallion tied in a knot.
Get that up to a boil, skim at this stage if things are a bit gunky, then swap the flame down to medium-low and keep it at a heavy simmer/light boil.
Cover, and let that cook for three hours.
Three hours later now, just shut off the heat, and season with a tablespoon of salt.
Just remove the pork and aromatics, and your soup is done.
Remove what you’re using today, and store the rest as you’d store stock.
Last bit. Rice noodles. Now, at a noodle shop in Guangxi they’d pretty much always use fresh rice noodles, so if you happen to live in the Guangxi province, just go to your local market and ask for the flat ‘qiefen’ and you’re good to go.
For the rest of us though, we’ll be working from the very similar dried Vietnamese rice noodles – the sort you’d use for Pho.
They’re not exactly the same thing – the Guangxi noodles are a bit thinner – but they’re basically the same category of things.
So. To assemble. First, get a pot of water to a boil, and toss in 100 grams worth of dried rice noodles per serving.
Cook it according to your package, for ours, this takes about six to eight minutes.
Then, while the noodle’s cooking, reheat your stock in a small pot, or alternatively just nuke in the microwave.
And if working from frozen Char Siu, toss them into de-thaw and reheat, and take it out.
Now then, to a bowl, season with a 1/8 tsp salt, sugar, MSG, and white pepper powder.
Then toss in your now strained rice noodles, arrange the char siu, add the bamboo shoot and scallion, and ladle in your soup.
And with that, you’ve got yourself a Char Siu rice noodle soup, perfect to slurp down for breakfast.
Uh, so the recipe that we gave in this video is kind of like a basic Hofun noodle soup formula and in many noodle shops in Guangxi, they would also have this kind of like pickled long beans, pickled Daikon and also blanched lettuce is another classic and you can even put other roast meat in it.
So just have fun, play around, and enjoy some delicious breakfast noodle soup.
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