“During the harvest season we always had extra hands, and my mother would cook for two or three times as many people as usual. Her solution was to fry a huge batch of noodles; they were inexpensive, filling, and very easy to make. She would use rice stick noodles, which we bought; they were one of the few things she didn’t make herself.”
All Chinese markets carry rice stick noodles or, as they are sometimes called in English, rice vermicelli. They are always dried and come in gaily decorated packages. Dry, they are wire thin, brittle, and opalescent. Cooked, they are stickier than regular wheat-flour noodles, crisper when fried, and have a pleasant smoky taste.
Since fried noodles are traditionally considered as an economy dish, you can, if you wish, use less meat than the recipe calls for.
Put the dry noodles in a large bowl and pour the boiling water over them. Let them soak for 15 minutes, then drain them and rinse them twice in cold running water.
Put the tree ears in a small bowl, cover them with boiling water, and let soak for 10 minutes. Drain and rinse them thoroughly, picking them over carefully for any impurities, such as tiny pieces of wood, that might still be embedded in them.
Cut the meat into wafer-thin slices, about 3 inches long and ¼ inch wide. (It is always easier to slice meat thin if you first put it into the freezer for about 10 minutes, until it becomes slightly stiff but not frozen.)
Add the soy sauce and cornstarch to the pork shreds and mix thoroughly.
Clean the scallions, then cut two of them, both white part and green, in half and slice lengthwise into thin shreds; add these to the meat. Chop the remaining scallions into 2-inch lengths and shred them very fine. Set these shredded scallions aside.
(noodles and shredded scallions) (pork shreds)
Heat your wok or pan over a high flame for 15 seconds, then pour in the oil. It will be ready to cook with when the first tiny bubbles form and a few small wisps of smoke appear.
When the oil is ready, add the meat mixture to the pan and stir-fry vigorously for 15 seconds, using your spoon or cooking shovel in a continuous scooping motion to toss the meat shreds around in the pan.
Add the tree ears and continue to stir-fry for 1 more minute before removing all but a few tablespoons of the pork and tree ears from the pan.
Add the noodles and shredded scallions to the pan, along with the salt and sesame oil. Stir-fry the noodles, vigorously enough to keep them from sticking to the side of the pan, for 2 minutes.
Return the partially cooked meat to the pan and add the soy sauce. Let the noodles cook over a fairly high heat for 10 more minutes (see note), stirring them regularly to make sure that they don’t stick to the pan too much and that all the ingredients are evenly cooked.
(noodles and shredded scallions)
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