Among the freshest culinary delights in Beijing today are the so-called night markets. These are recently opened groups of private enterprise food stalls located in busy sections throughout the capital. They serve quite delicious, simple food, representing the tastes and flavours of all regions of China. The markets are a little like pavement cafes, but without tables and chairs. People sample dishes standing up or walking along, and it is fun to go from stall to stall. The food is easy to prepare, savoury, and satisfying. I found that the night markets offer far better food than most of the state-owned eating establishments. Among my favourites is one near Wangfujing (the name derives from a fifteenth-century well), the major shopping area in the capital. It was there I enjoyed this recipe, a delicious platter of noodles, perhaps inspired by Sichuan cooking, that contrasted nicely with the refreshing cucumbers just then in season. Like most of the food stall offerings, this dish is very easily made, can be served at room temperature, and is a pleasure to eat.
If you are using fresh noodles, boil them for 3 to 5 minutes, then drain thoroughly, rinse in cold water and toss immediately in sesame oil. If you are using dried noodles, cook them according to the package instructions or boil for 4 minutes, drain thoroughly, rinse in cold water and toss them in sesame oil.
Peel and slice the cucumbers in half lengthways, and, using a teaspoon, remove the seeds. Cut the cucumber halves into fine long shreds. Rinse the bean sprouts and drain thoroughly.
Mix the sauce ingredients together in a bowl or in a blender. When you are ready to serve, toss the noodles with the sauce, cucumbers, and bean sprouts. Sprinkle with sugar and serve at once.
© 1990 Ken Hom. All rights reserved.