This is the quintessential Chinese cold noodle dish, a tangy northern-style blend of sweet, tart, and spicy tastes that has an astonishing popularity. It was the first Chinese dish I ever made, at a time when I had one tin pot in which to boil and store the noodles, and nothing big enough to toss them in but the kitchen sink.
Fluff fresh or defrosted noodles in a colander to release any tangles. (Take care not to tear them. Long noodles in China are a metaphor for long life, and it is great fun to eat them that way.)
Bring a generous amount of unsalted water to a rolling boil over high heat. Add the noodles and swish with chopsticks to separate the strands. Put the colander in the sink. Cook the noodles until cooked but pleasantly firm to the bite, about 2–3 minutes for fresh store-bought noodles. Drain immediately in the colander and chill thoroughly under cold running water. Shake off excess water, then return the noodles to the clean dry pot or to a large bowl.
Blend the seasonings in a small bowl. Pour the sauce evenly over the noodles, using a handful of noodles to wipe the bowl clean so you don’t lose any of the sugar. Toss gently with your hands to separate the noodles and distribute the sauce, then add the scallion rings and toss again to mix. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary to achieve a tangy blend of sweet and hot flavors. Remember that the chili will grow more pronounced within a few hours, so err on the cautious side if you are not eating the noodles immediately.
For best flavor, cover and put aside for several hours at room temperature or store overnight in the refrigerator. Toss before eating to redistribute the seasonings. Serve at room temperature or slightly chilled, heaped in a bowl and garnished with a fresh sprinkling of scallion rings.
“Orchid’s” lasts 4–5 days, sealed airtight and refrigerated. Flavor peaks in spiciness on the second day.
“Orchid’s” are marvelous served alongside Dry-Fried Szechwan String Beans and Scallion and Ginger Explosion Shrimp. To extend the menu, add Sweet and Tangy Cucumber Pickles, Soy-Dipped Red Radish Fans, Marbelized Tea Eggs, Tea and Spice Smoked Chicken, and Strange Flavor Eggplant—any or all, depending on the size of the party.
© 1982 Barbara Tropp estate. All rights reserved.