Asian Wheat Noodles and Dumplings

Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

  • About

Two very different families of noodles are made in Asia. Starch noodles are described below. Asian wheat noodles—Chinese mian—bear some resemblance to European pastas made from bread wheat. They’re typically made from low- or moderate-protein flours, and are formed not by extrusion but by sheeting and cutting or by stretching. The most spectacular form of noodle production is that of Shanghai’s hand-pulled noodles, la mian, for which the maker starts with a thick rope of dough, swings, twists, and stretches it to arms’ length, brings the ends together to make the one strand into two—and repeats the stretching and folding as many as eleven times to make up to 4,096 thin noodles! Asian noodles are both elastic and soft, their texture created by both their weak gluten and by amylopectin-rich starch granules. Salt, usually at around 2% of the noodle weight, is an important ingredient in Asian noodles. It tightens the gluten network and stabilizes the starch granules, keeping them intact even as they absorb water and swell.