Friday, December 15, 2017

Yangchun Noodles, Shanghai's Practical Gift To A Harried Chef Ju Ju

Yangchun noodles with "pocket" eggs and ham slices from the fridge.

Although I've been away from chasing down exemplary Asian noodles for the blog, I haven't deprived myself of noodles -- far from it. My partner and personal chef Ju Ju's work schedule has left her with less time for cooking, and in a pinch she falls back on her (and my) favorite time-saver, yangchun noodles (阳春面), which I've been enjoying up to three times a week .

What are yangchun noodles? You can find varying descriptions, even recipes, but to Shanghainese the name invokes the simplest possible noodle preparation: fresh thin egg-less noodles served in a broth based on soy sauce and spring onion, with optional chili oil or chile flakes for heat (an option I've always exercised).  They can be served as is (for breakfast, typically) or topped with whatever you have on hand, either something left over from last night's dinner or something you can cook up in no time.

Chef Ju Ju
Since Ju Ju is usually whipping up my yangchun noodles for dinner, she loads them up with protein, which might be leftover soy sauce chicken leg(s), red-cooked pork cutlets, lion's head meatballs, etc. but almost always includes a couple of "pocket" eggs (荷包蛋). "Pocket" eggs are basically over easy eggs fried in a wok. My guess for the "pocket" is that it alludes to the fact that one edge of the egg often gets folded over in the flipping, forming a little flap.

As for the name? Although "yangchun" literally means "springtime," the 10th month on the Chinese calendar, roughly October, is referred to as "Little Springtime" (akin to our "Indian Summer"?). Based on this, "yangchun" in colloquial Shanghainese refers to the number 10, and since the original street vendor price was 10 fen (cents) the noodles came to be known as "yangchun" noodles. This explanation probably seems less convoluted to a Shanghainese than it does to you and me.

Spring noodles or fall noodles, they won't lead to my winter of discontent.

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