May 31, 2009
Cheap & Good
Sheets of comfort
By Thng Lay Teen
Blanket is not a word you would associate with food. But pu gai mian, a type of noodles originating from Sichuan Province in China, is so called because it comes in large sheets.
Like a blanket, it is also comforting. This is food for a rainy day, when you sit down to a steaming hot bowl of wheat flour noodles. And you don't have to go all the way to Sichuan to sample the handmade noodles.
Pu gai mian is available in Little China, a stall in Lau Pa Sat. There are three versions - original ($4), herbal chicken pu gai mian ($4.50) and herbal duck pu gai mian ($4.50).
The original version uses stock made from old hens and pork bones, simmered for about three hours.
The pork cubes in the topping are first marinated with oyster sauce, dark soya sauce, salt, sugar and a special blend of homemade chilli before being steamed and then stirfried. They lift the otherwise subtle stock, which is also enhanced with the chilli oil typical of Sichuan cuisine but which is not spicy.
The more flavourful ginseng chicken version uses herbal soup stock made with old hen, duck and pork bones together with herbs such as ginseng, angelica root, licorice root, cardamom, Solomon's seal, fig and wolfberry.
The tasty soya sauce-braised or poached chicken is then added separately.
I like the chicken version, with its distinctive fragrance of ginseng and tender braised chicken pieces.
You can also check out the herbal duck version, which uses the same herbal stock and roasted duck.
But eating the noodles requires some dexterity. They are tricky to pick up with chopsticks but once you get the hang of it, the reward is the taste of silky-smooth noodles that are thicker than kway teow (flat rice noodles) and almost like ban mian (handmade noodles), but nicer.
The pu gai mian is cooked to order. The little balls of dough are rolled into circular shapes and stretched to make them as broad and thin as possible.
Four big sheets of dough are then thrown into a big pot of boiling water to cook briefly for each order.
Stock is added, followed by the different ingredients, depending on what you order.
Stalls 87 & 88, Lau Pa Sat Festival Market, 18 Raffles Quay
Open: 24 hours