Silver Pin Soup Noodles with Roasted Duck and Mushrooms 火鴨冬菇銀針粉
By Ellen L. Published: 2016-10-01
I'm so happy to share this warming and deliciously cheerful soup noodle dish, perfect to take the chill off these wind swept autumn days. There's nothing like a hot bowl of soup noodles to fill and warm your tummy when the weather turns cool. This tasty traditional Hakka 客家 soup noodle dish used to be found at street corner shops and small dai pai dongs 大排檔, but as of late has all but disappeared. Which is a shame because it's really quite yummilicious and such a comfort to eat, slipping down the throat easily and tastily, noodles topped generously with a bit of this and that, a savory and homey feast of tastes and textures all tenderly nestled in tasty hot soup. But never fear, it's quite easy to make a bowl of these Silver Pin Soup Noodles, or 火鴨冬菇銀針粉, at home!
The key to this dish is the special type of noodles used called Silver Pin Noodles, or 銀針粉, which are also curiously known as Rat Tail's Noodles, or 老鼠粉. The name of Silver Pin is obviously due the likeness of the noodle shape to needles and Rat Tails is obviously due to the rather unappetizing comparison to rat's tails. (Why on earth name any food item after a rat's anything, amirite?) These are basically fresh hand rolled starch based noodles, tender and slightly chewy, a nice slippery texture and absorbent of the flavors they are cooked with, being mostly bland in flavor themselves.
These noodles can be found at the asian supermarkets in the fresh noodle section or specialty asian noodle stores, or at wet market flour and noodle vendors. We bought ours at a dried and fresh chinese noodle store that opened up in our neighborhood recently. Don't fret if you can't find them tho', the silver pin noodles can also be made at home with a wee bit of effort, which we will be posting about very soon.
There are many versions of the toppings that can go onto the Silver Pin Soup Noodle dish, always a lip smacking array of tastes and textures. This is our favorite way to make this soup noodle dish, where the addition of a bit of Cantonese roast duck and Chinese preserved vegetable makes for an easy and delicious soup without any need for soup stock. Plus, I loooove Cantonese roasted duck, or 燒鴨, and it's a-okay by me to top anything off with a couple of yummilicious slices of roasted meat. Or just have it by itself, the sweet-savoury aromatically spiced meat, the crispy caramelized skin...ahhhhhh! I'm making myself really hungry!
As for the preserved Chinese vegetable I mentioned above, well, there are all kinds of preserved Chinese vegetables, so many that I get most confused at times. But one of the most popular is the Zha Cai, or 榨菜, which is mustard plants, salted, pressed, dried, and then pickled in chili paste and left to ferment to delicious spicy, salty, sour flavor packed perfection. This most useful item is a staple in our Chinese kitchen, being used to flavor soups or add a counterpoint in taste and texture to many a stir fry dish. It's quite salty, not really spicy tho' it looks quite fierce. And it has a good satisfying crunch.
When used for soups as in this case we slice and toss it in, allowing the Zha Cai to both salt and flavor the soup. You probably don't even need to add extra salt to the soup in this case. For other uses, if the saltiness is too intense. slice into thin slices and use sparingly, or soak in water briefly to leech some of the salt out.
And to really make this homey little Silver Pin Soup Noodles as flavorful as possible, we also like to throw in a few more classic staples of Chinese flavoring, the good ol' Dried Shiitake Mushrooms, or 冬菇 (with the high grade mushrooms known as Flower Mushrooms 花菇) and the Chinese Dried Shrimps 蝦米. These two items are a flavoring must have for the Chinese pantry, the dried mushrooms offering an intense unique flavor punch up and the dried shrimps offering, well, their concentrated shrimpy goodness. Shrimp essence makes everything tastier, and that's a fact.
For our soup this time we didn't use the typical Chinese dried shrimps 蝦米, those comma shaped baby shrimps the size of your fingertip. Those are fine to use but we are lucky to live in Hong Kong where we can easily obtain the beauties you see in the image above, whole adult sized dried shrimps, known as 蝦幹, a local specialty. These shrimps are just de-shelled, cleaned, and spread open to dry in the sun. Imbued with a wonderfully sweet sea fresh taste, you can just snack on them by themselves, they're that good!
Now for the final touch! Just that wee bit of veg to be sprinkled throughout for fresh piquant contrast. The vegetables we show here are the classic vegetables used for the Silver Pin Soup Noodles and many other soup noodles, the Oriental Celery 芹菜 and Coriander 芫茜. You all probably already known and use the coriander for it's wonderful fresh & pungent flavor. But the other vegetable (shown on the left of image above) is the Oriental Celery 芹菜, a chinese celery that is much smaller and more delicate than the western kind with light, thin, crispy stems that have a concentrated 'celery-ness' and a slight bitter edge that is refreshing to the palate. Add just a handful of chopped rounds of this celery to your soups and enjoy the distinct slightly bitter flavor note is provides as well as the lovely crunch. (They are really good, I'm a bit addicted to this veg. Way tastier than your usual celery.)
And that's it. Seems like a bit of stuff, but it's not if you've probably got half the ingredients in your Chinese pantry already. We whip up this Silver Pin Soup Noodles when we want to have a simple, easy to make and yet still very delicious and satisfying dinner. Oh, and last thing, you just need a spoon to eat these noodles, it's well known. A lovely Chinese soup spoon, of course. I don't know why I stuck a pair of chopsticks in the photo, I guess I was too hungry...
Silver Pin Soup Noodles with Roasted Duck and Mushrooms Recipe 火鴨冬菇銀針粉
(makes 3-4 big bowls of noodles)
10.5 oz silver pin noodles 銀針粉, 300g
7 dried shiitake mushrooms 冬菇
4 tbsp chinese preserved vegetable Zha Cai 榨菜
8 oz ground pork, 225g
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp Shao Hsing rice wine
1 tsp sugar
1/8 tsp white pepper
1/4 of whole Cantonese roasted duck 燒鴨
1/4 cup dried shrimps 蝦米
1 bunch fresh cilantro 芫茜
3 stalks oriental celery 芹菜
salt, to taste
Soak your dried mushrooms in hot water to cover. Cover bowl and let soak for 1-2 hours at least or until soft enough to slice. Squeeze dry, reserve soaking water, cut off the stems and discard, then thinly slice the mushroom caps.
Slice the Zha Cai to matchsticks about the same thickness as the noodles. Marinate the ground pork with soy sauce, wine, sugar and pepper for 15 mins. Use fingers to remove duck meat from bones, reserving the bones, and slice meat into 1/4" thick bite sized slices.
In hot wok add 2 tbsp oil, then the dried shrimp. Stir fry for 10 secs or until aromatic. Add the pork and stir, separate and flip for a few minutes until starting to brown in spots. Add 8 cups of water and the reserved mushroom soaking water. When water boils add in the duck bones, Zha Cai and mushrooms, turn down heat and let simmer for 20 mins. Add the sliced duck meat and simmer 5 more mins. Taste to check the stock is well flavored. Remove the duck bones and add salt to taste if necessary.
In the meantime set another larger pot to boil with enough water to cover the noodles by a couple of inches. When water boils, add in the silver pin noodles and let cook for 5 mins. Scoop out immediately and run under cool water and let drain. If noodles start sticking together as they cool you might want to stir in a few drops of oil to help keep them separate. While noodles are cooking, wash cilantro and celery. Chop cilantro roughly, both leaves and stems. Slice the celery to 1/4" lengths for the stalk and then chop the celery leaves roughly.
Set out your noodle bowls and add noodles to 1/3-1/2 height of bowl. Sprinkle each bowl with a good handful of celery. Ladle hot soup to fill each bowl of noodles, being sure to scoop in a good portion of duck, zha cai, mushroom and dried shrimp to each bowl. Sprinkle coriander on top and serve hot and yummilicious with a Chinese soup spoon!
Stay tuned for our upcoming post on how to make Homemade Silver Pin Noodles!