Lamian is a type of Chinese noodles, hand pulled and made with only flour, water and salt, you don’t have to go very far in China to find restaurants or outlets specialising in lamian and it seems to me that these days, everywhere you look online, there’s a video of someone pulling some noodles! They do vary in thickness, from slightly wide and flat to extremely fine, so fine that it’s hard to believe they are hand made!
La = pull, Mian = noodles
I first came across lamian some years ago in China and have been fortunate enough to have eaten different variations, including my favourite, made by the Uyghurs. The noodles themselves are fairly similar but it’s what they’re served with that makes the difference, I remember being completely bowled over by the combination of Chinese noodles and lamb stew – totally unexpected!
The Uyghurs are an ethnic group found in Xinjiang, northwest China, an area officially recognised as being autonomous, much like Tibet. The Uyghurs identify themselves culturally and ethnically with other central Asian cultures, for one thing, unlike the Chinese in China, the Uyghurs are Muslims. Their cuisine is therefore a delightful mix of what is to their East (China), West (India, Pakistan, etc) and to some extent, the North (Russia).
Born and bred Singaporean, noodles are second nature to me, we eat them for breakfast, lunch, dinner, as a snack, or for no reason at all! But this, fresh, handmade noodles served with a light but delicious, lamb and vegetable stew was an experience that haunted me, I had nothing else for days after!
The Uyghur lady was so kind, actually, probably felt sorry for me, whatever her reason, she sat me down and showed me how she made the noodles and more importantly, the stew. That lesson has stayed with me all these years and while the stew is something I’ve made countless of times (marvellous with baguettes!),
the fresh lamian noodles is a fairly new endeavour. I love making fresh lamian noodles at the weekend when I have the time and inclination!
Making Lamian at Home
There’s so much written out there about the dough for lamian – high gluten, low gluten, cold water, warm water, lye water, kansui, sodium bicarbonate – it boggles the mind! All I can say is this, if you are interested in trying your hand at lamian, the only thing that’s going to help is time & experience! I’ve used high gluten flour, regular plain flour and yesterday, “00” flour for the first time. Guess what? They all stretched fine for me. However, I must emphasise that at the time of writing this, autumn 2013, I am only a novice, and my “pull” isn’t as long as lamian masters, which some flours might not stand up to.
One of the key things I find that helps the stretch and prevents breakage, is resting, twice before the pull & I like to let the stretched noodles rest about 2-3 minutes if I find that they are resisting the stretch. The Uyghur method I learnt uses vegetable oil to coat and after the initial stretch, you coil the dough on a plate, rest again, then start the acrobatics. While I do prefer the oil to the flour method, I don’t always coil my dough. The dough also wants to be wetter than usual, something that took me by surprise, this also aids the stretch. Talk is cheap, right, so here’s the recipe, same ratio for all types of flour I’ve used. Start with regular old plain flour, as a base.
The pictures here are from my 3rd try at making lamian. I’m fairly happy with their thickness, when I make them these days, they’re marginally thinner.
You can always enjoy this delicious lamb stew with any type of shop bought noodles. Rice noodles go very well in this, as does rice itself! And freshly baked bread!