Beijing Noodles

Another hot day.  One of Anna’s classmate, who is  from Beijing (who was here for a year due to her parents’ exchange program from China) came over today, since her and her family are going back to China in few days.  Anna got a last playdate with her friend.  I made the filling (tofu and mushroom in sweet bean sauce) for this Beijing noodles and put that as one of the side dish for lunch.  Anna’s Chinese friend really liked it, and I took that as a seal of approval!  This Beijing Noodle tasted  a lot like “Ja-jang myun” 짜장면 which is a Korean black bean sauce noodle (originated from China but tastes very different from the Chinese version).  Another perfect Summer time noodle dish!
Yes, underneath all the veggies and tofu fillings you will find noodles!

serves: 4-8
1/2  ounce dried shiitake mushrooms (5-8 caps)
1-1/2 cups boiling water
1 cake firm tofu (about 16 ounces)
12 ounces moonlight mushrooms
2 large garlic cloves
1 large onion
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
3/4 cup Chinese sweet bean sauce
3 Tablespoons white or cider vinegar
1 pound linguine or Chinese wheat noodles

1 cup each of at least three of the following toppings:
grated carrots
chopped tomatoes
mung bean sprouts
shredded cabbage
peeled, seeded, and diced cucumbers
a few sliced scallions

Place the dried shiitake in a bowl, add the boiling water, and set aside to soften for about 15 minutes.  With a box grater or in a food processor, coarsely grate the tofu.  Slice the moonlight mushrooms, mince or press the garlic, and chop the onion.  Bring a large covered pot of salted water to a boil for cooking the pasta. 

In a large skillet on medium heat, warm the oil and sauté the onion, garlic, salt, and pepper for about 7 minutes, until the onions are translucent.  Stir in the sliced mushrooms and grated tofu and cook, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes, until the mushrooms begin to release their juices. 

Meanwhile, remove the softened shiitake from the bowl.  If there are large stems, cut them off and discard.  Slice the caps and add to the skillet.  Add 3/4 cup of the shiitake soaking liquid (pour the liquid with care so that any gritty residue is left behind in the bowl).  Add the sweet bean sauce and the vinegar and stir occasionally until the sauce is hot, about 5 minutes.  If the sauce is too thick, add a little water. 

While the sauce is simmering, cook the pasta until al dente and prepare the toppings, have the toppings in separate bowls so that diners can choose their own.  Drain the pasta.

Serve Beijing Noodles in individual bowl; a helping of noodles topped with some sauce, and then the toppings. 

Notes:  If you cannot find moonlight mushrooms, use other mushrooms (I used both dried and fresh shiitake).  Look for Chinese sweet bean sauce in your local Chinese/Asian markets, it is smooth black velvety sauce.  Also, don’t worry about grating tofu, it’s easier to crumble tofu with your fingers.  For my sauce filling, I also used dried tofu puffs, sliced the same size as the mushrooms.


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