Scallion oil noodles (cōng yóu bàn miàn 葱油拌面, literally scallion oil tossed noodles) are a deceptively simple street food packing a powerful flavour punch. I dare you to try eating only half a bowl, even when you’re already full! This morning I ate breakfast at home, then went straight out to shoot some noodle photos and I only planned to have a few mouthfuls….but there you go, three minutes later I could see the bottom of the bowl.
Scallion oil noodles are one street food you could reproduce quite easily at home (I like this recipe from Cecilia Chiang, minus the shrimp). The finest hand-pulled noodles are quickly blanched for a minute in boiling stock or water then rinsed, cooling them to room temperature. Earlier, a simple sauce has been made by frying julienned scallions until they are dark and crisped, removing them, then adding salt and soy sauce to the hot oil. A bowl is prepared by being filled with a couple of spoonfuls of the scallion oil/soy sauce mixture, on top of which goes a tangle of noodles then a small handful of crispy fried green scallions. As you mix the noodles they become coated with the oil and soy, giving each strand a slippery tasty covering of sauce – a lovely contrast to the sweetness and crispness of the fried scallions. Add black vinegar to taste as you eat for extra flavour.
This classic Shanghai home-style dish is often the cheapest bowl in any street-side noodle restaurant at around 5 yuan (80 cents) but is also served in upmarket Shanghainese restaurants towards the end of a meal. When sharing, the waitress will bring a large bowl of cong you ban mian and tosses the noodles tableside, serving everyone with individual smaller bowls.
In my local noodle shop, the cong you ban mian are one of seventeen different noodle dishes you can order from the vast wall menu, which runs to a total of eighty-seven dishes. I can’t vouch for the other eight-six dishes because I’m usually just there for the noodles, but all of them are produced in a kitchen the size of a closet. A-stounding.
The Shanghai Street Food Series
Number 24 Guotie – potsticker dumplings
Number 25 Nuomi Cai Tou – fried clover pancakes