My glorious and unparalleled Citizens! After a month of pulmonary suffering inflicted by a bacterium so foul, so infinitely cruel that the Marquis de Sade himself would have been forced to look away, I am pleased to report it has at last been dispatched back to the 8th Circle of Hell from whence it came (thank you, Z-Pack!). As part of the final healing process, My body demands noodles, meat and heat as it heals – but no ordinary bowl will suffice for the Suzerain of Spice! Only the scion of Sichuanese culinary supremacy for ME: I demand the fiery glory that ALONE are Chongqing noodles!
The Chinese name for Chongqing noodles is Xiǎo Miàn/小面 – the literal translation is ‘small noodles’ – this doesn’t refer to the size of the serving, the bowl or the diameter of the noodles, but rather to the simplicity and humbleness of this everyday dish. Chongqing noodles are usually served as breakfast or lunch in small cafes throughout the capital city of Sichuan province, the mighty city that alone is Chongqing! Soup noodles are a longstanding weakness of the Imperial One – and My version of these is truly special and beyond reproach in all ways!
I hate to even bring this up as a data point, but historical accuracy demands that I note how the foul and inedible brand of canned Chinese noodles once served all over America known as ‘Chun King‘ is in fact a poor English transliteration of this renowned Sichuan city (properly pronounced (Chongching, BTW). Remembering even eating that stillborn horror from beyond the stars as a child still sends ice-cold shivers down My spine, Citizens! All the more reason to vigorously scrub that memory from my cerebral cortex (with acid) via this TRUE rendition of a Sichuan classic recipe!
Chongqing cuisine is a sub-branch of Sichuan cuisine (one of the eight great Chinese cuisine styles) featuring pungent and spicy flavor as a result of liberal use of garlic, chili peppers, Sichuan peppercorn, bean sauce, mustard, sesame paste and other potently-flavored ingredients. As spicy as regular Sichuan cooking is, Chongqing is renowned for being the ‘hottest of the hot’ – be warned if you ever go there! I’m not exaggerating this, My friends – this city’s food will DESTROY you if you aren’t prepared for the thermonuclear-levels of spice found in many of its local dishes of repute!
The street food served in Chongqing is so spicy that travelers are recommended to acclimate themselves MONTHS before the trip. This can be best accomplished by starting to season your food with chopped-up, very spicy small, red chilies three months before your trip and increasing the amount added by half a chili to three chilies per main meal. ONLY then will you feel at home enjoying the unique local specialties in Chongqing (unless you are possessed of an asbestos palate)! It truly is a Mecca for chiliheads worldwide – much as Munich is to lovers of beer or Naples is for lovers of pizza!
Now that I have put the proper fear of God into you – do note that I said it is Chongqing STREET food that is incendiary – most Westerners are unaware of the true depth and breadth of Sichuanese cuisine, or its profound history!
At different times throughout its history, Chongqing was known by several different names, including Jiangzhou, Ba Prefecture, Chu Prefecture (420–581), Yu Prefecture and Gong Prefecture (during the Northern Song Dynasty). In 1189 CE, the area was renamed Chongqing Fu by Emperor Guangzong (then called Prince Gong). Chongqing (literally, ‘redoubled celebration’) was renamed as such by Emperor Guangzong as he was promoted from the ruler of a Zhou to a Fu (area of special importance) and also promoted from the position of a prince to Emperor Guangzong of the Song Dynasty.
The Ming and Qing dynasties saw a period of rapid economic growth for the city as merchants gathered there from all over China. In 1891, the city’s port was made open to the outside world, and a customs house was set up. In 1929, Chongqing was formally declared a city. After the outbreak of the Second Sino-Japanese War in 1937, the Kuomintang moved its seat of government from Nanjing to Chongqing. In 1939 the city was made a municipality under the Executive Yuan and in 1940 was made the provisional wartime capital of China.
Chongqing endured years of intensive daytime and nighttime bombings by massed formations of Imperial Japanese Naval and Army Air Forces in the Battles of Chongqing and Chengdu; battles which were fought entirely by opposing air forces and anti-aircraft defenses. In 1946, the seat of government was moved back to Nanjing. After the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, Chongqing remained the cultural and economic centre of southwestern China.
During the Anti-Japanese War of 1930s, Chongqing, as the wartime capital of China, a large number of government officials and businessmen poured into Chongqing. A group of skilled chefs brought their own specialty dishes, but also made bold innovations to local folk dishes. Chongqing cuisine is based on this local cuisine, integrates various cooking techniques, and gradually develops and forms a representative cuisine with local characteristics. Chongqing cuisine became known as its own style, known as Yu cuisine.
Yu cuisine focuses on spicy, hot, fresh, tender and burning and includes hundreds of dishes with hundreds of flavor by using different combination of fundamental tastes and is very popular throughout China.
However, the old refined cuisine of wealthy Chongqing merchants reflected subtle flavors, textures and more that were characteristic of Imperial dining and gastronomic excellence. For example, in the early republic of China, Tao Le Chun restaurant was renowned for hosting a high-level sea cucumber banquet that lasted for two days. Liu Chun Wo and Jiu Hua Yuan restaurants maintain this old traditional cooking style and have the capacity to hold more than 200 tables of large-scale barbecue, shark fin and Ching and Han dynasty royal feasts.
The old-style Sichuan cooking included expensive ingredients such as cordyceps, duck, hen, bamboo, ginseng, pigeon eggs, roast suckling pig and more – many of these were in point of fact first enjoyed in Chongqing, according to culinary historians. At the same time, low-end restaurants that serve steamed meats with preserved vegetables, braised pig intestines and tofu pudding are also popular with ordinary citizens in Chongqing. Some famous Chongqing fish dishes include dry-roasted rock carp, silver carp, braised shark’s fins with minced chicken, pickled squid and many more.
Today’s recipe is – of course – the ultimate street food of the people of Chongqing and I am honored to present you with My specific version (ruthlessly authentic in the style of TFD!) for your enjoyment! To begin with, the noodles are the heart and soul of this recipe, so please make sure you purchase the right kind! You want so-called ‘alkaline noodles’, the same found in ramen. Fortunately, an excellent brand of Japanese alkaline noodle may be easily purchased on Amazon here. Proper chili oil is a MUST – use My recipe or buy a superb, genuine Sichuan-style oil here.
Good-quality lard is also an important component of this dish – please, do us all a favor and forget those giant buckets of foul-tasting, chemically-processed lards in the supermarket. Either render your own from top-quality pork or buy this brand, which is excellent! It’s leaf lard, which is the top-quality you can find and also makes the BEST biscuits on planet Earth. My substitution of dark soy sauce with mushroom flavoring adds more umami than standard soy sauce – this is My preferred brand. Dried whole yellow peas are a classic garnish to these noodles – you can buy the best here.
The secret ingredient to lift up Chongqing noodles is in fact to use some grated chicken bouillon cube – don’t sneer, it has both umami AND MSG – both of which are part of the street flavor profile, so please do use it! My preferred brand of sesame oil is this one, and I strongly prefer to use Baoning Sichuanese vinegar in My recipe – it can be purchased from My favorite Sichuan culinary purveyor! They also carry the finest in green Sichuan peppercorn oil (I prefer it to the red), dried chili flakes, sweet bean sauce and the absolutely mandatory Sichuan peppercorns!
You can purchase my favorite brand of zha cai, Sichuan preserved mustard greens (zha cai), from the link – it lasts forever and I use it in MANY dishes! One very heretical addition to My version of this recipe is to use a Cantonese seasoning paste of scallion and ginger with some spices and chicken fat – it’s known as ‘chung yao’ and most Chinese delis include it with any roasted meat purchase or you can make it via My recipe from here. Aged Shaoxing rice wine (no salt) is a necessity in ALL Chinese cooking – buy it from your local Chinese retailer, or from here. Dry sherry substitutes well.
My Citizens, this is a recipe for the ages that balances heat with sweet, umami, meat, soup, vegetables and noodles into a bowl of simple perfection. My recipe defines transcendence and I hope you see fit to try it with alacrity! It is spicy – but not ‘Chongqing’ spicy as I prefer to keep the tender skin of my bucal cavity intact, non-charred and capable of enjoying taste for the foreseeable future. 😉
Battle on – the GeneralissimoPrint
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