Mrs Yu’s sweet and spicy cold noodles

Mrs Yu’s sweet and spicy cold noodles

Yu lao shi liang mian

Every Grain of Rice
Chris Terry

When I was a student at Sichuan University, I took private classes in Chinese with a teacher named Yu Weiqin. With my limited vocabulary of the time, I struggled to keep up with our fascinating discussions about sexual politics and social mores in China, but revelled in the lunches and dinners she cooked for me from time to time, because Teacher Yu is a marvellous cook. Sometimes she would conjure up a bowlful of fried rice studded with morsels of her home-made wind-dried sausage; sometimes she would invite my room mate and me for supper and whip up a dozen dishes. This was one of her regular offerings, cold noodles and beansprouts tossed with an improbable array of seasonings.

You can make this with any cold noodles, but I prefer the kind Teacher Yu used to use: simple Chinese flour-and-water noodles, which you can buy fresh or dried from Chinese supermarkets. You can add shredded chicken if you wish (it’s a great use for leftovers), or a sprinkling of toasted sesame seeds. The noodles should be cooled and dried before serving, so you need to start a couple of hours in advance of your meal.


Quantity Ingredient
150g beansprouts
200g dried noodles
or 300g fresh noodles
cooking oil
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
2 teaspoons chinkiang vinegar
2 tablespoons runny sesame paste, (optional)
3 teaspoons caster sugar
2 teaspoons garlic, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon ground roasted sichuan pepper
2 tablespoons spring onion greens, finely sliced
2-4 tablespoons chilli oil, with its sediment, to taste
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
chicken meat, cooked, cold and shredded, (optional)


  1. Bring a large panful of water to a boil over a high flame. When boiling, plunge in the beansprouts and blanch for a minute or so, until barely cooked and still a bit crisp. Remove the beansprouts to a colander with a slotted spoon and cool quickly under the cold tap. Shake dry.
  2. Cook the noodles in the boiling water. When they are done, turn them into a colander and rinse under the cold tap. Shake out as much water as possible. Pour over 1/2–1 teaspoon cooking oil and mix it in thoroughly with clean hands or chopsticks: this helps prevent the noodles from sticking together. Then spread them out on a tray in a well-ventilated place for an hour or two to dry. (Some people use an electric fan to dry the noodles more quickly and effectively.)
  3. Place the noodles in a serving bowl with the beansprouts. Just before serving, add all the other ingredients and top with the chicken, if using. Mix well with a pair of chopsticks before eating.
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