Che zei mien

Che zei mien

little cart noodles

By
From
Hong Kong Diner
Serves
8
Photographer
Kris Kirkham

Over the decades of Chinese immigration to the West, the ‘CHINESE BUFFET’ has made its mark. Although generally the thought of a Westernized Chinese buffet to me is quite cringe-worthy, I always wonder whether the concept of a buffet like this came from something INCREDIBLY AUTHENTIC, like the olden-day che zei mien or little cart noodle stand, which became popular in Hong Kong in the 1950s. The che zei mien would have A SELECTION OF SEVERAL BRAISED TOPPINGS, often cooked well in advance, and sometimes consisting purely of leftover ingredients that could not be wasted for fear of profit loss, which were then added to a bowl of noodles of the customer’s choice. It was a very popular, and very economical, way of eating something delicious and hot, while also utilizing excess ingredients. Bringing this way of eating into the home, using DELICIOUS, HOME-COOKED LEFTOVERS from your fridge or freezer and turning them into a fun, buffet-like experience, excites me. Here we have less of a recipe and more of a list of suggestions for how to make use of excessive big-freezer food in a FUN AND CREATIVE WAY, which your friends and family will love to get involved with, and won’t be able to stop eating (just ask my own, very full, friends and family).

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient

Suggestions for noodles

Quantity Ingredient
300g spinach noodles
300g thin hor fun, (rice noodles)
300g yau mien, (oil noodles)
300g instant dolly noodles

The stock

Quantity Ingredient
1/2 a thumb-size piece of ginger
2 spring onions
3 litres fresh chicken stock
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt

To serve

Quantity Ingredient
1 iceberg lettuce, (swapsies: 500g/1lb 2oz pak choi or choi sum)
3 spring onions, finely sliced, to garnish

Recipe leftovers that will work with your home-style little cart (PICK 2–3 OF THESE DISHES)

Quantity Ingredient
Red tofu braised pork with pickled cabbage & baby pak choi
Fragrant aubergine (eggplant) with minced pork
Soy-poached chicken with sesame sha cha dipping sauce
Hong kong classic curried fish balls, fish balls with curried dipping sauce
Home made chilli oil
Slow braised ham hock in yellow bean sauce, white pepper & five-spice
Beef brisket curried noodles
any of the wontons or dumplings from the dumplings section
Marbled tea eggs, (leftovers can only be kept in the fridge, cannot be frozen)

Method

  1. Soak the different types of noodles in hot water for 3–8 minutes, depending on thickness, drain well, then dry on a clean tea towel in a mixing bowl or on a baking tray. Run 1 teaspoon of sesame oil through each batch of noodles to keep the strands from sticking together, adding a subtle nutty flavour.
  2. For the stock, bash the ginger with a knife, roughly chop the spring onions (scallions) and put both into a large saucepan with the rest of the stock ingredients. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes.
  3. Thinly slice the lettuce and spring onions for garnish. Wash them both well, leaving them soaking in a bowl of cold water for later.
  4. Set up your table with all the ready-soaked noodles, with tongs for serving, and reheat your chosen leftover dishes until piping hot. Bring the stock to the boil and let your dinner companions pick their noodles, adding them to their individual bowls. Blanch each of their noodles individually in the stock for a maximum of 1 minute, then return to their bowl, with a ladle of hot stock. Guests can then help themselves with the rest of the reheated dishes, and sliced lettuce and spring onion to garnish.
  5. To make the experience even more interactive, place the stockpot atop a portable hob in the centre of your table, and let your guests help themselves!
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