How To Make Hand-Pulled Noodles: Overview

UPDATE July 19, 2009 – If you live in the San Francisco Bay area, Chef Tomm will be teaching a Chinese food class at the Professional Culinary Institute on November 21st. This will include hand pulled noodles! Check out the November schedule on the PCI hobby classes page. There’s more info (and info on a 10% off coupon) on my blog post here.
UPDATE February 8, 2009 – I’ve put together a Hand Pulled Noodle webpage with all this info in one place.

I’ve made three posts now going through the process of making hand-pulled noodles. Here’s a quick recap:

An image of the final product

Information on ingredients

Recipes and mixing instructions
UPDATE December 6, 2008 -A better and easier recipe

UPDATE January 30, 2009 – Notes about stand mixers

Kneading and pulling technique

I’ll update this posting with any links to posts I make that have more information.

If anyone discovers this and is successful in making noodles, link some photos or make a comment about your success. I’d love to hear about it!

UPDATE June 25, 2008 — I modifed the description of note 1 on the kneading and pulling post. It sounded like you had to throw your dough away after your tried to pull it ONCE. In actuality, you should be able to practice on the same ball of dough repeatedly for upwards of an hour. My point with that note is that the dough acts a little different if you put it in the fridge and try to knead it the next day.

UPDATE July 20, 2008 — I’ve gotten some questions recently about using only all-purpose flour in the dough recipe. Unfortunately, this doesn’t work. I put together a recipe like this in my trials and the result is something the seemingly never loosens up. I spend 45 minutes or so on it and threw it away. Moral of the story, if you want a recipe that uses one type of flour, you’re better of trying to use all cake flour (which loosens up, but a little too much) or picking out a flour from your local asian market. I’ve had great success just randomly picking chinese and korean flours from the shelf at my local market. They all have pretty low gluten levels.

UPDATE October 20, 2008 — I’ve found an interesting video on a chinese website. I need to get it translated, but it’s a cooking show where they make hand pulled noodles. Also, in an effort to figure out a dough recipe that takes a little bit less kneading, I’ve order some gluten relaxers to do some experimenting. If I learn anything, I’ll be sure to post it.

UPDATE December 6, 2008 – I’ve posted a new recipe here. Try it out! It’s a lot easier than the previous two recipes.

UPDATE January 30, 2009 – I’ve posted some notes about stand mixers here, since I’ve finally bought one to experiment with.
UPDATE February 8, 2009 – I’ve put together a Hand Pulled Noodle webpage with all this info in one place.
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    15 Comments

    1. Kevin July 17, 2008 5:30 pm 

      You sir are my hero. I’ve been scouring the internet and you have no idea how hard it was to find your page. All you ever find are videos of veterans doing it or people just scratching their heads. I figured it had something to do with low gluten content, but you have definitely taken a lot of the guesswork out. I will be getting a digital scale with the quickness and I can’t wait to try it out. Thank you so much!

    2. sleeppiggypig September 7, 2008 3:23 pm 

      Trying your recipe… 1st batch was no good. not enough kneading. i tried the version with no lye water. did a few test pulls and it seemed to stretch ok. but when i got the water boiling and went back to pull, the whole thing just fell part and since i used some flour… i was commited. it was a mess, but i boiled it anyways and the flavor was very strong sesame oil, but good. question for you, how would you characterise the dough when it’s ready? does it have any dryness to it? i was afraid that if i continued to knead, i’d dry it out too much. and does using flour impact the extensibility of the dough? thank you much. i’m looking forward to my next batch.

    3. Luke Rymarz September 12, 2008 8:49 am 

      Hi sleeppiggypig,

      The best way to know the dough is ready to be pulled it to try stretching it out to an arms length. You should be able to _quickly_ pull it from a short log of dough to about 4 feet. If are there, then you should start trying to pull actual noodles.

      The dough should not be very dry at all, especially with all the oil I’ve specified in this recipe. The good news is you can deal with that, though. Just dip your fingers in some warm water and continue kneading the dough. Ideally, you want the dough to be as wet as possible without it sticking to your hands or your kneading surface.

      If you use flour when you pull (which is REAL way to do it), it will dry out the dough, but you can easily rewet it and try again. I’ve also noticed that using flour when pulling pushes the difficulty level up by a bit, and you might get a few more broken noodles that if you didn’t use flour. It seems like the flour affects the surface of the noodle in a way that allows for more tears to happen.

      Good luck on your next batch! keep at it!

    4. nicole November 24, 2008 12:05 pm 

      First off, thank you for the recipe! Info on this subject is scarce. I’ve been doing some experimenting and found the technique described in this article *very* helpful:http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1216/is_/ai_3876779. Happy Noodling!

      P.s. I used veg. oil in the dough and it worked just as well as sesame oil.

    5. Bill Dean December 27, 2008 9:39 am 

      Well I wish I had actually visited your page first instead of attempting to do this with random sources on the net. I tried to use a dough recipe that was posted as 2 cups flour and 1 cup water. Well, after kneading and kneading and kneading, my dough would never get past your bad dough example in the video. Now my hands and arms are sore and I am slapping myself for not checking your site for the dough recipe you use.

      Now I am off to chuck the dough in the trash and try again after I get the full use of my arms and wrists back.

    6. giantskittle January 10, 2009 12:49 am 

      Hey Luke–wow your experimentation process and the detailed explanations of everything from recipe to pulling technique are absolutely awesome! I can’t wait to try this out for myself, especially since I can get to Marina quite easily from MV =)

      I stumbled upon your post because I was looking for a place to get laghman noodles in the States. I was in Beijing last winter and absolutely fell in love with the laghman they served (for USD$1.50 USD/plate) at the Xinjiang regional office restaurant. I was wondering if your technique can replicate this kind of noodle, which looks a bit thicker and firmer (chewier) than your noodles, but I’m sure they are made with a similar technique. Anyway it is the most delicious thing in the world, slathered with peppers, onions and bits of lamb.

      http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_KZE9UbRiTeg/SD97INXHIHI/AAAAAAAABSc/UObcCDsJWy0/s1600-h/dapanji_laghman.jpg

    7. Luke Rymarz January 13, 2009 11:16 pm 

      @giantskittle:

      Those laghman noodles look doable. I can’t tell you if the textures would match, but that size with my dough has a really nice texture. Way more chewy than any other dried noodles I’ve tried.

    8. Nick January 25, 2009 7:12 pm 

      Success!!
      At least, I think so.
      Having never eaten authentic lamian noodles before, I am unsure whether the genuine article is supposed to be as mushy as mine.
      However, with your help and a little bit of my own guesswork, I was able to pull, cook, and enjoy some long, slender, and delicate noodles.
      I took your most recent recipe (posted 12/08) and made it with the addition of a little bit of sesame oil (about 10g).
      The dough came together fine, but when it came to the pull it kept tearing. So I simply kept adding water, a bit at a time, until the ball became almost too sticky to handle. After a few test pulls, and the addition of just a bit more water, I took the leap and added the flour to keep them from sticking.
      As I said, they are soft and a bit gummy (I did not have a broth to serve them in) but it seems like they would hold up well in a soup.
      As a culinary student, it is nice to see someone from another walk of life take such an interest in something so remarkable. I thank you on behalf of all the people I am going to feed with this neat little trick!
      And remember, Dragon Warrior–there *is* no secret ingredient!

    9. jpt January 27, 2009 11:15 am 

      hey very informative, thanks! was doing research about using soda but was led to kansui as the secret ingredient, aka lye water: http://store.pinoygrocery.com/se-50113.html

      have you tried?
      i will try your recipe soon and see if i can find some lye water locally.

    10. Luke Rymarz January 30, 2009 10:08 am 

      @jpt:

      I have tried Lye Water, and I even have a recipe that uses it. But it’s function is the same as baking soda. It just adjusts the texture of the dough a little. You don’t even need it to make hand pulled noodles, actually. All the notes about it being the secret ingredient that loosens up the dough are bunk. In fact, if you add too much, it will make the dough tight like a flexed muscle… un-pullable.

      The secret to hand pulled noodle dough is just a lot of kneading. More kneading than you’d ever knead any other dough.

    11. Dara January 31, 2009 10:14 am 

      so glad i found your site! there was once a restaurant here in chicago that had a guy in a window pulling noodles — can’t find it anymore. in my search on the net for this place i found your youtube videos and then this blog. i’ve got the stand mixer already so i’ll cheat and use that :) thanks for all your work and simplifying a very mysterious noodle method!

    12. Janet July 1, 2009 7:24 am 

      The easiest way to get dough off your hands: Dip your hands into dry flour. Hold your hands over the garbage can and rub. Roll off as much dough as you can before washing your hands; you'll need much less water and the drain won't gunk up.

    13. gregcooking August 7, 2009 8:51 am 

      hey luke! Just wanted to say a massive thankyou for posting this up. I managed to pull the noodles tonight and they were fantastic…lots of work but fantastic! If anyone is interested, I've blogged my newbie journey on making these noodles too.

    14. sindhu March 12, 2010 2:46 am 

      arrrghhhh…i’ve faileddddddddddddddddddd well ive tried your method with diffrent brand or flour…since iam not in state…still not working…i used 31 percent water,
      9 percent oil conola, 3 precent salt, and 1 percent baking powder from the flour…and it’s a mess the dough are very hard….i hardly able to pull them…, …i endup using the rolling noodle machine……911 911….

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