I’ve been learning about Bonsai lately, and I planted some seeds about two weeks ago. On Friday after work, I was delighted to find that some of my seeds had started growing. A chinese wisteria came up:

As well as two Jacarandas:


Now that was enough, but today (sunday), I also found that one of my giant california redwoods has also sprouted:


Now here’s the interesting thing. The Jacarandas have been growing like I’d expect them to, but the Chinese Wisteria is going wild. 72 hours after the first picture, it now looks like this:


Simply amazing.

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.

UPDATE February 8, 2009 – I’ve put together a Hand Pulled Noodle webpage with all this info in one place.

I thought about taking a bunch of pictures to show show to actually pull the noodles, but it’s better explained in a video. So I’ve broken the whole ordeal up into two parts. The first deals with how to knead the dough and what to look for to know that it’s time to pull some noodles. The second shows you how to pull the noodles, and how to get the most practice time out of your dough.

Part 1 is here:

You really have to work the dough to get it pullable withing 20 minutes. Don’t be discouraged if it takes you 30 or 40 minutes to get the dough there.

And Part 2 is here:

The pulling technique I show here works really well for small balls of dough. I have yet to pull noodles out of a big piece of dough, but I think it requires the whipping technique you see in so many of the other videos on the web.

Some further notes that I’d like to mention:

1. Once you’ve kneaded the dough to a pullable consistency, it’s do or die. If you decide you’re done practicing, just throw the dough away. I haven’t had good luck with dough I’ve put back into the fridge for next day. To clarify, I’m not saying you get one chance to pull noodles for each batch of dough you make. Just don’t try to pull noodles out of the same batch on two different days, and you’ll be alright. The dough seems to lose just a little bit of stretchiness after it’s been kneaded and then gets put back into the fridge.
2. I once took my dough to a high elevation on and tried to pull it there. I had trouble with it, and even when I brought it back I had trouble. I don’t know anything about dough and elevation, but it seems to have caused issues.
3. Keep at it! It’s not easy to get this right, and it takes a lot of practice. Don’t try to pull noodles from recipe that are greater than 300g until you’re confident in your abilities. Larger dough is quite a bit hard to pull evenly.

Some Cooking notes:

1. The noodles don’t need a lot of boiling time. Maybe 3 to 5 minutes max. The first time I was successful, I had them with a little sesame oil and some Magi sauce (close to soy sauce in flavor). The two recipes I’ve posted have good flavor, but the selling point on hand pulled noodles in the texture. YUM!
2. For summertime, serving the noodles cold is good too. Go to an asian market and get some Somen sauce ( a light soy flavored sauce). Cook your noodles like normal, and rinse them in cold water. Put them in a bowl with a few ice cubes, 70% somen sauce and 30% water. Very refreshing on a hot summer day :)

Best of luck to everyone!

UPDATE February 8, 2009 – I’ve put together a Hand Pulled Noodle webpage with all this info in one place.

I have successfully made hand pulled noodles (la mian, la mien). It’s taken me about 35 batches of dough and a lot of experimenting. I talked about the ingredients in my last post, and now it’s time to talk about a recipe.

I’ll give a couple recipes (one with lye water and one without), and then provide some instructions on how to mix the ingredients together. Should you need more information about the ingredients, I’ve made a post talking about that.

Note that these recipes are by weight. You’ll need a kitchen scale to make these (or you could try converting them to volume measurements). I recommend a digital scale since it’s more precise. I’ve created these recipes by weight because it’s the only way to get a perfect mix every time. If you follow these recipes, you shouldn’t need much (if any) flour during the kneading process.

Each recipe is 300g total. This is enough to make noodles for two people who like noodles, or three to four people who just want to see you make hand pulled noodles.

Hand Pulled Noodle Recipe #19 – with Lye Water

152g cake flour
24g all-purpose flour
1g salt
25g sesame oil
95g water
3g lye water

Hand Pulled Noodle Recipe #21 – without Lye Water

152g cake flour
24g all-purpose flour
1g salt
28g sesame oil
95g water

Now for the mixing process. I’ve been successful with the following, but feel free to try your own way. I don’t think it makes a huge difference, as long as the lye water (if you’re using it) goes in last.

Step 1, measure your flour into the bowl:


Step 2, add salt:
Step 3, add oil:
Step 4, add water:
Finally, if necessary, add your lye water. Be careful here as you only need a little, and I found that my bottle sometimes got excited about pouring itself into my mixture :D.

For the mixing, you can just take a heavy spoon and start stirring. It should look like this as you work:
And finally, when when you’ve got it into a nice ball, you should be able to see that it is very uneven. You should knead it for a few minutes. There will be oily spots and dry spots. This smooths out very quickly. Be careful when kneading, though, since this dough is right at the edge of being too sticky. If you’re quick enough, it won’t stick to your hands. If you have to, though, adding a little bit of flour to keep it from sticking to you is just fine. Here’s the progression from chunky to smooth, to give you and idea of how to knead it:


and now you’ve go hand pulled noodle dough. You can stick this in a ziploc baggie for later, or dive in and try to make noodles. I’ve found that keeping the dough in the fridge overnight makes it a little easier to get the dough to a point where you can pull noodles, but you can still pull noodles from fresh dough. The difference in knead times is about 15 minutes for overnight dough versus about 25 minutes for fresh dough.

My next post will talk about some pulling techniques. I’ve yet to perfect my ability to pull noodles, but I can pretty much get noodles every time I try now. The good news with this dough is that you can try repeatedly, and you can actually re-wet the dough if you feel like it’s drying out a bit. Once you get it to a point where it can be pulled, it’s very forgiving. I’ll save the details for my next post.

UPDATE February 8, 2009 – I’ve put together a Hand Pulled Noodle webpage with all this info in one place.

I have successfully made hand pulled noodles (la mian, la mien). It’s taken me about 35 batches of dough and a lot of experimenting. The pulling part requires a bit of technique, but without a proper recipe, it’s possible to have dough that will never reach a point where you can pull it. That’s a bit disappointing.

So the first thing to deal with is a good recipe. I went through 21 different dough recipes. The good news is I found a proper recipe that works really well. The bad news is I’ve done all my recipes by weight. That’s a little scary, but it’s the only way to get a perfect ball of dough every time. If anyone comes across this and wants to try to convert to a volume based recipe, feel free, but i recommend going out and buying a cooking scale. It will save a lot of time if you’re planning on committing to learning how to pull noodles.

Ingredients for making hand pulled noodles are relatively simple. You need flour, water, some oil, and a little salt. In addition, you can add some lye water, which I’ll talk about at the end.

Flour

Flour is probably the most troublesome of the ingredients because you have to get your gluten levels just right. The gluten is what makes the dough stretchy. In my experience, too much gluten will result in a dough that will never reach the right texture for pulling. It will tear very early. A proper amount of gluten will result in dough that stretches into hair thin noodles.

I started out working with some flour I found at an asian market near my home (it’s called Marina Food and it’s in Cupertino, CA). Unfortunately, it seems this flour isn’t readily available everywhere, and it seems to be sold out at Marina pretty often. For the record though, here’s what it looks like:

and the nutrition information:

This Korean flour seems to have just the amount of gluten in it, but a flour mix with more common flours is more useful to people who can’t go to Marina to get this. The solution to getting a proper mixture with normal American flours comes from this recipe. However, in my searching, I have been unable to find proper “Pastry” flour, but I’ve been successful with cake flour. For my recipe, I used Softasilk cake flour and Gold Medal All-Purpose flour. These were available at my local Safeway, and you can see them in the image above. Here’s the nutrition information just in case you need it:

for the Softasilk:
And for the Gold Medal:

Now if you can find it, I had really good luck with the Korean flour, but the cake / all-purpose works really well too. If you do go with the Korean flour, just use it as 100% of your flour. The recipe I post will be for the cake / all-purpose mix. Regardless of what you choose to use, your recipe should contain about 59% flour.

Water

Water is pretty simple. Water from the tap is just fine. I generally tried to use warm water, as the dough is much easier to work with when it’s warm. In my recipes, I use about 31% water.

Oil

The purpose of sesame oil in the recipe is for a couple things. The first is flavor. The second, more importantly, is that it gives the dough a bit more springiness when you’re trying to stretch it. It’s almost like liquid rubberband. Thirdly, it helps keep the dough from sticking to your hands. This means we can make a wetter dough recipe and still knead it easily. I’ve tried recipes with no sesame oil, recipe with a little, and recipes with a lot. I’ve had the most success with recipes that have 8-9% sesame oil.

You can use any type of sesame oil. I tried a recipe with a sesame /soy oil that did not work well, so i recommend using 100% sesame oil. The green bottle that’s generally available in the ethnic section of a supermarket is good. I’ve also been successful with random sesame oils from asian markets, too.

Salt

Salt is generally for a little more flavor in the noodles. I did, however, try a recipe with 2% salt, and it made the dough very tough (to a point that i couldn’t pull it). I recommend about .3% salt (which comes out to 1 gram in my recipe).

Lye Water


If you read through forums about hand pulled noodles, you’ll read about “lye water” and “kansui powder”. I was unable to find anything called “kansui powder”, but i did find lye water. Most asian markets have it alongside the oil and soy sauce related ingredients.

Lye water is supposed to be the secret ingredient in hand pulled noodles. I’ve tried recipes with it and without it, and it does not make the dough any easier to pull. There’s almost no difference in the dough when using lye water, although if you use too much, you’ll get something a lot like when you add too much salt. The dough will be too tough to pull. I’ve come to a happy ground with about 1% lye water in my dough.

What lye water DOES add is a nice bit of chewiness to the noodles. The flavor is supposed to be slightly different, too, but i haven’t noticed that yet. I’m always just happy that i was able to make some noodles :D

I’ll post two recipes, one with lye water, and one without. You can be the judge.

So I’ve been working on getting a recipe and technique together to make hand pulled noodles, or la mian. I’m basically done at this point, and I’m going to make a series of posts that talk about everything. I tried a while back to find a recipe and instruction on how to make said noodles, but came up dry after hours of searching on the internet. I found a few “recipes” that were mostly just guidelines, and the only instructions came in the form of some kind of video in front of a noodle shop. slim pickins. So I decided to put together something that would help the online community, and the picture in this post is of noodles that I pulled myself. So my next post will talk about ingredients, and then I’ll go from there.

In videogames, I’m still on a turn based strategy kick. I’ve picked up Disgaea for the PSP. It’s leaps and bounds better than Jeanne D’Arc. The key to why it’s better is that it’s just really fast. The gameplay is smokin’ in comparison to Jeanne D’Arc. Plus, there’s all kinds of neat stuff like the item world and throwing characters around. Funny thing is, I played Disgaea for the PS2 when it came out way back when. I beat it, and I remembered it being good, but i guess i forgot.

You know how I said I was done with Jeanne D’Arc? Well, something about that game just doesn’t bore me. I’m still playing it, even after I’ve beaten it. Its addictive qualities are not as impressive as Disgaea, but they present some pretty significant challenges after you complete the game and it makes it feel like you haven’t really played the game fully. So now I’m working on leveling a few characters to the level cap, and then we’ll see if I get tired of the darned thing.

I’ve also been introduced to Patapon by a coworker. I didn’t realize it was made by the same people who made Loco Roco. That is, until I booted it up. The artwork and sound is immediately recognizable. I think that’ll be my next PSP game. I loved Loco Roco :D

New Project

I’m working on something. Something I’ve wanted to work on for a pretty long while, but never really committed fully to it. I worked on it previously, but was never able to find enough resources on the web. So I went to the drawing board and decided to tackle the problem from the start and document everything so I could put the resources on the web for other people to use. I’ll be making a post soon with lots of details. Until then, here’s a teaser:

I just got done with Jeanne D’Arc for the PSP. Well, i should clarify. I BEAT it about 3 weeks ago, but there is a bit of gameplay to be had after you beat it, and i was playing with that. I DECIDED three days ago that i was done. I tried pretty hard to level my characters enough such that i could beat the extra Colosseum levels, but the play style i chose for the normal part of the game just didn’t work for some of the colosseum levels.

I don’t think i play strategy games correctly. I think maybe i don’t like them. I know i don’t really care for RTS games, but i’ve always had fun with turn based strategy games. FF Tactics and Disgaea were tons of fun. The problem i have with them is that i don’t see how any RTS games are different. Warcraft is the same as Total Annihilation is the same as Starcraft is the same as you get the idea. this definitely hinder my ability to enjoy them. The biggest issue with not seeing the differences is that i play them all the same way, and so i’m always just playing the same game. I don’t know if that’s my fault or it’s the fault of the game designers…

Anyways, the way i play all strategy games is with brute force. If my units aren’t tough enough to kill the baddies, i don’t go find the kryptonite unit for what i’m up against, i just make more of the unit i’ve already committed myself to. Maybe i should read some strategy before i play my next strategy game. I bet that would make it a lot more fun.

Hulu

I was over at the NAB Show on Monday, and one of the booths I spent a good bit of time at was Adobe. They showed a demo of some kind of new flash web UI tool that was all drag and drop (no coding required) and that looked very cool. Web developers have it too easy.

But what impressed me a lot was the Flash Media Server 2.5 demo. They showed Hulu.com, which I had checked out about 6 months ago when they were in beta (and wasn’t really impressed). It has come a long ways, and it is really quite cool now. It’s literally TV on the internet. You can watch tv episodes and movies (uncut, apparently), and they splice in a few 15 second advertisements here and there. They’ve also got HD (you can get there by clicking the “HD Gallery” link at the very bottom of their page. I’m guessing NBC.com has done stuff LIKE this, but it’s really nice to have a one stop shop. I want everything to be really easy, and Hulu makes it that way.

Ok, so Adobe was also doing some nifty stuff with H.264. Namely, streaming a live feed. Up until now, I didn’t think it was possible to stream an H.264 flv if it wasn’t closed for write (there are some header issues to deal with when the file is closed). I’d like to find out how they did that… More homework, I suppose.