About this recipe:Hand-pulled noodles are a tradition from Lanzhou in northwest China. Called Lamian, the 2 to 3 metre-long noodles are made simply with water, flour and patience! Served with a delicate beef broth, this is a truly special Chinese regional dish.
For the soup
1kg boneless beef shoulder, cubed
20g root ginger, sliced
2 tablespoons Sichuan peppercorns
2 dried tsaoko
2 pieces dried mandarin orange peel
4 bay leaves
2 tablespoons salt, or to taste
For the noodles
1kg plain flour
4 tablespoons oil
500g daikon, peeled and sliced
3 stalks green garlic, chopped
1 bunch fresh coriander, chopped
chilli oil, to taste (optional)
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Bring the 4 litres of water to the boil. Add beef, ginger, Sichuan peppercorns, dried tsaoko, dried mandarin peels and bay leaves; bring back to the boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook, covered, for 2 hours. After 2 hours, remove and discard the whole spices, then season to taste with salt.
For the noodles:
Place the flour in a large bowl, and gradually mix in 600ml water. Bring the dough together and knead until smooth, 15 to 20 minutes. Cover with cling film and rest for 15 minutes. Knead again for 2 minutes, then re-cover and let rest for another 15 minutes. Finally, knead the dough one more time for 2 minutes.
Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces. Roll each piece to 1cm thick. Brush both sides of each sheet with oil, then stack them together. Cover with cling film and set aside for 10 to 15 minutes.
Fill a large saucepan with water and bring to the boil. Once the water is boiling, add the sliced daikon and cook for 10 to 15 minutes. Drain well and set aside, but save the boiling water to cook the noodles.
Place one of the sheets of dough on a cutting board and slice into 5mm wide strips. Use both hands to hold the two ends of the strip, and pull and stretch to 80 to 90cm long, fold it in thirds and pull again to the same length. Shake and slam it several times, then drop it into the boiling water immediately to cook. The length of one strip of noodle should be around 2 to 3 metres. Add 2 to 3 more strips of noodles to the boiling water; cook each serving of noodles for a total of 5 to 10 minutes. Repeat the process with the remaining sheets of dough, serving each bowl of noodles as you finish cooking them.
Place the drained noodles in a serving bowl. Pour over beef broth along with some of the beef, daikon and additional garnishes: chopped spring garlic, coriander and chilli oil if you like it spicy.
Tsaoko is known by its Chinese name cao guo and is also sometimes called 'red cardamom'. It can be bought online or in some oriental shops.
Look for dried mandarin orange peel in oriental shops. It lends a very distinctive flavour; don't be tempted to use fresh mandarin or fresh orange peel.