Toss and mix noodles and enjoy.
Toss and mix noodles and enjoy.
Image: Yang Zhao

Spring onion, or scallion, is a quintessential ingredient in all eight culinary traditions of Chinese cuisine: a highly used herb by professional chefs and home cooks alike. When it’s time to prepare dinner and the resident cook discovers they are missing spring onion, it means cooking is delayed until someone has quickly gone to the fresh market to pick some up.

The word for spring onion, “Cong” 葱, is homonymous with 聪, which means “clever”. During festive seasons, spring onion is used to signify well wishes for young members of the family to be smart and studious. As children, we’d get spring onion pancakes handed to us, and the grown-up would say, “eat some more spring onion, so you can be smart and clever”. Words of the same meaning would be repeated — emphasis over redundancy.

Spring onion oil noodles are a very simple dish to whip up for that quick bite to eat. If there was an equivalent in Italian cuisine, it would be close to pasta aglio e olio. It’s a toss-and-serve noodle dish. If you have prepared a batch of spring onion oil in advance, it’ll be even quicker to make for that midweek lunch or dinner at home.

This recipe is an authentic version from the Huai Yang region- South of Yangtze River, which channels through several regions of culinary traditions deemed characteristic of Chinese cuisine. Where there is water, there will be people growing different foods and preparing foods differently. This has been a key to understanding Chinese food culture, which is much more than sweet ’n sour chicken and vegetable spring rolls. This recipe takes you through the preparation process of spring onion oil, for you to keep in your pantry, as well as the noodle dish itself.

Crispy onion for garnish.
Crispy onion for garnish.
Image: Yang Zhao
Spring onion oil in the making.
Spring onion oil in the making.
Image: Yang Zhao

Ingredients: serves two.

  • 120g x egg noodles. I used the fine egg noodles from Woolwoorths for this one
  • 1 x bunch of spring onion, cut into 5cm long pieces
  • ¼ x medium sized onion, sliced
  • ½ x cup dried shrimp
  • 1 x cup peanut oil
  • 3 x TSP water
  • 3 x TSP Chinese cooking wine/Shao Xing Wine
  • 1 x TSP dark soy sauce
  • 2 x TSP light soy sauce
Fine egg noodles from woolies.
Fine egg noodles from woolies.
Image: Yang Zhao

Method:

  1. In a small saucepan, add spring onion and onion to oil. Fry for five minutes, or until the onion is golden brown. Remove crispy onion and set aside for garnishing later.
  2. Continue to fry spring onion for another 12 minutes, then separate the spring onion from the oil and set aside for later.
  3. In small bowl, place shrimp with 3 TSP of water and 3 TSP of Chinese cooking wine/Shao Xing wine, and small piece spring onion, place in steamer, let it steam for five minutes.
  4. After five minutes, remove the shrimp from steamer, finely chop, and set aside for later.
  5. In a small frying pan, add oil, and gently pan fry shrimp till crispy, and set aside.
  6. In a small saucepan, add shrimp water, dark soy and light soy, mix together on a gentle heat till you see bubbles. Then turn the heat off.
  7. Boil water in a pot, add noodles and a pinch of salt, and cook for 3-4 minutes or till al dente
  8. Place cooked noodles on the bottom of a plate/shallow bowl. Top the noodles with crispy onion and shrimp, and spoon the soy sauce mixture around the sides of the noodles, then 2 TSP of spring onion oil over the noodles. Sprinkle with some finely chopped spring onion and serve. Enjoy!
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