We're pretty sure that noodles are comfort food just about wherever you go in the world, and China is no exception. This northern Chinese dish is properly called tian tian chao mian, and its combination of stir-fried vegetables, savory ground pork, and chewy flat noodles is as satisfying as it comes - not to mention quick and easy!
The recipe comes from an excellent feature on Chinese stir-fry from a recent issue of Saveur Magazine. Like most stir-fries, this one starts out by quickly cooking the vegetables, then removing them from the wok before cooking the ground pork. Wheat noodles and a savory broth of soy sauce, rice wine, and sugar brings everything together. The whole dish, from prep to plate, comes together in about 15 minutes.
When we tried our hand at making it, the only downside was that the final dish was bland. The vegetables were nicely crunchy, the pork added a chewy texture, the noodles were slippery and delicious, but the flavor seemed to be lacking. The elements of a fragrant and well-seasoned dish were there, too: ginger, garlic, soy sauce, rice wine, and sesame oil were all present. We wanted each of them to be jacked up several notches!
As unexciting as this was to us, we do wonder if this was maybe how the dish was supposed to taste. We're not experts on Chinese cuisine by any means, and we know better than to expect every Chinese dish to have the spiciness of Szechuan cooking or the deep soy flavors of eastern cooking. Does anyone know more than us about how this northern Chinese dish should be flavored?
Other than the seasonings, this was a great dish to make on a weeknight. It came together quickly and easily, and it would adapt well to whatever leftover meats or vegetables we have in the fridge. We used a cast-iron skillet instead of a wok. If we continue doing stir-fries, we'll eventually invest in a wok, but for now a cast-iron skillet works fine!
Authentic or not, we will definitely double all the seasonings next time. We also advocate a drizzle of Sriracha hot sauce on top or a few red chili pepper flakes in the stir-fry.
Any other recommendations for making this recipe or another version of it?
Get the Recipe: Everyday Fried Noodles (Tian Tian Chao Mian) from Saveur Magazine
(Image: Emma Christensen)