Ong gave me the recipe for pork noodle soup, which he’d scribbled on scratch paper, a printout of a coupon from a sporting goods store (he and his wife have a couple of kids, both boys). Ong was born in Malaysia, though his dad has Fujianese roots, and this soup is the simplest and homiest of things: pork Ong minced with double cleavers as we talked, stir-fried with ginger and garlic, hot bean paste and fermented mustard greens, with stalks of yu choy, the slightly more delicate cousin of Chinese broccoli.
- 1 quart chicken stock
- 1 ounce fresh ginger, sliced
- 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
- Salt to taste
- 8 ounces fresh wheat noodles
- 1 ½ pounds pork butt, sliced ½-thick
- 1 teaspoon Taiwanese five-spice powder
- 2 tablespoons peanut oil
- ½ ounce fresh ginger, julienne
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 3 tablespoons minced scallions, white parts only
- 3 tablespoons chopped cha choy (also known as zha cai, Sichuan pickled mustard plant)
- 1 tablespoon hot bean paste (also known as spicy doubanjiang)
- 2 cups yu choy sum
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine
- Pinch of sugar
- Salt to taste
- For garnishing:
- Scallions, sliced
- Chinese chili oil
- ½ English cucumber, halved lengthwise, cut in 1/8-inch slices on the diagonal
- Add the chicken stock and ginger to a medium saucepan and bring to the boil over medium heat. Adjust the heat to achieve a gentle simmer and let the ginger infuse, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat, stir in the sesame oil and add salt to taste. Set aside.
- Boil the noodles in plenty of water until cooked but still firm, about 3 minutes. Drain, cool under running water, and set aside.
- Chop the pork using a pair of Chinese cleavers or chef’s knives of equal weight, one in each hand. Try to chop rhythmically, reducing the pork to a medium-fine mince (don’t worry if it looks a little irregular—this is part of its charm). Transfer the pork to a medium bowl, add the five-spice powder and stir with chopsticks to combine. Set aside.
- Set a wok over high heat. When it’s hot, add the oil and swirl. Add the ginger, garlic, and scallions and cook, stirring constantly, until they’re fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the minced pork and break it up, stir-frying until it turns pale and starts to brown, about 3 minutes. Add the cha choy and hot bean paste and stir-fry until combined with the pork, about 2 minutes. Add the yu choy sum and toss until it’s slightly wilted, about 2 minutes.
- Add the seasoned stock and bring to the boil. Let it simmer for 1 to 2 minutes, then season with the soy sauce, rice wine, and a pinch of sugar. Taste and add salt as necessary. Add the noodles, stir to combine, and cook to combine the flavors, about 2 minutes.
- Ladle into warmed serving bowls and garnish with the scallions, chili oil, and sliced cucumber. Serve immediately.
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 5 minutes
- Category: Soup
- Cuisine: Asian
- Serving Size: 4
Keywords: noodle soup
Read John Birdsall’s Crawling Back With Cleaver: Alex Ong’s pork noodle soup reminded me that cooking is a skill of diligence, of the unglamorous work of getting things ready, of honing. My soup was fine, not as good as Ong’s, not even close. My single, sort-of sharp cleaver made the mince tough and a little dry—I was battering the pork fibers, bruising as I chopped. My soup was a failure, not of cooking, but of patience.
Fujian Pork Noodle Soup, was published in the Spring 2015 issue of Edible San Francisco Magazine. © 2015 Edible San Francisco. Illustration © 2015 Dan Bransfield.