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.
Prep Time:15 minutes
Cook Time:5 minutes
Total Time:20 minutes
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
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.