Yibin "Kindling" Noodles

June  5, 2013
3 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Serves 2, amply; 3, more modestly
Author Notes

From Fuchsia Dunlop's wonderful Land of Plenty, although lightly adapted and modified, mostly for practicality: the sauce and the spinach are now combined in a single serving bowl, rather than arranged in each individual bowl. Also, for timid palates, the chili oil is now added at the table, rather than mixed in the general sauce. A few other notes: 1) There's no reason why you couldn't use frozen spinach here. 2) Lately I've been adding, wholly inauthentically, other vegetables to the serving bowl along with the spinach: some stir-fried thin-sliced red pepper, say, or stir-fried mushrooms. 3) The Tianjin preserved vegetables are optional but delicious and keep forever: they're sold in small crocks in any Chinese grocery store. —Nicholas Day

What You'll Need
  • 8 ounces spinach
  • 10 ounces dried Chinese noodles
  • 3 tablespoons walnuts
  • 3 tablespoons peanuts, unsalted
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
  • 4 tablespoons Tianjin preserved vegetable (optional)
  • 3 scallions
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 4 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 4 teaspoons dark soy sauce (if you don't have dark soy sauce, add two more teaspoons of the "regular" soy sauce above)
  • Tablespoon peanut oil
  • chili oil
  1. Toast the walnuts and peanuts, either in the oven (20 minutes at 250 degrees, on a baking sheet) or in a wok or saucepan (medium heat, 5 minutes or so, stirring frequently). Chop into small pieces. Then toast the sesame seeds: in a wok or sauce pan, cook the seeds over low heat for three or four minutes, stirring frequently. Put the seeds and the nuts in separate small bowls.
  2. If you are using the preserved vegetable: heat a tablespoon of peanut oil in your wok or saucepan, then add the vegetable and stir-fry for a half-minute or so. Put the vegetable in a small bowl too.
  3. Put a pot of water on to boil. Finely slice the scallions, using the green parts only, and place in another small bowl. Combine the sesame oil, the soy sauces and a couple tablespoons of peanut oil in a large serving bowl.
  4. When your water is boiling, blanch the spinach, removing with a wire sieve (so the boiling water stays behind), and then cool under cold water. (You can also simply stir-fry the spinach until it wilts.) Drain well and chop very roughly. Then add to the serving bowl.
  5. Cook the noodles according to directions. Drain and then add to the serving bowl. Toss well and serve. At the table, allow each person to top their bowl according to whim: there should be bowls of nuts, seeds, scallions, and preserved vegetable, plus a container of chili oil.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • I_Fortuna
  • AntoniaJames
  • Suzanne Brandt Walcher
    Suzanne Brandt Walcher
  • Hippo Flambe
    Hippo Flambe
  • Michelle Cheung
    Michelle Cheung
I'm the author of a book on the science and history of infancy, Baby Meets World. My website is; I tweet over at @nicksday. And if you need any good playdoh recipes, just ask.

25 Reviews

I_Fortuna June 29, 2013
To make Tianjin veggies it is helpful to have a Japanese pickle press, available online and very inexpensive. This rids the need for a crock and a weight to press your veggies or a homemade device.
Also, lacto-fermented veggies can be made with whey only or salt and whey or salt only. Adding salt makes the veggies more crisp so if you want them more crisp simply add more salt. You can obtain whey from several sources but the easiest is to pour the liquid on top of your live culture yogurt and refrigerate it or use the whey from cheese making. Perhaps you can use the whey that fresh mozzarella comes in. It only takes a small amount to start the process of fermentation. Or, there are sites to buy fermentation culture from, just google "fermentation cultures" and instructions usually come with these cultures.
If using the Japanese press, which is clear, you can observe what is happening with your veggies. Depending on the temperature of where you store these veggies before refrigerating will determine how quickly they will ferment. It is a good idea to visit one of the fermentation sites online to get a more detailed account of what to expect and how to prepare the veggies.
Fermentsation is a healthy art if done correctly and it is very easy and addictive. I have several fermentations going at present. The good bacteria make it the kind of environment that discourages unwanted bacteria or molds.
Personally, I do not add vinegar until I am ready to store my veggies. A small amount as suggested during processing is fine. Good bacteria like a more acidic environment. Lemon, of course and also be used. I use Sea Salt from the market that has no iodine in it. Some salts may actually inhibit fermentation, I believe but that is something you might want to check on. I am certain that it matters when adding a pinch of salt to water kefir. Hope this helps : )
AntoniaJames June 18, 2013
Made this over the weekend, using gai choy instead of spinach and homemade preserved vegetable (made from the stems of gai choy used week before last). Topped with very lightly stir-fried carrot matchsticks and a big handful of snow peas. Just love the combination of nuts and seeds. I'd never stir fried preserved vegetable before; will be using it this way again. Served with Sadassa Ulna's Flying Tofu Wedges (plus some tempeh baked in the same marinade). A terrific dinner! And so easy, too. ;o)
Sandy R. June 9, 2013
The picture has some bright red (?red peppers) never noted in the ingredients list. Don't do that.
Nicholas D. June 9, 2013
They're mentioned in the author note above.
Suzanne B. June 9, 2013
Where would one find Tianjin preserved
vegetables? Is there a substitute for those
of us who don't have access to an Asian
grocery store?
Nicholas D. June 9, 2013
Alas, pretty much just at an Asian grocery. But see Antonia's tip below about making them at home.
theresa94010 June 9, 2013
I would think if you use baby spinach, no boiling or stir frying is necessary. They will automatically wilt when combined with hot noodles. Process much simplified.
Nicholas D. June 9, 2013
I typically use bigger, grown-up leaves, but I might just try baby leaves after reading this.
Hippo F. June 9, 2013
Can you please post a photo of the Tianjin preserved vegetables in their packaging? I found searching for the ingredients in Fushia Dunlop's wonderful cookbook, wildly frustrating. I think part of yhe problem is she had described the ingredients as you would find them in the UK.
Nicholas D. June 9, 2013
Try this: Or simply search on Google images; the packaging is seemingly always the same.
Hippo F. June 10, 2013
Thank you! That is perfect, one more ingredient I can stock for her recipes.
Michelle C. June 8, 2013
I don't agree with adding the same amount of regular soy sauce (what is "more") as a substitute for dark soy sauce since dark soy sauce isn't as salty and is meant to only impart color to the dish.
theresa94010 June 9, 2013
I agree with Michelle, the "regular" soy sauce is much saltier than dark soy sauce. Use with caution because it looks light, you tend to want to use more. Also, I personally would prefer using pasta type of noodles such as linguini over Chinese dry noodles. They are mostly made in China, not the cleanest.
Nicholas D. June 9, 2013
Thanks for the note, Michelle. You're obviously right that the light ("regular") soy sauce is more salty.
HalfPint June 6, 2013
Is there a specific "Chinese Noodle" that we can use? There's so many types...
Nicholas D. June 6, 2013
I just use nothing-special wheat noodles.
Angela June 6, 2013
I've made a very similar dish with just regular linguini, too. Looks great!
Desert D. June 6, 2013
How many tablespoons of peanut oil will U beed/.
Nicholas D. June 6, 2013
The recipe specifies in each section, but you might want a little less or a little more -- very roughly, around four tablespoons or so total.
AntoniaJames June 5, 2013
I learned a wonderfully helpful hint about Chinese preserved vegetables from BeijingRose, a FOOD52 member. You can make them easily at home. They typically are lacto-fermented odds and ends from cabbages including gai choy, bok choy, choy sum etc. stems packed with some scallion tops, a smashed glove of garlic, etc. Pack in salt, press down, cover with a bit of water and a couple tablespoons of rice vinegar. Cover and wait a few days. These keep in the fridge for weeks, if for some reason you don't eat them all up right away, which you will want to do. The mustardy Chinese greens you get in the springtime make an outrageous spicy condiment. So good. And they cost virtually nothing. ;o)
Nicholas D. June 6, 2013
This is great, Antonia. Thank you!
Lemongrass&Lime June 7, 2013
Great tip Antonia. Thanks!
emcsull June 9, 2013
hats off to you again, Antonio, thanks so much. Coarse sea salt, or what ?
AntoniaJames June 10, 2013
Thanks, Nicholas, Lemongrass&Lime and emscsull. I use coarse sea salt from Korea, which has a particularly nice taste. It tends to have a more concentrated flavor than other salts I've used, so I use just a heaping teaspoon of salt for each pint of gai choy stems (measured before they've shrunk and I've pressed them down, which I do about an hour or two after putting them in the jar. Then I top it off with a scant tablespoon of rice vinegar or Korean plum vinegar. BeijingRose also recommends using shredded daikon radish, which she believes is used in the preserved vegetable commonly served in Beijing. ;o)
emcsull July 8, 2014
whooops ! Just saw I wrote "Antonio", that's my son's name ! ;)