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Biang Biang Noodles with Numbing Oil and Tahini Soy Sauce

This is inspired by Xi’an Impression, a fantastic restaurant in north London that serves the food of Shan Xi Province in China.

During the first lockdown, my colleague Ixta Belfrage came up with this recipe in homage to her two favourite dishes there: biang biang noodles and cucumber salad with special sesame sauce.

It became a bit of a viral sensation, as people all over the world took to Instagram to pull and slap their own noodles.

It’s important to use a plain flour with 10-12% protein, any less than 10 %, and the dough will rip, rather than stretch (you can find the protein levels in the nutritional information on the side of the packet).

Don’t worry if the noodles rip at the ends they’ll still taste great with the sauces. The technique takes practice, and you’ll get better as you make them, I promise.

(You can find step-by-step video guides on Ixta’s Instagram story highlights.)

Chris: We just buy the flat, wide noodles from the Chinese grocery store.

Prep and rest 3 hr
Cook 1 hr+
Serves 2

For the noodles
300g plain flour (10-12% protein)
1/2 tsp salt
150g water (yes, I know that works out to 150ml, but for this I always weigh it out, to be super-precise)

For the numbing oil
150ml sunflower oil
1 banana shallot, peeled and finely chopped (60g)
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
10g fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
1/2 red chilli, finely chopped
1 whole star anise
1 tbsp red bell pepper flakes
1 tsp chilli flakes
1.5 tsp Szechuan peppercorns, roughly crushed
1.5 tsp tomato paste
1 tsp black sesame seeds
1 tsp sesame seeds

For the tahini and soy sauce 60g tahini (mixed very well, to combine the solids and fat)
2 tbsp soy sauce, plus extra to serve
1.5 tbsp maple syrup
1.5 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp water

To serve
2 spring onions, trimmed and julienned
1/2 large cucumber, halved lengthways, seeds scooped out and discarded, flesh cut into 1.5cm dice
1.5 tbsp sesame seeds, toasted

Start here if not making your own noodles Make the numbing oil. Heat two tablespoons of sunflower oil in a small saucepan on a medium-high heat, add the next eight ingredients and a quarter-teaspoon of salt.

Turn down the heat to medium and fry very gently for five minutes, stirring often, until the shallot is soft.

Add the tomato paste and all the sesame seeds, and cook for another two minutes.

Stir in the remaining 120ml oil, reduce the heat to low and simmer very gently for 20 minutes (if the oil starts to bubble at all, take it off the heat for a minute, to cool down).

Turn off the heat and leave to cool and infuse for at least an hour.

For the tahini soy sauce, whisk all the ingredients in a bowl until very smooth.

Put a large spoonful each of the numbing oil and tahini soy sauce into two serving bowls and put to one side.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

Use chopsticks to mix the noodles with the oil and sauces, adding more of each to taste.

Top with the spring onion, cucumber and sesame seeds, and serve with more soy sauce drizzled on top.

If you're making your own noodles

For the noodles, mix the flour and salt in a bowl, then very slowly pour in the water, stirring with a chopstick the whole time, until the mix comes together into a dough.

it will look on the dry side once all the water has been added, but don’t be tempted to add any more.

Transfer to a work surface and knead for about five minutes, until the dough comes together into a shaggy ball.

You’ll need to use some muscle here, because it will be quite tough. Cover with a tea towel and leave to rest for 10 minutes.

After the dough has rested, knead again vigorously for 10 minutes, until it’s very smooth: it should by now have the texture of Play-Doh and, if you poke it, the indentation should remain, rather than spring back.

Cover again with a tea towel and rest for another 10 minutes.

Grease a tray with vegetable oil. Cut the dough into eight equal pieces of about 55g each, then roll each piece into a sausage and place on the greased tray.

Cover with cling-film and leave to rest at room temperature for two to three hours.

Once the dough has rested, flatten each sausage into a rectangle: grease a work surface, then, working with one piece at a time, use a rolling pin to roll the dough sausage into a 16cm x 8cm rectangle.

Use a chopstick to make an indent across the middle of the rectangle - this will be your “ripping line” later.

Repeat with the other seven dough sausages, then leave to rest for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, and again working with one piece of dough at a time, take both ends of the dough rectangle between your thumb and fingers of each hand, and start to pull slowly and gently, until you feel there is no more tension left.

Still holding both ends, slap the noodle down on the work surface about five times, gently stretching it out more as you go.

Lower the now stretched noodle on to the work surface, then, using the indent you made earlier, tear it in half lengthways to form a large, closed loop.

Drop the noodle straight into the pan of boiling water, and cook for about a minute, or until it floats to the top Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough, adding them to the water as they’re stretched and ripped. Drain the cooked noodles well, then transfer them to the serving bowls.