The secret ingredient is...nothing! Despite that revelation, this so-called secret-soup is one of the most hotly requested dishes in the Babish Culinary Universe. Can we develop deep flavors, hand-pull noodles, and serve up a dish that lives up to Mr. Ping's noodly legacy? Yes, no, and yes.
For the broth:
Pieces of short rib
1 pig’s tail
Aromatics of choice (licorice root, cassia bark/Chinese cinnamon/cinnamon, dried tangerine peel, dried longan fruit, dried star anise pods, whole onion (quartered), fresh ginger, 2 carrots)
4 dried Chinese scallops
1 Daikon radish
For the hand pulled noodles:
500g bread flour
4g store-bought potassium carbonate and sodium bicarbonate mix
For the homemade chili oil:
Star anise pods
Knob of peeled ginger
3 lightly crushed cloves of garlic
Canola oil (or any neutral flavored oil)
Put pork bone, short rib, and pig’s tail into a tall, narrow stock pot, then cover with cold water. Put pot on the stove and bring it to a simmer to pull impurities out of the meat. Skim the gray foamy layer of impurities off the top of the water, drain the water out, and scrub the bones and meat clean.
Place clean bones and meat into the empty clean stockpot, adding your choice of aromatics. I used a little handful of licorice root, a healthy-sized chunk of cassia bark (aka Chinese cinnamon or just cinnamon), a few pieces of dried tangerine peel, a handful of dried longan fruit, a handful of dried star anise pods, a whole onion quartered, a handful of fresh ginger freshly peeled, and two carrots. I also threw in 4 dried Chinese scallops, which are expensive but are a huge umami booster.
Cover with cold water and put it on the stove, bringing the pot to a bare simmer. At the beginning of the boil, skim off any scum.
Keep it on the stove slow and low for 4-12 hours, just barely bubbling so the broth stays clear. Once flavors and colors are nice and deep, strain cool in an ice bath and refrigerate overnight.
Hand Pulled Noodles
Combine the four elements of hand-pulled noodles: 500g of bread flour, 306g of water, 5g of salt, and 4g of a mix of potassium carbonate and sodium bicarbonate (Note: there are countless ratios that can vary based on a number of factors such as altitude. This is the one that worked best for the video). Mix ingredients until just combined in a stand mixer. Knead for 40 minutes, ideally until dough resembles chewed gum but no need to keep going past 40 minutes if it hasn’t quite reached that consistency. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 15-20 minutes.
Gently tug the dough until it’s elongated, fold it over on top of itself, and repeat. This process can take anywhere from 20 minutes to 2 hours until the dough resembles chewing gum texture. Pounding the dough against the table as you stretch also helps. Keep the dough hydrated by patting it down and brushing with water every 4-6 tugs. It should be between a very hydrated bread dough and pasta dough. Alternatively, laminate and flatten the dough until it becomes supple enough to pass through a pasta roller and spaghetti cutter.
Cut the dough in half to make it easier to work with, keeping the other half covered with plastic. Stretch and give the dough a few slaps on the tabletop to prevent tearing. Give it an even roll, then evenly dust with flour to prevent sticking. It should look like a rope. Fold, stretch, and repeat until noodles form. Alternatively, stretch out each noodle one at a time, resulting in flatter and less uniform noodles. I recommend just putting the dough through a pasta roller and spaghetti cutter if you are ever going to try to make these noodles at home.
Homemade Chili Oil
In a small saucepan, throw a handful of Szechuan peppercorns, star anise pods, cassia bark, a knob of peeled ginger, and 3 lightly crushed cloves of garlic.
Pour 2-3 cups of canola oil over the top and gently swirl over medium heat until the oil reaches about 325°F.
Strain and pour over about a cup of Sichuan chili flakes into a heat-proof bowl. Give a little mix and set aside for about 30 minutes to cool.
Noodle Soup Assembly
In a pot of water, cook noodles quickly and gently for no more than 90 seconds.
Add peeled and sliced Daikon radish to the broth as it is being heated up. Let simmer for about 20 minutes until soft. Check the broth for taste and add seasoning as necessary.
Scoop out the noodles with a sieve, dump into an empty bowl, and ladle broth over the top. Make sure there’s a radish slice and add a handful of Chinese chives or scallions with a dollop of chili oil on top. Enjoy!