Guilin rice noodles, or guilin mifen 桂林米粉, is a delicious lunch or anytime snack that is popular not only in Guilin, but in large cities all around China. There used to be a place right near my old school in Guangzhou that I went to often. I’ve never actually been to Guilin, so I have no idea how the noodles in my memory from Guangzhou and Beijing stack up to Guilin. The noodles I know are delicious though, and that is enough for me to want to make them at home. Unfortunately, I know of no such noodle shops in the Philadelphia region.
The basic layout of the noodles is very simple: a master meat stock base (lushui 卤水), rice sticks about thickness of spaghetti, pickled vegetables, crunchy nuts, green onions and cilantro, topped-off with a sliced roasted or braised meat. The next post will provide a lot more detail for the staging of the noodles. Today I’ll focus on the master stock.
There are several recipes online (in Chinese) for making Guilin-style master stock. I based my most recent effort on a good recipe on a Chinese blog xiachufang. I took an afternoon and rounded up as many Chinese dried spices and herbal ingredients as I could find. I didn’t find everything, but I got most of it. By the way, if you are not ready to commit to buying all of these items individually, Asian markets tend to have mixed bags of spices, ready to go.
It should be noted that this stock has counterparts in lands across Southeast Asia. The beloved Thai dish kai palo ไข่พะโล้ is basically this same master stock, cooked with pork belly and shelled hard boiled eggs. Here is a picture of the dry spices I included in my seasoning:
In addition to these dried spices, I also included chunks of ginger, green onions, bashed-up lemon grass. The process of making the stock is incredibly simple. It just takes time to simmer (4 hours). The result was marvelous.
Ingredients, dry spices for step 2 below: about 5 grams each of the following: cassia bark, liquorice root, caoguo pods, white cardamom pods, star anise, galangal root, nutmeg, bay leaves, and Sichuan pepper (huajiao). About 8-10 cloves, a couple dried tangerine peels, 4-5 thick slices of ginger, 2-3 green onions.
More ingredients for step 3 below: About a tablespoon of fermented black beans, 4 cubes of fermented tofu (豆腐乳, 南乳), 3-4 dried chiles, about 1 tsp-1 Tbsp salt, 1 cup of dark soy sauce.
1. Select about 1 lb of bony meat to use. I used pork hocks, with fat, skin, and bone. Parboil meat for 5 minutes in a different pot if you are using pork or beef bones. This will help keep the master stock clear.
2. Boil 4 or 5 liters of water. Put in the meats of choice, along with all of the spices.
3. After 2 hours, toss in the salt, dark soy sauce, fermented tofu, chile peppers, fermented black beans, rock sugar, and simmer for an additional 2 hours.
4. Strain the stock and it is ready to use. Use the 1st meat for other dishes, or for your noodles. This stock is meant for boiling meats in the future. It will produce amazing results if you maintain it. It can be repeatedly frozen and thawed between uses. Taste the stock in later renditions. If it needs additional sauces or spices, add more.
Next post: assembling the noodles.
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I was in Guilin last year and was SOO disappointed for not having had these as I only stayed there for 1 night and am therefore really grateful that you posted this, as you can imagine! I was just wondering if you knew how to make a vegan version of the recipe. Could you use some vegetables, fruits and/or mushrooms as a substitute for meat in the lushui and maybe grill/fry some tofu or seitan slices in place of meat? Any suggestions would be great! ☺
Thanks for your comment! I am embarrassed to say that I have not been to Guilin to try this there… that said, these restaurants are in most big cities in China (like Guangzhou, where I had this at least once a week). As for your vegan question, tofu (I would suggest the deep fried kind) or seitan would be great. There are several recipes out there for vegan lushui in Chinese (素卤水). You might search around with those terms to get a general idea, but most Chinese cooks would be using mock meat to make those. Keep in mind that a long simmer would not be necessary, but rather you would be more interested in a reduction. Lee Kum Kee makes a vegetarian “Chinese marinade” (lushui) that might also interest you. Basically you are going for a dark and deep, salty, savory, sauce to mix with the noodle water to produce a balanced soup. Mushrooms should also be a great addition!
One more thing, was it 5 grams of fennel seeds and 5 grams of goji berries that went into the spice mix for the lushui? I see them in the picture of the spices, but there is no mention of how much of each go in with the other things in the recipe like 5 grams of cassia, 5 grams of liquorice, etc. Best regards! ☺
Yes, 5 grams each for all. Looks like I missed a few items in that ingredients list. Thanks for catching that! Those amounts fluctuate widely in recipes, but the basic 5 are fennel, huajiao, cassia bark, and small quantities of clove (i.e. less of this in comparison to other amounts) and star anise. The more other stuff bring on more herbal notes (which I enjoy).
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