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Oodles of noodles: Meet the chef who'll gladly string along

By Li Yingxue | China Daily | Updated: 2018-08-31 09:21
Chef Wei Xiaobo has opened a restaurant cooking his signature hot and sour noodles in Beijing.[Photo by Li Yingxue/China Daily]

Chef Wei Xiaobo used to enjoy cooking at home for his friends and family, but after the birth of his son two years ago, he found that their visits grew more seldom.

Wei was encouraged to open a restaurant last year, so that all his friends could gather again to taste the fruits of his culinary skills. Closed due to licensing issues, the restaurant reopened this year in a new location in a hutong east of Beijing's Jingshan Park.

Wei named his restaurant Chef Wei's Noodle House after his signature hot and sour noodles, but he also serves barbecue and seafood.

Wei says his hot and sour noodles are just made the regular way with homemade chili oil, scallions, ginger, garlic, sugar, salt and soy sauce. The portions of each seasoning is what Wei is working to perfect.

Born in Sichuan province and having lived in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region for 20 years before moving to Beijing, Wei knows a thing or two about spices. He makes his own chili oil by hand using one kind of chili pepper from Sichuan and two other varieties from Xinjiang.

Wei also makes his own special soy sauce by boiling 17 condiments with regular soy sauce for four hours, following a recipe Wei discovered years ago. One kilogram of soy sauce makes just 400 grams of his new recipe, which includes one of his secret ingredients - brown sugar.

He also makes all the other sauces in his restaurant by himself. "I don't want my diners to eat dishes that have the same taste as other restaurants. For me, that's the meaning of opening up my own restaurant."

Besides his signature noodle dish, Wei also offers scallion oil noodles, chicken noodles, soup noodles, spicy noodles and chicken noodles with pickled pepper. Each bowl costs 18 yuan ($2.6).

Each month, more than 2,000 bowls of noodles are sold at the restaurant. All the noodles are made following Wei's own recipes using three different flours - strong flour, self-raising flour and a special flour from Xinjiang - with strict times for making the dough and allowing it to rest.

"I told my cooks that the noodles for the hot and sour dish need to be boiled for exactly four and a half minutes. Any longer or shorter will influence its flavor," says Wei. "As for the scallion oil noodles, they have to be cooked for precisely 40 seconds."

"I think cooking is something related to your mood, and what the people you are cooking for like," says Wei. "For example, when I make twice-cooked pork with chili seasoning, I'll add agaric and day lily because my wife likes them."

Wei is also strict about ingredients, which he carefully selects by hand. He has a rule that when his son comes to the restaurant, every ingredient has to be given his nod of approval.

He tried many kinds of shrimp for his grill, from live ones to frozen ones, until he discovered one variety that were frozen to minus 60 C as soon as they were pulled out of the sea. "Its meat was still juicy," says Wei.

All the fish Wei uses for his grilled dishes are sea-fish caught within 24 hours of serving. His roasted lamb leg takes 35 minutes to cook but still comes out wonderfully tender.

Wei also chooses sirloin steak from Australia, and grilled lobster and crab are on his menu. He enjoys cooking Chinese ingredients in Western way, and also making Western ingredients in a Chinese style.

Traditional vinaigrette for salads usually uses raw vinegar, which Wei thinks does not suit Chinese tastes or digest well, so he uses Chinese vinegar instead.

"I don't think my dishes are fusion food, as fusion dishes are what master chefs manage, which need to balance every element from the color and smell, to the taste and the skill," says Wei.

If you go

11:30 am-12:00 pm, 17 Shatanhoujie, Dongcheng district, Beijing. 138-1063-5004.

 

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