Project Food Blog Round 7: Hand Pulled Noodles

There is something elusive and almost magical about hand-pulled noodles.

First off, the texture is out-of-this-world. It’s fresh and chewy with a natural resistance that just springs back. In Taiwanese, we call it “Q,” similar to al dente in Italian, but with just a tad more “bounce.”

The art of hand-pulled noodles is even more elusive. It takes a trained artisan to understand how to work the dough to the right consistency so that it can be successfully stretched, twirled, and pulled. Furthermore, the golden window of opportunity in which the dough can be pulled into noodles is short – act quickly or else start over!

Noodle pullers typically train for at least a year with a Noodle Master before they are even allowed to make noodles for customers. It’s tricky to pull out perfectly smooth, even, and chewy noodles without breaking the strands!
It’s almost hypnotic to watch a master swinging that rope of dough in front of you – pull, twirl, pull, twirl.

And it’s not just for show. In fact, all that pulling and twisting helps align the dough proteins, making it possible to stretch that dough out into such thin strands.
The technique associated with making hand-pulled noodles is virtually impossible to describe or explain without visuals, which is why a video is the perfect tool for introducing you to this art.

For Round 7 of Project Food Blog, we were asked to create a video putting “one of our favorite recipes on film.” As you know, Bryan absolutely loves fresh hand-pulled noodles and Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup is the ultimate comfort food that reminds me of home.

I could think of no better dish to share with you all than this classic Taiwanese street dish.

Hand Pulled Noodle Dough
adapted from Luke Rymarz’s Recipe

156g cake flour
25g all-purpose flour
110 mL warm water
2g salt (1/3 tsp)
1 g baking soda (a little less than 1/4 tsp)
~ 6 g vegetable oil (optional)

Combine all ingredients in a bread machine and knead on the dough cycle for about 15 minutes. Remove the dough from the machine, wrap in plastic wrap, and let rest for 1 hour. Put dough back in the bread machine and knead again (dough cycle) for about 15 minutes. If no machine is available, hand knead for about 45 minutes.

Note: You can also use a stand mixer. I have not tried this and thus cannot give detailed instructions, but I have read instructions that say to mix on speed 4 for 15 minutes.

Roll and twist for about 10-15 minutes (see video for details), or until the dough feels soft and pliable like clay. The time can vary a lot depending on the climate, humidity, and elevation! The dough should not spring back if you push it in. It really feels a bit like clay.

Once the dough is ready, pull noodles (see video for details) and cook in boiling water for about 1-2 minutes. Eat with your favorite soup (see beef noodle soup recipe below) or stir fry with your favorite ingredients.

Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup
Serves 4
Adapted from Not Much to See Here

2 lbs Beef Shank (optionally cut up into chunks)
1 T vegetable oil
5 cloves of garlic, minced
1 inch chunk of ginger, chopped
2 star anise
2 scallion stalks, chopped
2 T Chili bean sauce
1/2 cup soy sauce
2 carrots, sliced
1 tomato, sliced
1/4 cup rice wine
1/4 cup rock sugar
fresh hand-pulled noodles (see above)
hot sauce

Soak beef shank pieces in hot water for about 5 minutes. Drain dirty water, rinse beef shanks, and set aside. Over medium high heat saute garlic, ginger, scallions, and star anise in vegetable oil until fragrant. Add beef shank and chili bean sauce and saute for a few minutes, until the beef is slightly browned. Add soy sauce and cook for 2 minutes. Add carrots, tomatoes, rice wine, and rock sugar. Add water until everything is just covered. Bring to medium high heat and then reduce to a simmer for 2-4 hours, or until the beef is fall-apart tender. Add hot sauce to taste.

Serve with blanched bok choy and fresh hand pulled noodles.

All music in this video is royalty-free and composed by Kevin MacLeod, licensed under Creative Commons “Attribution 3.0” except for the Flight of the Bumblebee, which was performed by the US Army Band (public domain).

©2009-2014 Tiny Urban Kitchen
All Rights Reserved

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  1. TheTruWu says

    This just made my day. My uncle used to own a beef noodle soup joint in Tai-chung, and I’ve been craving it since.

  2. Kirbie says

    What a great video! Love hand pulled noodles but I’ve always been afraid to attempt my own especially since it takes so much skill. You did a great job and a great video.

  3. Caitlin says

    Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh oh god. I can nearly taste them. One day when I have hours to mess with noodles I will do this.

  4. says

    I always wanted to learn how to make hand-pulled noodles so thank you for showing me. You have amazing techniques and you definitely make it look easy. I also think you are a natural in front of the camera. So impressed with you and I can’t wait to try it myself.

  5. says

    That was so cool. Now I really want to make your soup. How long did it take from the time the dough came out of the bread maker until you had the right sized noodles?

  6. SB says

    Hi, great instructional video! Could you knead the dough by hand if you don’t have a bread machine or a mixer? If so, how long would that take?

  7. says

    Hi Jen!
    I’m new to your blog, just found it through looking at all the foodbuzz project food blog videos. This is awesome. I have been missing hand pulled noodles, ever since I had them in HK. Now I can make my own! Thank you and good luck – I voted for you clearly :). I’m v glad I found your blog.
    Heidi xo

  8. Daydreamerdesserts says

    I just wanted to steel that bowl of beef noodle soup from you, I’m sure it can’t get any better when it’s made with home hand pulled noodles. I was in awe watching you do all the pulling, fantastic!

  9. meaghan (the decorated cookie) says

    Fantastic! I love the beginning when you’re searching. Super clever. And what a stunning choice. Got my vote for sure!

  10. Jackie says

    Great video! Really enjoyed it. It’s hard to pull your own noodles! I was seriously impressed.

    Good luck, though I have no doubt you’ll be showing up in the next round! 😉

    Jax x

  11. Christineinnewyork says

    This is an impressive impressive “how-to” video! I agree with The Cilantropist, this is my favorite video of this challenge.

  12. Nancy says

    Hi Jen,
    Congrats and great job on the video! No time to make the noodles but I will try the beef noodle soup. Now is it chili black bean sauce or just black bean sauce? On the video it said black bean and the recipe says chili bean sauce.

  13. says

    I’ve been working on hand pulled noodles for about a year now, and until now all my information has been in the form of blog posts. I thought it was about time to put together a webpage so everything was in one place.

  14. says

    I’ve been working on hand pulled noodles for about a year now, and until now all my information has been in the form of blog posts. I thought it was about time to put together a webpage so everything was in one place.

  15. jentinyurbankitchen says

    Thanks! Best of luck with the noodles. It took me weeks to perfect, so please don’t be discouraged if you don’t get it on the first try!

  16. Erin says

    wow! i have always wanted to know how they did the hand pulled noodles i saw them making in china and taiwan. and, i will definitely be trying the recipe for ‘niu rou mian.’ my favorite taiwanese dish. i have made it before, but, was not 100% satisfied with the result. i also like to add daikon in mine.
    we are an american family that lived many years in taiwan and china, and i am looking forward to searching your blog for other taiwanese dishes. we miss many things about taiwan, but, one truly never gets over the food you eat there–it is hands down, the best! :) off to explore….

  17. hareydouglas says

    Wow I have been addicted to the noodles most and like it. I think that is really nice art to make it the way you are doing that. I am impressed and want it now.

  18. jentinyurbankitchen says

    Hi Winkyfield,
    Sorry, I’ve never actually tried measuring in cups because I have a scale. 

  19. David says

    Jen-san Konbanwa!

    Thank you for the great video guide and detailed info. 
    I have made my fourth batch of dough today. This far I’ve managed to cover my kitchen with flour, drop a huge chunk of dough on the floor and found myself stepping on it, oh yea, and managed to sling a big fat noodle up onto my ceiling lamp.

    I have had problems with the texture of the dough. Here in Denmark there is no such thing as “cake flour” readily available in stores. That has lead me to try to make the dough using regular flour with a relatively high gluten content, and just beat the better out of it to break down enough gluten in order to reach the right texture. (I’ve mixed it in a mixer for ages)

    This way I have managed to reach a consistency where I can pull the dough to thin noodles if I just pull in small steps and let the dough rest. Trying to make long pulls, (more than say 5 inches in length) result in the dough ripping. The dough also feels very elastic so it’s a pain to work with. The only noodles I’ve stuffed myself with are the ones I’ve made after giving up. Then I’ve been rolling the dough to a sheet and cut it in slices. The taste and chewy texture of these noodles are fine, but they lack the finesse compared to the hand pulled ones.

    I’ve been considering some things to try out in the future. One is to obtain some Chinese or Japanese flour from a speciality store. Another is to try to add come corn flour to the dough. I don’t know if it will ruin the elasticity but it will indeed lower the gluten percentage.

    Do you have any tips that might help me?

    Thank you! ^.^

  20. says

    Hi David,
    Thanks for your comments! I’ve read that you can try using a stronger base if you have higher gluten flour. In Chinese markets here you can find a liquid called “kansui” which is essential a mixture of potassium carbonate and sodium carbonate in water. I haven’t really tried this myself, so I know others who have. If I get around to trying it, I’ll try to post on it! In any event, I’ve also found that resting the dough helps, as well as working in warm, humid conditions.
    Best of luck!

  21. samaste says

    I know about this noodles made on hand.   Great post and written nice article on this noodle. This noodles are also eat by mix the hot milks and sugar in it.

  22. japan_style says

    All of your videos and pictures are so clean looking and they are all very sharp. You have both art and food skills. As they say food is art, and you are very talented. Thanks for the recipe and keep them coming!

  23. Lamianworld says

    Hi Jen,
    I love your posts about la mian pulling. I share your passion for the hand pulled noodles but are lucky enough to keep finding some chefs not so far away to prepare them for me.

  24. Bi says

    Hey Jen, greetings from Argentina, and congrats on your pulling! Look, I have a question here, when you post it’s “adapted” from Luke Rymarz’s recipe… does it mean the actual recipe you followed is any different than his? In that case, can you post it here? Thanks a lot!

  25. jentinyurbankitchen says

    Thanks! The actual recipe is pretty much the same (and written out in this post). I adapted the recipe because I added my own little notes in the text, plus I wrote the text part of the recipe out myself.

  26. Bi says

    Thanks a lot, now I’m trying other recipe… the seventh batch already… all of them too springy, the first pull is fine, then it hardens and breaks. *sighs* Next batch is with your recipe, I hope it works… but then the problem is here we don’t have cake flour, I’m gonna have to follow another recipe (yet another one, but this one to replace the cake flour!) that asks for 1 part corn starch and 7 parts all-purpose flour. I’ll let you know if it works. No choice, no decent chinese restaurants where I live, and certainly no hand pulled noodles to eat. :( 

  27. judy says

    Hey Jen,

    I just watched your video on hand pulled noodles; it was brilliant!  I loved the music, the video and the recipe.  Great going, I can’t wait to make them!

  28. says

    Hi Jen, just wanted to say that you’re simply amazing and super talented! Didn’t know it was possible to make your own hand-pulled noodles at home, but you look like such a pro at it! Beautiful and love the cute video and music and everything else too! You should have a your own cooking show!

  29. Jason says

    You’re video is the best one out there. I have a couple questions though. The notes say to put it back in the bread machine after it sits for an hour but the video doesn’t show that, which is right? Do you use oil? I can get mine like soft chewing gum but can’t figure out why it won’t become strong enough to pull, then after awhile it just tears, any suggestions?

  30. jentinyurbankitchen says

    Hi Jason,
    Thanks for the kind comment! Yes, I do put the dough back in the bread machine after resting for one hour. I also use a little bit of sesame oil.If it’s tearing, try the twirl-stretch motion for a bit and see if it helps. There are sooooo many different factors that can affect whether the dough works (it’s quite high maintenance!). Humidity helps, warm temperatures help too.Good luck!

  31. LittleBuster says

    wow, you’re other video from Beijing sure fooled me. I want to help keep the art of noodle making alive too!

  32. Rncain says

    Hi Jen, if you’re kneading by hand, do you let the dough rest at all? Or just knead it for 45 mins and start twirling?

    Thanks for the how-to!

  33. MTD says

    My family and I family visited China in 2010 and tasted some really fantastic noodles at an noodle restaurant in Beijing. They were thick and chewy, just like those in your video. At the restaurant (our guide said that is was a place where chinese people used to go…) we recieved a brown sauce together with the noodles, and we could use as much as we wanted. Do you have any Idea what this sauce may be? It was not very “liquid”…almost like a thin puree. We are vegetarians, if it helps…
    Markus, 16, Norway

  34. Awi ali says

    I just watched the video..I like pulled noddles soup,it is easily to find it here in my country. After watched the video,I think I will try to make it myself,Thank you very much for posting the video

  35. ennyl265 says

    can the noodles be made ahead of time? So say make noodles in the afternoon and then boil when the stir fry is ready?

  36. Fanny says

    I have a question! Which brand of cake flour are you using? because I tried the recipe and it did not work out :( I live in canada so I thought that maybe the cake flour is different???
    Thank you for your anwer!

  37. Anna Afendikova says

    Hi! Thank you very much for this recipe and video. We don’t have cake flour here in Russia, so I used all-purpose flour and a bit more baking soda (full 1/4 tsp) and 6 g of sunflower seed oil. The dough turned out amazing!

    I made two critical mistakes while pulling the noodles, though. By then I was so used to the whole pulling-twisting sequence that I twisted the dough after covering it in flour – so some parts of it stuck together and some remained apart – ugh, that was a mess. And then, after I managed to salvage some of the noodles, I hung them up on the back of a chair – but they stretched under their own weight! In the end I served them with lagman and they tasted nice but weren’t aesthetically pleasing.

    I’m looking forward to trying again! :)

  38. says

    Hi Fanny,

    I think I have used numerous ones, both the Pillsury SoftaSilk as well as the King Arthur’s unbleached cake flour. It’s tricky to get the dough right and it took me TONS of practice to be able to get it right. Things like humidity and make a huge difference. Cold and dry weather makes it harder in general, and maybe Canada is generally colder?

    Best of luck!


  39. San Bon says

    I made this dish three times now , me and my family loved it ,thank you very much for your contribution . Now , this recipe is wonderful addition to our culinary baggage.Two thumbs up!!!

  40. Гиорги Борисович says

    Уважаемая Анна вас приветствуем из Киева, просим вас рекомендации по рецепту и техники замеса китайской лапши, спасибо….Гиорги

  41. Lin Kong says

    Jen this is awesome!! I tried hand making noodles last Dec and it was an epic fail lol!! Will try again following your steps =)

  42. BZ in BA says

    I enjoyed your video, and I hope to give this a try soon. Thank you so much for taking the time to share this. I have been to the first restaurant you visited in your “search” for noodles (Pearl House), and they have a nice dim sum offering – it may only be on the weekends, but I always enjoy it when I am in the area.

  43. BZ in BA says

    You can get low-gluten flour (which is what cake flour is) at the “dieteticas” in Buenos Aires. They may have it in el barrio chino as well.

  44. Doug Renze says

    Just found this today – is awesome. I’ve been wanting to learn how to make hand-pulled noodles, and your blog post is about the best I’ve found! Got to try!

  45. Robert Ricard says

    Exellent receipe. For sure, I’m trying it, first thing tomorow morning. Thank you, very informative, and I bet delicious.

  46. Spacial Disorientation says

    the interesting thing about your version of the hand pulled noodles vs other hand pulled noodles is that other versions call for extra glutinous flour

  47. Amanda says

    I just returned from the Gansu province in China. I had these every morning for breakfast and would have enjoyed them EVERY meal! So excited to try this!

  48. Don says

    On my last trip to Taiwan, I had my cousin take me to the best beef noodle shop he knows. He brought us to this tiny shop and I was blown away by the beef noodle soup. A+. Since then I’ve been on a quest to find a recipe for it. Thanks to you my quest may be over. Now I just need to pick up ingredients.

  49. Melody says

    So does anyone have any advise on storing these noodles to cook hours/a day or two later? Or would that be barbarically western?

  50. Benjamin K says

    Has anyone tried to knead this without the bread maker? I know the recipe says to knead it 45 mins by hand if you don’t have one. Is this a guess or based on experience? I have been attempting find a recipe that works for a couple of months. I will probably make them every other day if not everyday if it does. NOODLES!!

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