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Black bean chilli relish peps up chicken noodles with soft-centred eggs recipe

This recipe looks daunting, but actually it is very easy: basically, it is shredded chicken (shop bought) with rice noodles, soft-centred eggs and a few other ingredients. Only the black bean chilli relish takes a little time and, once you have a batch of that, you will not need to make it again for a while because it is far more than you will need for this dish. If you are pressed for time, skip the step where the soft-centred eggs are marinated in the soy sauce mixture.

The black bean chilli relish keeps for a long time in the fridge and is good as a condiment with noodles and soup dumplings. It's strong, and a little goes a long way.

When you buy a cooked chicken from a siu mei shop, they always give you a container of spring onion and ginger sauce to eat with the bird. They never give you enough, though, so I also make my own and keep it in a jar in the fridge (it keeps for at least two weeks). I make it without the ginger, preferring the version my mother and grand­mother taught me, but, if you like, mix in some of the finely minced, peeled root.

You can add other vegetables to this noodle bowl, such as julienned carrot, bean sprouts (blanched for about 30 seconds) and shredded cabbage.

For the black bean chilli relish:
100 grams fermented black beans
6 dried Thai chillies
4-6 garlic cloves
2-3 red bird's-eye chillies
1 tsp Sichuan peppercorns
5ml soy sauce, or to taste
5 grams granulated sugar, or to taste
100ml cooking oil, or more if needed

For the eggs:
6 large eggs, chilled
60ml soy sauce
60ml sake
5 grams granulated sugar

For the spring onion sauce:
160 grams spring onions
5-10 grams fine sea salt
30ml cooking oil, or more if needed

To serve:
400 grams rice noodles, about 5mm thick
10ml sesame oil
1 whole (uncut) soy sauce chicken
1 Chinese or Japanese cucumber
Fresh coriander sprigs
Sesame seeds (optional)

Make the black bean chilli relish. Briefly rinse the black beans and dried chillies under running water, then drain them and put them in a bowl. Pour 50ml of boiling water over the black beans and chillies and leave to soften for at least 15 minutes.

Thinly slice the garlic cloves. Cut the fresh chillies into 3mm-thick rings, shaking out as many seeds as possible. Put the Sichuan peppercorns in an unoiled pan placed over a low flame. Shake the pan constantly to toast the Sichuan pepper­corns until fragrant, them remove from the heat.

Also see: satay soup with poached beef and udon recipe

Pour the oil into a wok and place over a medium-high flame. When you see the oil shimmering on the surface, add the garlic, bird's-eye chillies and Sichuan peppercorns, and stir constantly for 15 seconds. Add the black beans and dried chillies (and the soaking water) and stir constantly for about 30 seconds.

Stir in the soy sauce and sugar, then lower the flame. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently.

Use the back of the spatula or ladle to crush some of the black beans in the wok, but leave most of them whole. Taste the mixture (it's intense) and stir in more soy sauce and/or sugar, if needed. Ladle the mixture into a sterilised jar. The solids should be covered with oil; if needed, add more.

Put the eggs in a saucepan and add enough water to cover them by 1cm. Put the pan over a medium flame and bring to the boil, then cover the pan with the lid. Remove from the heat and leave the eggs to poach for five minutes. Remove the eggs from the pan and put them into a medium-sized bowl filled with iced water. Leave for five minutes, then tap the eggs on the kitchen counter to crack the shells all over. Put the eggs back in the iced water (add more ice cubes, if needed) and leave for about 15 minutes (they peel much easier when cold). Carefully remove the shells, dipping the eggs in the iced water if the shells stick.

Put the soy sauce, sake and sugar in a bowl and stir until the sugar dissolves. Stir in 120ml of water, then add the peeled eggs and leave for at least an hour. Occasionally turn the eggs over so they marinate and colour evenly.

Susan Jung's noodle recipes - almost as quick as instant ones

Make the spring onion sauce. Finely mince the spring onions, put them in a bowl and sprinkle with the salt. Stir well (the salt will wilt the vegetables), then mix in the oil.

Put the rice noodles in a large bowl and add boiling water to cover by about 3cm. Leave for about 30 minutes, then taste one of the noodles to see if it is tender. If it's not, drain the noodles, put them back in the bowl and cover with more boiling water. Check the texture after about 10 minutes; if they are not tender, leave them to soak, occasionally tasting them so they do not get too soft. When they are ready, drain them.

Shred the chicken, and slice the skin into thin strips. Finely julienne the cucumber.

Rinse the drained rice noodles under hot running water, then drain again. Mix the noodles with the sesame oil and divide between six bowls. Top with the shredded chicken and skin, a large dollop of spring onion sauce, a small scoop of black bean relish, some cucumber and coriander sprigs. Halve the eggs (the centres should be soft) and add them to the bowls, then sprinkle each portion with sesame seeds, if you like. Serve the extra spring onion sauce and black bean chilli relish on the side.

This article originally appeared on the South China Morning Post (SCMP).

Copyright (c) 2018. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

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