Carp Blanketed in Baked Noodles
A traditional Han ethnic dish particularly popular in Kaifeng, Henan Province combines two delicacies: sweet and sour fish, and dragon whisker noodles. This combo-cuisine is reputed to be “one of the ten famous Henan dishes,” and is also designated an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Henan Province.
In 1900, when the Eight-Power Allied Forces attacked and occupied China’s capital of Beijing, Emperor Guangxu and Empress Dowager Cixi of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) escaped westward to sojourn in Kaifeng City. A renowned local chef served up two dishes to the rulers. Delighted, Cixi said on a complete whim, “Let’s cover the carp asleep on the platter with a blanket.” She covered the carp with noodles, and thus the famous dish was born.
Yellow River Carp is the top choice for this dish. When the color of the sugary and vinegary fish turns to claret red, it tastes fresh and tender, while the hair-thin dragon whisker noodles are crispy and tasty. The annals record that, during the Ming (1368-1644) and the Qing (1644-1911) dynasties, the denizens of Kaifeng called the second day of the second lunar month “Dragon Raising its Head Day.” Locals ate dragon whisker noodles on that special day and served them to guests. They boiled the noodles first, but then gradually switched to an alternative cooking method of deep frying and then baking the noodles. This delicacy mixing fish and noodles – dubbed “eating dragon meat, and dragon whiskers” – has featured thereafter at local banquets.
1. Wash the fish and cut several incisions on the back.
2. Add 1,500 grams of peanut oil to a frying-pan on a high heat. Add the fish when the oil is half warmed, turn down the heat to let the fish marinate completely, and then turn it up again. Remove the fish. Pour the oil into a small bowl and set aside.
3. Wash the pan and turn the heat on again. Add broth and the fried fish, together with 5 grams each of sugar, vinegar, rice wine, and salt, and ginger slices and chopped green onion. Baste the fish in the hot broth so that both sides are marinated with its flavors. Add a mixture of conrstarch and water to thicken the sauce. Add the leftover hot oil. Remove the fish.
4. Knead 15 grams of fermented dough on the cutting board until it is soft and shiny.
5. Grasp the two ends of the dough and swing it in a vertical motion, applying an even force. Fold over, then fold again and straighten and smooth it. On the cutting board, press the dough with both hands, pushing the left hand inward and the right hand outward, then roll to soften it. Lift the two ends, swinging one, while stretching the other. Put it back on the cutting board and fold together the two ends. Sprinkle rice or wheat flour onto the board to prevent sticking. Repeat this procedure several times until the strips have stretched into hair-thin noodles.
6. Heat the pan and add 1,000 grams of peanut oil. Put the whisker noodles in carefully until the oil is half warmed, using chopsticks to gently deep fry them till they turn a golden color. Place the noodles on top of the sweet and sour fish.