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Recipes of China: Yunnan Over-the-Bridge Noodles

By Clarissa Wei

Dec. 25, 2017
A bowl with Yunnan Over-the-Bridge noodles on the table
Yunnan Over-the-Bridge noodles from Noodles Fresh

Foodie Clarissa Wei shares an elegant chicken noodle soup recipe with a love story.

In recent years, the Chinese food scene in Northern California has really been blossoming. While it has historically been dominated by Cantonese specialists, other Chinese mainland generalists have been popping up as well. Noodles Fresh in El Cerritos is especially lovely, opened up by Wenyan Peterson, who hails from Jingdezhen, a prefecture-level city in the eastern Chinese province of Jiangxi. Jingdezhen is known for its delicate blue and white porcelain and, on the culinary front, for their rice noodles.

Naturally, Noodles Fresh’s claim to fame is its rice noodles dishes, but the menu also contains a variety of influences from all over Greater China. There’s salted duck à la Nanjing and lamb with flavors reminiscent of Xinjiang. Noodles, of course, are the cornerstone of the eatery. The rice noodles are imported directly from Jiangxi province, where they are made with natural spring water.

Rice noodles are found in the Guilin beef tendon stew, the Jiangxi noodle stir fry, and in the Yunnan over-the-bridge dish—the latter of which is a dish that’s particular to the southwest Yunnan province of China.

Tom and Wenyan Peterson on the right, with a certificate for Noodles Fresh
Tom and Wenyan Peterson on the right, with a certificate for Noodles Fresh

Peterson kindly provided the recipe for the dish. It’s an elegant take on chicken noodle soup. “The key component is the chicken broth. The preferred chicken to make the chicken broth is free-range yellow chicken,” Petersen says.

And, like many classic Chinese dishes, it comes with a story.

“Yunnan over-the-bridge has a lovely story to tell,” she says. “In the ancient times, a wife was preparing noodle soup lunch for her husband, who resided on the other side of the bridge to study for his governmental test to become a government official. By the time [the] noodle soup was delivered, the soup got cold due to long distance travelled. She later cleverly used very fatty free-range yellow chicken to make the noodle broth. The heavy chicken fat floating on top of the broth sealed the soup temperature and kept her noodle soup warm.”

At her restaurant, Peterson has adjusted the recipe so that it’s flavorful but not overwhelmingly oily.

“Our Yunnan over-the-bridge broth is chicken and pork bone based. To keep our dish warm, we then use clay pots instead of porcelain bowls, so that our Yunnan over-the-bridge really could stay warm for 10-15 minutes or more,” she says.

Dishes from Noodles Fresh on the table
The menu of Noodles Fresh contains a variety of influences from all over Greater China

Here’s the recipe:

Yunnan Over-the-Bridge Noodles

Cooking time: 1.5 hours

Serves: 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb chicken bone
  • 1 lb pork bone
  • 1/4 inch slice of ginger
  • 6 liter (25 cups) water
  • 1 lb Jiangxi thin rice noodle stick (4 servings)
  • 1/2 lb fish fillet
  • 1/2 lb chicken breast fillet
  • 8 slices of Chinese smoked ham
  • 1/2 lb baby bok choy
  • 1/2 lb green bean sprouts
  • 2 medium sized scallions
  • Sesame oil, to taste
Directions:

  1. In order to clean chicken and pork bone of blood and any impurities, boil the bones in water for 1-2 minutes and drain the water.
  2. Add water (6 liters or 25 cups) into a large pot. Add the chicken bone and pork bone from Step 1 and ginger (adjust amount to your own taste).
  3. Bring the broth to a boiling point and simmer afterwards for 180 minutes. Discard the bones and ginger, and save the broth.
  4. In a separate cooking pot, add water and bring to a boil. Add the Jiangxi thin rice noodle sticks into the cooking pot and boil for 4 minutes.
  5. Drain the noodles. Rinse in cold water. Cooking oil can be used to mix into the drained rice noodles, so that noodles don’t stick.
  6. Add the chicken broth into a small cooking pot, and bring the broth to a boil. Add cooked rice noodles, thin-sliced and marinated chicken and fish fillet, baby choy, and green bean sprouts.
  7. Garnish chopped scallion and a bit of sesame oil on top for extra flavor.
  8. Serve and enjoy!

(Note: Meat and vegetable choices vary. You can certainly adjust your own protein choices. Again, the key component is the chicken broth. Use free-range yellow chicken, if it is available.)

Noodles Fresh: 10042 San Pablo Ave, El Cerrito, CA 94530, USA

Hungry for more? Follow Clarissa’s journey through China as she uncovers authentic dishes and cultural insight.

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