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.
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.
Here’s the recipe:
Yunnan Over-the-Bridge Noodles
Cooking time: 1.5 hours
(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