cook like a local: men mian
I’m excited to share this recipe with you! Our house helper, who actually works for three foreign families here, taught this to the other families she works for while we were back in the States. Turns out, she had been holding back on us! Since we’ve learned to make this dish, we have it about once a week and I think the other families do as well.
This is a local dish called “men mian.” (For the record, I thought the pronunciation of this dish was meng mian for years and I still hear locals say it with a “g” but officially it is actually men mian).
There are a number of great places to get this dish locally if you don’t want to cook at home, the most famous one being the chain Tie Guo Yi Ju 铁锅一居 that has multiple locations throughout the city. However, I think after you try this and see how delicious and simple it is, you’ll eat at home more often.
Some attribute this dish to being a local dish of Ba Meng, but others say it comes from Shan Xi. My guess is that it’s both. I think a large number of Inner Mongolia’s population migrated from Shan Xi to IM so they probably brought this dish with them. (Thanks to JS for the help finding the sources).
Let’s not get caught up in arguing over where it originated and just get started learning how to make it!
Meat: we use a tender cut of pork, but you can also use ribs.
Vegetables: Must have green beans and probably potatoes, but the rest is up to you. The tomato is needed to make sauce during the cooking process.
We used: 1-2 carrots, one large potato, about 2 cups of green beans, and one large tomato
Seasoning: green onions (2-3), salt (to taste), soy sauce (about 2 teaspoons), and shi san xiang (13 spices) (about 1 teaspoon, or less, to taste)
Noodles: qie mian or cut noodles. These are available at your local flour/grain shop, supermarket, and sometimes even the small vegetable seller stalls have them.
cooking oil (1-2 tablespoons)
water (1-2 cups)
Add all vegetables except tomatoes and green onions and continue stir-frying. This dish is going to cook in the rice cooker, so you don’t need to stir fry until completely done, just until vegetables have softened a bit.
Add in your soy sauce, 13 spices, and salt. Stir fry until thoroughly mixed, fragrant, and veggies softened (again, you don’t have to wait for them to thoroughly cook yet).
Transfer contents of wok to your rice cooker. Add enough water to cover about 2/3 of the contents of the cooker. The dish should be dry, not saucy when finished. However, if it’s too dry the first time you try, add more water and/or more tomatoes the next time you try.
Place the noodles on top of tomatoes and close the lid of the rice cooker. When we make this, our rice cooker is FULL by this stage. (like lid barely closing full, but that depends on the size of your cooker). Use the setting you would use for rice. For us, it takes about 35-45 minutes for the cooking process to finish. I’m sure the time will vary based on the amounts of vegetables you used and the size of your rice cooker.
When the rice cooker has finished, it will look something like this:
Mix the noodles in with the mixture on the bottom and you’re ready to serve!
It should look something like this:
This is really a delicious, easy, cheap, local meal to make. You have some prep time washing and cutting and a little time stir-frying, but mostly the rice cooker does the work for you.
If you try it, leave us a comment and tell us what you think. Does it rival Tie Guo Yi Ju?