Crossing the Bridge Noodles 過橋米線

This mid-Spring chill has us craving comfort foods, and especially noodles. For some reason, slurping down a bowl of hot noodles in a fragrant broth provides a kind of warmth not found in anything else.

“Crossing the Bridge Noodles” is perhaps the best known dish from Yunnan Province in China. Located South of Sichuan Province and bordering on Burma, the food reflects elements of both.

The origin of the name is obscured in history, but has something to do with a scholar studying for exams, and his thoughtful wife bringing him noodles from the other side of the bridge. There are many variants on the dish, but the one constant is rice noodles which are typically used in that area.

The following recipe is adapted from one by cookbook author Fuchsia Dunlop

Crossing the Bridge Noodles   過橋米線

(4 servings)

8 dried Chinese black mushrooms (called “Dong Gu”)*

8 oz. dried rice noodles (aka “rice sticks”)*

¼ lb squid tubes, cleaned

¼ lb, medium shrimp, shelled and deveined

1 small chicken breast

1 bunch spinach, cleaned, and washed

¼ lb. thinly sliced prosciutto (similar to cured Yunnanese ham)

6 cups chicken broth

3 Tablespoons rice bran oil, peanut oil*,  or canola oil

2 tablespoons Shao Xing rice wine*, or dry sherry

5 scallions, both white and green part, sliced

1 tablespooon minced peeled ginger

Salt to taste

Cilantro leaves for garnish

Soak the mushrooms in warm water for 20 minutes, drain, and set aside. Prepare the rice noodles according to their package, drain, and set aside. Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil for blanching the ingredients. Slice the squid into small rings. Blanch the squid in the boiling water for 1 minute then remove with a strainer. Slice the shrimp length-wise and blanch for 1 minute, then remove with a strainer. Slice the chicken paper-thin and blanch for 1 minute, then remove with a strainer.  Blanch the spinach for 1 minute, drain, and set aside.

In a large covered pot, bring the chicken stock, vegetable oil, Shaoxing rice wine, green onions, ginger, and salt to a rolling boil for 1 minute. Into each of four large ceramic soup bowls, place 1/4 of the noodles. On top of the noodles, place 1/4 of the squid, shrimp, chicken, spinach, and prosciutto. Pour the boiling broth into the bowls and let them sit for 2 minutes. Top each bowl with a little cilantro and serve.

* available at Sun Sun, 8 Oxford Street, Boston Chinatown, or at any Asian grocery or supermarket.

written by Jim Becker-Chinatown tour guide