You mian are thin noodles that originated in Southern China. They are generally eaten as a staple food in China, and have also proved to be popular as both regular and snack foods in many Southeast Asian countries and in other parts of the world. These Chinese noodles can be purchased in ready-made packs in supermarkets and food stores, but experienced chefs often prefer to make their own noodles from scratch. The you mian noodles may be made from wheat flour or from rice flour. Other you mian ingredients include eggs, tapioca or cornstarch, salt, potassium carbonate, and water.
The noodles that are made using wheat flour are known as saang mein. Wheat flour contains a a protein called gluten, which gives the dough a stretchy quality that makes it easier to make the smooth textured you mian noodles. The tapioca or corn starch and eggs are similarly useful in making transparent, thick and stretchy noodles.
There are different ways of making you mian noodles. There is the chen mian noodle making method in which the dough is first kneaded well by hand and then stretched into long thin lengths using both hands. The stretched dough is then rapidly sectioned by hand into noodles of the required width and thickness. It can take considerable skill to get this right and the noodle making process can be quite fascinating to watch.
In another noodle making process, known as dao xiao mian, the dough is kneaded by hand and then cut into the noodle strips with a knife. The shou gan mian method involves rolling the dough into a thin flat shape with a rolling pin and then sectioning the flattened dough by hand or with a knife. The flattened dough can also be fed into a pasta making machine to make the noodles in a quick and easy way.
There are scores of recipes for cooking vegetable, meat and egg noodles. Generally, the you mian noodles are served hot, and they may have been stir-fried or boiled. If stir-fried, it is usual to boil the noodles first, wash them in cold water next and then fry them in vegetable oil. Various chopped vegetables, boiled egg sections, and fish and meat pieces may be fried along with the noodles. The boiled you mian noodles may be cooked plain, or they may be added to various vegetarian or non-vegetarian soups and stews.