These traditional northern style Chinese Gravy Noodles are comfort food in the truest sense. They cleverly use a few veggies to make a rich vegan sauce that adds tons of flavor.
Have you ever heard the term da-lu-mein (打卤面)? It literally means noodles with any type of gravy or sauce, but usually refers to a vegetable-based brown sauce. These Chinese gravy noodles are a fancier version of the traditional style da-lu-mein. This is a family recipe that was handed down from my grandma. She used to add a few pieces of shrimp into the earthy gravy. The savory sauce is infused with a nice umami, which makes it simply irresistible.
If you’re thinking a vegetable-based sauce must plain and boring, you will definitely be surprised by the flavor in this dish.
I previously talked about how to use Chinese dried veggies to create a superior flavor in another recipe – buddha’s delight, a type of Jai (vegetarian) food. The logic is the same here. The foundation of the broth consists of dried lily flowers and dried shiitake mushrooms. They both have a very concentrated smoky, earthy, and woody aroma. Once you rehydrate them, the rehydrating water will turn to a dark brown color as it becomes infused with great flavor. Do not throw this water away. It is the best vegan broth to use in this recipe.
Cooking this dish is really simple. You just need to soak the dry ingredients beforehand, then cook them like a normal stir fried dish. At the end of the stir-fry, pour the marinating water into the pot and boil it for a while. You then you use a cornstarch slurry to thicken the sauce to make it into a vegetarian gravy. We usually add pork and seafood to enhance the mouthfeel. But the truth is, most of the flavor comes from the vegetable broth.
The ingredients and seasonings in this recipe are very flexible:
- The amounts of dried lily flowers and shiitake mushrooms can be difficult to measure. Feel free to use a bit more or less than called for in this recipe.
- You can add other vegetables into the gravy, such as Chinese cabbage, fresh mushrooms, and bamboo shoots.
- You can add various types of seafood, like squid and scallops, to make the sauce fancier.
- You can add more salt, so the same amount of gravy can serve more people. Or you can add a moderate amount of salt, and top each bowl of noodles with a huge amount of goodies. By the way, this is the style my family like the most. Sometimes we end up eating more gravy than noodles, simply because it’s so delicious.
- Although handmade noodles work the best in this recipe, you can also use normal dried noodles (udon noodles) or fresh packaged noodles.
Da lu mian is a treasure in northern Chinese cooking and is one of my family’s favorites. It’s a shame that it’s still unknown to most people outside China. To speak the truth, I created this recipe a long time ago (as insisted by Thomas – he needed a recipe to prove to his family that he had learned to cook some Chinese food while living in Beijing). But I was reluctant to post it, because I had no idea what to call this dish in English. In the end, I decided to use the original name of the dish. Hopefully, the name will be as popular as lo mein or chow mein some day in the future.
This recipe is one of the recipes from my Mom’s Best collection. The collection contains family recipes handed down from my grandma to my dad, then to my mom. Now, the torch has been passed to me. In this same series, you can also find Mom’s best braised chicken with mushroom, Mom’s best beef stew with tendon, Mom’s best braised pork spare ribs, Mom’s best braised duck leg and Mom’s best braised pork feet.
- 2 handful dried lily flowers (150 grams / 1 cup after rehydrated)
- 1 handful dried shiitake mushrooms (150 grams/ 1 cup after rehydrated)
- 150 grams (5.5 ounces) shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 100 grams (3.5 ounces) pork tenderloin, sliced to stripes
- 4 teaspoons Shaoxing wine
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 4 and 1/3 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 tomato, chopped
- 2 tablespoons chopped scallion
- 1/2 teaspoon minced ginger
- 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon salt or to taste
- 4 servings noodles
- Gently rinse dried lily flowers with tap water. Add flowers and 3 cups water to a big bowl and allow to rehydrate for 3 hours, or overnight. When lily flowers turn soft, gently rinse them in the marinating water. Set aside.
- Gently rinse dried shiitake mushrooms with tap water. Add mushrooms and 2 cups water to a big bowl and allow to rehydrate for 1 hour. When mushrooms turn soft, gently rinse them in the marinating water. Set aside.
- Combine shrimp, 2 teaspoons Shaoxing wine, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 2 teaspoons cornstarch in a small bowl. Mix well by hand and allow to marinate at room temperature for 10-20 minutes.
- Combine pork, 2 teaspoons Shaoxing wine, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 2 teaspoons cornstarch in a small bowl. Mix well by hand and let marinate at room temperature for 10-20 minutes.
- Remove tough ends of rehydrated lily flowers and cut them in half. Carefully measure about 2 cups marinating water and transfer to another bowl without any of the solids that may have settled on the bottom. Set aside.
- Transfer shiitake mushrooms to another bowl and drain. Slice mushrooms. Save the marinating water for later use. Carefully measure about 2 cups marinating water and transfer to another bowl without any of the solids that may have settled on the bottom. Set aside.
- Chop and prepare the other vegetables. Combine the rest of the cornstarch (2 tablespoons) with 4 tablespoons water in a bowl. Mix well and set aside.
- Heat oil in a wok over medium high heat until warm. Add scallion and ginger. Stir a few times until fragrant.
- Add lily flowers and shiitake mushrooms. Stir and cook for 1 minute. Add tomato, stir a few times. Swirl in soy sauce and continue to stir for 2 to 3 minutes.
- Add back the marinating water from the lily flowers and shiitake mushrooms. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly. Cover and cook over medium heat for 3 to 5 minutes. Uncover and add shrimp and pork. Stir and cook until the shrimp turn white, 1 to 2 minutes. Add 1 teaspoon salt or to taste. The sauce should be slightly salty by itself.
- Whisk the cornstarch water again and swirl in half of it. Stir until fully incorporated. Slowly add the rest of the cornstarch water and stir, until the gravy reaches the desired thickness (you will have some slurry left if you prefer a thinner gravy). Stop heat and transfer everything to a big bowl.
- Cook noodles according to instructions.
- Serve the sauce warm over boiled noodles.
The nutrition facts are calculated based on 1 of the 6 servings generated by this recipe.