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Your next quarantine cooking project: Homemade noodles

(Martina Ibanez-Baldor / Los Angeles Times; Getty Images )

Nothing compares to the slippery silkiness of handmade noodles. Freshly rolled and cut wheat flour dough strikes the ideal balance between tender and chewy. In Cantonese, there’s a word for that noodle perfection — ngun — that’s as hard to translate as it is to pronounce if you’re not a native speaker. It’s not exactly al dente because there’s no bite in the center, but that’s the closest approximation.

Getting to that state of bliss is actually really straightforward. The only ingredients are flour, salt and water, and the resulting dough is easy to knead and roll. Unlike scallion pancake dough, which uses hot water to yield tender bread, this calls for cold water for maximum chewiness in the noodles.

Scallion Pancakes

Time 2 hours, largely unattended
Yields Makes 4 pancakes

You need just enough water to bring the dry ingredients together; wet dough makes for floppy, soft noodles. When you’re mixing the dough, add the water a bit at a time. Flour takes time to absorb liquid, so you’ll gather the scraggly dry flecks into the mix, which will ultimately hydrate during kneading and resting.

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You can roll the dough with a rolling pin or use a pasta machine. Either way, you want the sheets as thin as possible because they expand when boiling. You don’t need any additional flour while rolling because the dough is dry. In fact, flouring a rolling pin and surface will cause the dough to slip and slide, making it harder to flatten to bed-sheet thickness.

LOS ANGELES, CA., May 15, 2020: How to boil water-handmade noodles May 15, 2020 (Geneveive Ko/ Los Angeles Times)
(Genevieve Ko / Los Angeles Times)

However, you do need lots of flour when cutting the dough. To get long, even noodles, fold the dough over and over onto itself. Get a generous coating of flour between the layers. If you don’t, they’ll all stick together when you cut through them. The flour will help the rolls of noodles unravel easily.

LOS ANGELES, CA., May 15, 2020: How to boil water-handmade noodles May 15, 2020 (Geneveive Ko/ Los Angeles Times)
(Genevieve Ko / Los Angeles Times)

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If you have time, you can lay them out to dry for a few hours at room temperature, but you can boil them right away too. Because they’re fresh, they take only two to three minutes to soften. To test for doneness, bite into one: There shouldn’t be a raw center. Drain well, then rinse under cold running water to wash off the excess flour and to keep the noodles from overcooking to mush. Do this even if you’re going to ultimately eat them in a hot soup or stir-fry.

Homemade Noodles

Time 1 hour
Yields Serves 4

From-scratch noodles may not be an everyday treat, but it’s a fun cooking project that will give you a taste of how delicious fresh noodles can be.

Spicy Chili Crisp Noodles

Time 10 minutes
Yields Serves 4

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