Gluten-free, low-carb, chewy all-purpose noodles made of chicken breast
“ The wisdom in exploring Mars
lies in a single dumpling. ”
The merits to explore Mars may not be a subject that lands on a food blog very often. Yet.
Since the 1990’s, the world has spend billions of dollars over the span of numerous unmanned missions to probe at this relentlessly desolate planet far beyond human’s physical reach. And it has incurred questions, perhaps not so unreasonably, about what benefits, if any, that all of these hardcore sciencing could realistically bring to mankind. What’s the point of studying an unreachable plane that most likely cannot sustain any lifeforms but Matt Damon, at least in the foreseeable future? Wouldn’t it make more moral sense to redirect all those money, instead, on the many more immediate issues left unsolved on good old planet earth? And at the end of the day, does anyone really want to live on fucking Mars anyways?
While there are many scientific counter-arguments to those questions out there made by much smarter people who do math, here as a mere moron who survived one week in her high school physics class, I am simply going to put it like this:
The wisdom in exploring Mars lies in a single dumpling.
Yes, a dumpling. No, not just any dumpling, but a dumpling, or more specifically, the wrapper of a dumpling that comes from the Fujian region of southern China. They call it, yanpi dumplings, or aka, rouyan.
(In direct translation meaning “meat sparrow”, poetically because of the dumpling’s tiny bird-like physique, appropriately anticipated to be played by Johnny Depp in a Disney adaptation.)
What sets this dumpling apart from any others is that its wrapper – instead of being made of wheat flour or any stand-alone starches – is, like magic, predominantly made of pork. Yes, pork, plus tapioca starch to be exact, but nonetheless, mainly fucking pork. How is this even possible you ask? Well, it involves a meticulous process of mercilessly pounding lean pork literally to a pink pulp before repeatedly mixing and rolling it with tapioca starch until the mixture flattens into submission, defies logic, and expands into a sheet so thin it’s almost paper-like.
For no other reasons than the hand-pureeing of pork and how impossibly thin this wrapper is required to be (both none-issues in this recipe so relax), that the process of making yanpi had become too labor-intensive and thus impractical to be adopted by popular food culture on the international stage, as it remains, unfortunately so, still just a little-known local delicacies in selective parts of southern China.
Now, this brings me back to Mars.
Thing is, you simply don’t know where discoveries will take you. Before industrial revolution when meat was still expensive and voluptuousness implies prestige, did a dumpling wrapper really need to be made of pork, thus making it low-carb? And back in the several centuries before the concept of gluten was even a thing, was anyone crying out loud for it to be made of starch instead of wheat flour, thus making it gluten-free? Did all the back-breaking R&D behind this dumpling wrapper, the blood-stained tears of the chef and the splitting callus of his hands, really answering at the time to a much needed demand of the society at large?
Fuck no. Just a dude who got curious and a lotta other dudes who thought it was tasty. If all thing went correctly in the world, chances were, this wrapper should’ve faded into obscurity like corn dogs.
But, as you might know, it came the age of the new world.
And who would’ve thought, with it, also came an incredibly large demographic who successfully convinced themselves to be gluten-sensitive even though they most likely are not. And weirdly, foods became such an excess that obesity is liken to a pandemic and carbohydrates are passionately identified as the evil culprit. The world, unexpectedly, had become a place where gluten… well does something to you… and carbs definitely makes you fat. A world where the validity of this little invention called yanpi, all of a sudden, arose to be legit, sound, or even direly needed.
Not anymore as a dumpling wrapper but, listen to this, as an all-purpose, actually chewy and silky, gluten-less and low-carb alternative dough to all things noodles and pasta.
Do I have your attention?
Now remember the issues of it being a labor-intensive business? Well, with the new world it also came, the great food-processor. With modern machinery, the pureeing of the meat… oh speaking of which, I have substituted the tradition of pork with chicken breast for more accessibility… the pureeing of the meat becomes entirely effortless. And because of the repurposing of the dough from paper-thin wrapper to noodle/pasta, this recipe is honestly much easier than regular noodle or pasta. Very minimal kneading is required, no resting and the elastic nature of wheat flour (gluten) to combat with, I found the process to be a relative cinch.
Is it carb-free? Absolutely not, but with more than 50% being lean protein, I’d imagine that in your leg-shaking, noodle-deprived moment of urgent desire halfway through a miserable diet, it would come to your boiled fish meal like a god-sent. Not to mention that you can adapt it to any recipes you prefer, with this simple fettuccine alfredo as a start in this unexpected journey of a little dumpling they call the meat sparrow.
So, what I’m trying to say with all this is, yes, I’d like to know more about Mars.
UPDATED JAN/14/2021: After consideration I’ve replace some of the tapioca flour with cornstarch to get the texture of the noodles even closer to real ones. If you like a super chewy noodle, you can use full tapioca starch. If you want them to be even softer, you can increase the ratio of cornstarch.
You can make this noodle with chicken breast, very lean pork or even beef. Noodles made of pork or beef will be even firmer and chewier. Just make sure that the meat has very little to no fat and all the silver skins, tendons and connective tissues are removed.
This dough can be used in any other noodle recipes. Although more work, you can cut them thinner, or even make them into your favorite pasta shapes. Read the instructions carefully for applications.
- 7 oz (200 grams) chicken breast, or very lean pork or beef
- 1/4 heaping tsp sea salt
- 1 cup tapioca flour/starch, see note *
- 1/4 cup boiling water
- 1/2 cup cornstarch
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter
- 2 cloves of garlic, grated
- 2 sprigs of fresh thyme
- 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 3/4 cup heavy cream
- 1/4 cup whole milk
- 1 1/2 tbsp Greek yogurt
- 2 tsp fish sauce
- 1/8 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
- Freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano to serve
- MAKE DOUGH: Dice the chicken breast (or lean pork or beef) into small pieces and place in a food-processor with sea salt. Run the processor for 1~2 minutes until the meats are pureed into a pink goo-like substance. If you're using lean pork or beef, you may need to process them a minute longer because of their tougher, longer fibers, which will make the cutting later more difficult if not broken down. Meanwhile in another bowl, pour the boiling water into the tapioca flour. Use a spoon to mash and mix until an even, dry and shaggy mixture forms. Add the flour-mixture into the food-processor, along with 2/3 of the cornstarch, and pulse until a dough-like mixture forms. The dough should be slightly sticky, leaving just a little bit on your fingers when you tap on it. If it's stickier than that, add the rest of the cornstarch and pulse again.
- SHAPE DOUGH: Because of the texture of this dough, it will not do well and may be caught stuck in an electric pasta roller/maker. But don't worry because it's easy to do by hand.
- Transfer the dough onto a working surface dusted with more tapioca flour to prevent sticking. The dough should feel moist but not overly sticky. Shape the the dough into a thick log, then roll it out into a rectangular sheet about 1/16" (1.5 mm) thick. It's important that you keep BOTH SIDES the dough well floured with tapioca as you go. Instead of dusting, scatter the flour onto and smooth it out across the surface on both sides as you go. Because of the nature of gluten-less dough, it will break more easily than normal wheat doughs, so don't be alarmed if there is some breakage on the edges and whatnots.
- Keeping it well floured, fold the sheet by half lengthwise, then half again, and cut 1/2" (1 cm) segments across the width. Because of the fibrous texture, use a sharp knife and do it in a slicing motion. If you don't mind more work, you can cut the noodles thinner than 1/2". Once done, unfold the noodles gently, undoing the first fold, then the second fold, and leave them laying separated on the counter as they are. DO NOT fluff them or curl them up like you'd do with normal noodles because again, this dough breaks more easily. I don't recommend freezing for the noodle shapes because of this reason, but you can certainly make gnocchi shapes or other stubby types for freezing.
- TO COOK: Bring a large pot of water with a hefty pinch of salt to boil like you would cooking pasta. Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium high heat and bring unsalted butter to a sizzle, add garlic, thyme and ground black pepper and cook for a few seconds until fragrant. In another pot, bring heavy cream, whole milk, Greek yogurt, fish sauce, grated nutmeg and a hefty pinch of grated Parmigiano to a simmer. Stir to combine and turn off the heat and set aside.
- Once the water comes to a rapid boil, gently transfer the noodles into the pot. Gently stir around with a wooden spoon to prevent sticking, and cook for about 30 seconds more after the noodles have floated to the top. This will happen quite quickly as all fresh noodles do. Transfer the noodles with a strainer and into the skillet. Return the skillet to medium-high heat and cook until the cream has thickened slightly. Drizzle the garlic/thyme butter over the top and serve immediately with more grated cheese. You can use this noodle to replace wheat noodles in any other recipes you like.
* If you like a super chewy noodle, you can use full tapioca starch. If you want them to be even softer, you can increase the ratio of cornstarch.