Hand-pulled noodles (also known as la mian 拉面) are homemade noodles that are springy, chewy, comforting and so delicious. These traditional noodles are made with dough that is rolled and stretched into long strips, either thin or wide. They are fun and actually quite easy to make once you get the hang of the stretching technique. Plus, making noodles from scratch just tastes so much better than dried store-bought noodles, and they are cheap to make.
What are Hand-Pulled Noodles?
Hand-pulled noodles, as suggested by its name, are made with wheat dough that is rolled and stretched by hand into long strips. They are made fresh and cooked immediately after pulling. These noodles are surprisingly very easy to make and a great recipe to try especially for beginners.
Hand-pulled noodles are served all over China, and it is a very popular street food. the chef will pull the noodles in front of your eyes and oftentimes performs a noodle pulling dance. We had the pleasure of seeing this in Chengdu (and other cities) when we travelled across China a few years ago.
Making homemade hand-pulled noodles requires just 4 ingredients, all of which you probably have at home, meaning you can literally make these right now. And unlike it's store-bought counterpart, these noodles contain no additives.
- all-purpose flour
- vegetable oil
How to Make the Best Chinese Hand-Pulled Noodles
- Make the dough. Whisk together flour and salt in a large mixing bowl. Slowly add water into the mixture and stir well to combine using a silicone spatula until it forms a shaggy dough (and no dry flour is visible in the bowl). Sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl with the spatula.
- Knead the dough. Transfer the shaggy dough onto a clean and lightly greased surface (The oil will help the dough from sticking to your hands initially). You can also lightly oil your hands. Knead the dough until it is smooth, about 5 minutes. To knead, push the dough down and outward using the palms of your hands. Fold the dough in half toward you and press down. Repeat this motion by pushing the dough down and outward, and then folding over towards you, until the dough ball is smooth.
Note, because noodles are typically very low hydration dough (flour to water ratio is 2:1), it takes longer to knead the dough into a smooth dough ball. However, this small batch dough should be quite easy to handle and not sticky at all.
TIP: A well-kneaded dough is smooth and can hold its shape. When you give the dough ball a firm poke with your finger, the indentation should bounce right back. If it doesn’t bounce back and stays like a dimple, keep kneading for a few minutes.
- Divide the dough. Divide the dough into 2 equal pieces with a knife or bench scraper and flatten each piece into a rectangle with a rolling pin. The rectangle doesn’t have to be perfect since it will be cut into strips and the strips will be hand pulled later on. Space each rolled out dough apart on a parchment-lined baking tray and gently brush vegetable oil over the dough to prevent from it from losing moisture. (You can also wrap each dough separately in plastic cling film).
- Let the dough rest. Cover the dough with plastic cling film and leave it to rest for 2 hours, or refrigerate it overnight, and bring it to room temperature the next day but setting it out on the kitchen counter for about 20 minutes. Resting for a long period of time helps relax the gluten in the dough completely, which makes it possible to stretch out the dough.
How to Shape Hand-Pulled Noodles
- Place the dough on a lightly oiled chopping board and cut each piece into strips. To make wide noodles, cut into 1.5 to 2-inch thick strips. To make thin noodles, cut into 1/2-inch thick strips.
- Hold the ends of each noodle strip using each hand and slowly pull the noodle towards opposite directions. Make sure to pull it slowly to avoid snapping. Gently bounce the noodle against the countertop to help it stretch further.
- Fold the noodle and pull again and gently bounce to stretch the noodle.
TIP: For wide noodles, you can stretch the noodle out to your total arm length, across your body. For thin noodles, you can stretch them out about one arm's length.
How to Cook Hand-Pulled Noodles
To cook the noodles, bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a large cooking pot over medium high heat. Add the pulled noodles into the boiling water and cook for 2 minutes. Drain the noodles with a spider strainer or a colander and place it into a bowl.
Serve the noodles immediately with seasoning or sauce to avoid the noodles sticking from together. Use the thin noodles to make traditional Shanghai scallion oil noodles or spicy dan dan noodles. Use the flat noodles to make authentic biang biang spicy noodles (also known as Xi'an chili oil noodles) or spicy cumin lamb noodles.
- How to store noodle dough: Once you have give the noodle dough enough time to rise, you can wrap it tightly in plastic cling wrap and store in the refrigerator for up 3 days before use. To use, allow the dough to come to room temperature before slicing into strips, about 20 minutes.
- How to store raw noodles: These noodles have to be cooked immediately once you have pulled them. To store uncooked noodles, you will have to use flour to coat them to prevent them from sticking together, and the texture of the noodles will change.
- How to store cooked noodles: Hand-pulled noodles are best served fresh. Once the noodles start going cold, they will stick together and get stiff. If you have leftovers that you want to store, you can store them in an airtight container for up to 3 days in the refrigerator, but the noodles may clump together. To reheat, I prefer to steam the noodles rather than heating directly on a pan as it will release more starch into the pan and change the texture even more.
More Noodle Recipes
- Shanghai Style Fried Noodles
- Spicy Dan Dan Noodles
- Chicken Pad Thai
- Spicy Cumin Lamb Noodles
- Thai Red Curry Noodle Soup
- Vegetarian Peanut Miso Ramen
Did you make this recipe? I would greatly appreciate a comment and rating below, letting me know what you thought of the recipe. You can also snap a picture and tag me on Instagram @aheadofthyme or share it on the Pinterest pin so that I can follow along.