Scallion oil noodles are a Shanghainese staple that are happily enjoyed in many environments: They are inhaled beside street carts, slurped up at fancy restaurants, and tossed together at home.
The simple dish’s mass appeal, which gains more traction every day in the United States, comes as no surprise; springy noodles dressed with a combination of aromatic oil, rich soy sauce, and sugar form a whole that is far greater—and tastier—than the sum of its parts.
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10 ingredients. 45 minutes. Quick, easy, and fresh weeknight recipes.
To better understand the global craze, I consulted my colleague Valerie Sizhe Li, who devoured countless bowls of this dish growing up in Shanghai: “I had this dish so often, I didn’t even think about it until I moved away from home and realized I didn’t have it at arm’s reach anymore,” said Li. “As a meat lover, it’s one of my favorite dishes that doesn’t involve meat. It’s slightly sweet and has a super umami-rich flavor, and the noodles have a chewy and tender texture. Everything is just so satisfying.”
Shanghai Scallion Oil NoodlesScallions go from sidekick to star in these savory-sweet noodles.
Scallion oil noodles, as the name implies, rely on an infused oil to dress the noodles. Here, scallions (first the greens—which are crisped, removed, and added back as a garnish before serving—and then the whites) are slowly simmered in peanut oil, with shallots and ginger added for extra flavor.
If desired, the scallion oil can be made in large batches and stored in the fridge for later use; according to Li, the oil can be used to dress anything from more noodles to steamed chicken to fried eggs.
“This dish is very accessible to make at home,” said Li. “I always know there’s one thing I can fall back on and it’s going to be good. It’s my version of easy mac and cheese.”
Once the scallion whites are silky and the oil is aromatic, dark soy sauce comes in to do the heavy lifting. Its thick texture gives the dish its signature dark, glossy appearance. A touch of light soy sauce, which is thinner and brighter, adds additional savoriness. A rich, glazy sauce is a mark of excellence in Shanghainese cuisine; chefs often strive for “nong you chi jiang” in their dishes, which translates to “rich with oil, red with sauce.”
Shanghainese dishes also often lean slightly sweet; here, a generous amount of sugar mingles with the soy sauce to create a pleasing salty-sweet balance.
A Very Chinese CookbookEqually happy cooking American Chinese takeout or Sichuan banquet fare, James Beard Award–winning writer Kevin Pang and his father Jeffrey offer a wide-ranging and affectionately irreverent look at Chinese cooking.
Cooked fresh noodles, which have a nice chewy texture, are then added to the wok and tossed to coat with the sauce. The noodles can be served on their own or dressed with an array of toppings. At bustling Shanghainese eateries, diners customize their bowls with a spread of self-serve toppings: red-braised pork chops, stir-fried ground pork, blanched bok choy, mustard greens, or crispy fried eggs.
As an ode to the traditional version, and one of Li’s personal favorite toppings, we dress our noodles with crispy scallion greens, which are shallow-fried in the wok (before the rest of the dish is built) until dark brown and shatteringly crisp.
The result is a symphony of textures, coupled with a rich, savory sauce that will have you making this dish again and again.