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Ban mian is a culinary dish that is popular in China, Singapore and Malaysia. It consists of egg noodles served in a flavorful soup, often with some type of meat or fish, vegetables and various spices. The meal is considered one of the healthier food choices and can be found for sale by restaurants, street vendors and food stalls in the region. The base of the entire meal is a soup, so there are numerous variations in ingredients, stocks and noodle shapes. In many instances, the completed soup is topped with an egg that is cooked in the hot liquid above the noodles.
The name of the dish, ban mian, means "board noodle" or "block noodle" and references the original way of creating the noodles from dough, which involved tearing off a piece and rolling it out, leaving an irregularly shaped rectangle or square noodle. Most versions of ban mian use egg noodles that are simply a blend of egg, flour, water and salt that is kneaded and then formed into noodles. Some chefs still tear the noodles by hand but, in more commercial settings, they are passed through a standard pasta maker to form wide, rectangular shapes. Dried versions of ban mian noodles exist, but many consider fresh noodles to be an essential ingredient in the soup.
The base of the soup can be water but is more often a type of fish stock. Normal fish stock can be used, but anchovy stock is a common choice. Various ingredients, such as onions, garlic, ginger and bean paste, also can be added to the stock to provide more flavor, although some preparations are so simple that nothing more than plain stock is used.
Two common ingredients that are often found across different versions of ban mian are mushrooms and anchovies. The exact type of each might vary, but they are generally added to the stock base. The mushrooms can be dried and are reconstituted in the broth, while the anchovies could be fried until crispy and then served on top of the soup. The anchovies also can be added to the stock for flavor and allowed to break down as it cooks.
Once the base stock is completed, nearly anything can be added to complete the ban mian. This includes vegetables such as green onions, spinach, cabbage and bamboo shoots. Some vinegar is usually added, occasionally with sugar to balance the flavor. Restaurants may offer minced pork that has been fried or chunks of white fish to act as a protein-rich addition to the soup. Finally, an egg is cracked into the hot broth and allowed to cook until the whites are set and the yolk is warmed through.
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