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Dec 8, 2008 05:00 PM

Florence Lin's Complete Book of Chinese Noodles

A friend is pushing me in the direction of noodle making--he's drawn to Italian pasta and I am drawn to Chinese noodles. I was lucky enough to find a copy of Florence Lin's classic. Measurements are given in cups. But, as we all know, a cup of flour can mean anything from about 3 ounces to over 5, depending on how the cup is filled. Does anyone know how she measures? Scoop and scrape? Sifted? Spooned into the cup? Thanks for any information you may have.

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  1. Check with Barbara Fisher at

    She has, uses, and recommends the book so she should have some advice.

    1 Reply
    1. re: OnkleWillie

      onklewillie, i perused that site a bit,
      but didn't find anything readily about father k's problem. but, because the blogger is interesting and her food looks quite tasty, i'll keep exploring, and will report back with any useful info.

      not on topic, but this dish -- za-jiang-mein -- of hers looks so comfort-food delicious!

    2. Florence Lin is a member of Les Dames d’Escoffier. I wonder, if you sent them a query through their Web site, if they could get an answer for you.

      4 Replies
        1. re: Father Kitchen

          Hi, I hope you'll ask her publisher, too. If enough of us keep asking writers and publishers to provide weights , eventually they'll get the message. (I hope.)

        2. re: JoanN

          I got a nice reply from Les Dames. Ms. Lin is not currently a member. They suggested I look for a web site for her, but I can't find one. They also gave me some measuring options, but we're back to the same quandry. Tomorrow, however, I will give it a try, especially since I found the H Mart grocers--Koreans--who have a number of stores in our area. It looks like a great place. And I got the flour Luke Rymarz recommends at a good sale price.

          1. re: Father Kitchen

            Good luck, I look forward to reading your results. Next weekend we will be doing a Chinese Christmas Soup with meat filled sweet rice dumplings. Not noodles but maybe along the same lines.

            I do not think Ms Lin has a web site.

        3. Father Kitchen, I asked a real good source what a cup of flour means. My source said sixteen tablespoons spoon into one cup.

          This is almost as good as going to the horse's mouth.

          My source said she never weight anything when she learned to cook in China since there were no for cooking in her Mother kitchen.

          9 Replies
          1. re: yimster

            Dear Yimster, there are indeed sixteen tablespoons in fluid measure in a cup and two tablespoons in fluid measure in a fluid ounce. The problem is that flour varies in density depending on how it is packed, so fluid measures (which we use so often in American cooking to measure even dry ingredients) are not very accurate when used for measuring flour. I didn't get to try making noodles today, but my assumption is that the measurements in Lin's book are for flour that has been fluffed up. So we would get something like 3 1/2 ounces per cup of flour. If you scoop and scrape directly from the flour bin, you get about 5 ounces to a cup. Since I bake bread and am used to handling very wet dough, I am going to assume that the noodle dough is something like bread dough at 80% hydration by baker's percentages. I was unable to experiment today as planned because of community commitments. But I think I will be able to try on Sunday. (We take turns in the monastery kitchen.) I must say, however, that I am enamored of the Chinese way of making soups--cooking noodles and vegetables separately and then combining them in the bowl with hot broth. The flavors and textures remain distinct but very complementary. And for the bread bakers, take notice that the Chinese method of kneading wet dough by slapping it firmly on a counter, works superbly with wet bread doughs--I learned that trick from Nancy Silverton's book.
            Thank you for your advice. It seems we are on the right trail.

            1. re: Father Kitchen

              I think that until quite recently the classic "home economics" type baking method in the US was to spoon flour into the measuring cup, without shaking to settle, and levelling off. My old Betty Crocker book specifies sifting flour in all cases. Its only been rather recently that methods like dip and sweep have come in. As I think of it, even the old methods lack precision - I learned to sift right into the measuring cups, which may produce a slightly less compressed result, I suppose from sifting and then spooning in. My current method, except when baking fussy cakes, is to whisk the flour right in the container to aerate it a bit, then spoon it lightly into my cups and level off. I think something like that would have been fully consistent with normal practices back in the 70s when Florence Lin's recipes were tested..

              1. re: jen kalb

                You’re absolutely right that methods of measuring flour have changed over the years. I have a copy of Florence Lin’s first book and looked through it when Father Kitchen posted his question just to see if there was anything relevant there. I hadn’t cooked from the book in many, many years and was surprised to see when looking at it strictly in terms of flour measurement that her instructions were all over the map. Most of the ingredients lists just call for X cups of flour; a few call for X cups sifted flour; and a few more call for X level cups of flour.

                I think the main reason for the inconsistency there is the inexperience of both the author and the editor. Because of the few instances where she does specify sifted flour, and because the book was published in ’75 about the time I was getting serious about cooking and sift into a cup seemed then to be the measuring method of choice, I’m guessing that she was sifting into a cup as well. Her noodle book was published 11 yeasr later so she may have changed her measuring technique by then. But those old habits die hard. It was surprising recently that I switched to aerate, spoon, and level.

                1. re: JoanN

                  JoanN, not to defend any cook book but I have cooked with a lot of Cooks in all types of food and have found that the first time you make something you try to follow a recipe either written or word of mouth. The next time is it less follow and more your feeling. The more you make the dish the less you follow a recipe.

                  I have seen a lot of noodles, bread, dumplings and etc. made in my long life time and have seen not much measuring. The flours are piled on and more of one or the other is added along with water and egg to make it feel right.

                  When we cook we talk drink tea, coffee and coke (depending on who is cooking it may be Johnny Walker too) all the while tasting and changing the pot to meet our taste requirement.

                  So to Father Kitchen follow the recipe some what this time and do your own thing next time.

                  Next week I will be making savory mochi dumpling for my Chinese Christmas dinner meal. Using my Mother half hot and half cool water method. No recipe there just so that if feels right. The base flour is made from sweet rice but the flour I use to make the texture right is made form long grain rice flour. Just because my Mother did it that way.

                  Good luck and hope to read about it the noodles later.

                  1. re: yimster

                    I agree with you entirely, yimster. But when a cookbook writer is preparing a book for publication, it's a different story. The author needs to find the best possible common denominator and explain not only how s/he achieved it, but how measurements or timing might vary under different circumstances. The very best cookbook authors try to do this. It's much more difficult, of course, trying to learn from a book than from standing next to and watching an expert. Which is why it's so important that cookbook authors tell us what to look for and not just what to do. I wish more of them did.

                    1. re: yimster

                      Dear yimster and JoanN, this discussion is moving in different directions than I first had in mind, and it is quite interesting. I think both your points are well taken. In any case, my normal approach to something new is to follow a recipe scrupulously and try to understand how it is constructed and a bit of the chemistry of it. Since Lin's measures raised questions in my mind, I hoped someone out there might have known from experience the best way to measure. It would save me a bit of time--and my time is limited. Once I understand the general principles and the feel of a recipe, I feel free to improvise somewhat. Or to put it another way, I try to let the ingredients teach me what they can do, using a cookbook as a kind of mentor. So I will follow the recipe and then try to do, not my own thing, but the dough's own thing next time.

                2. re: Father Kitchen

                  I asked the question who is a Chinese (from the Shanghai area) cook who works flour as much as rice. She said that for these recipe 16 tablespoons would work. But I will add this to cloud the issue. I was told she cooks by feel as much from a recipe. So sometimes water or flour is add.

                  Chinese noodle and bread recipes are much forgiving than Western ones. Believe this friend know what she is talking about.

                  1. re: yimster

                    but remember, yimster, this was a book published in the US for the US market, not the chinese market. - so whoever edited/tested would have likely followed US rather than Chinese conventions.

                    personally, Id just give the recipe a try and see how well it works using american conventions as described above - if it seems like too little or too much, more water or flour could be added.

                    1. re: jen kalb

                      I did think about that but I just want to say that after following a recipe you can still make adjustments too it as you go. I just wanted to said you can make adjustment on your own.

                      The written recipe should produce a good product.

              2. I don't have the book. Would love to know which type of noodles you're planning to make from scratch and a paraphrase of the recipe.

                12 Replies
                1. re: Melanie Wong

                  Melanie, I just found that Luke Rymarz on his blog spot has noodle information which he updated on December 6th. I tried cutting and pasting the html and didn't get that to work, so just Google his name and the word Noodle. He works by weight and his recipe works out to 61% hydration, if you were figuring it as for bread flour by baker's percentages. Now 61% hydration is a rather stiff dough normally, but everyone says how soft noodle dough is. Could that recipe be correct? It calls for a mixture of cake flour, which is low in protein, and all purpose flour. Low protein flours absorb less water, so perhaps it is still quite soft. I must try it. Florence Lin's recipe is different. It is a high protein recipe. It calls for 1 cup unsifted unbleached flour (I presume all purpose) and 2 1/2 cups of unsifted bread flour, 3 teaspoons of baking powder (not soda), 1 teaspoon of salt, and about 1 1/2 cups of cold water. Rymarz uses soda in his recipe and he also posted some earlier recipes that use a small amount of soda or what is called "lye water," which contains a mixture of sodium carbonate and postassium carbonate. At any rate, the 3 1/2 cups total flour of the Lin recipe, if measured by scoop and scrape would weigh 17.5 ounces and give a hydration (by baker's percentages) also of 61%. In a bread dough, especially with high-protein bread flour, that would be a very firm dough, like bagel dough. On the other hand, if you spoon the flour into the cups, you would get about 12.25 ounces of flour, which would be about 100% hydration by baker's percentages--a dough I would think would be too wet to handle. A possible solution may lie in the baking powder. The function of an alkali in a noodle dough is to reduce the elasticity of the dough without compromising its extensibility.(Bubble gum is more extensible but less elastic than chewing gum, and noodle dough needs similar properties.) Soda would do that. Baking powder is pH neutral after reacting, so I don't understand how baking powder would work. Was powder a misprint? But 3 teaspoons of soda would be a huge amount. So I guess at this point, the only thing to do is try it. By the way, the Lin book is hard to find but you may be able to locate a library copy on line through the World Cat site (Google it) and then get it on interlibrary loan.

                  1. re: Father Kitchen

                    Thank you! I'm headed to a noodle and dumpling-making party on Saturday and none of us have much experience with making noodles from scratch, so I'm in need of ideas.

                    Here's the link for Luke Rymarz's noodle recipe.
                    That's for la mian or hand-pulled noodles.

                    Is Lin's recipe also for hand-pulled? Or is it the type that you would roll out and cut or possibly shave with a knife from a dough ball?

                    The type I'd really like to make would be knife-shaved noodles or dao xiao mian. I understand the same high protein dough can be used to make cats ears or mao er duo. This page shows the shaping or cutting technique for both but no recipe.

                    According to the index in google book search, Susanna Foo Chinese Cuisine, has recipes for Shanxi noodles and cats ears.
                    If anyone has tried making those, please do share.

                    A couple other interesting noodle recipes I found:

                    Mein fun koh


                    1. re: Melanie Wong

                      Dear Melanie, JoanN and yimster,
                      Thanks for all the help. The proportions I gave from Lin are for her la mian noodles. She also gives recipes for various kinds of noodles and dumpling doughs and their applications. I'd be happy to hear about the noodle- and dumpling-making party, Melanie, and I hope you tell us about it. Perhaps it would merit a topic on its own.
                      Meanwhile I am simply going to try measuring the flour three different ways on Sunday and see what I come up with it. The video clips I have seen look to me rather like very soft bread dough. But since the noodle dough is more extensible but less elastic, looks may be deceiving.

                      1. re: Father Kitchen

                        Wow, those two recipes couldn't be more different. I couldn't have guessed they're for the same style of noodle. It will be very interesting to hear your results.

                        Just heard from a friend that we've located a copy of Foo's book. Maybe we can find one of Lin's by Saturday. Here's the page in Foo's cookbook where she describes her family's noodlemaking.

                        1. re: Melanie Wong

                          Maybe different approaches work well. I found a page on noodles in general but with a section on la mian on The initial general description says they are made from a wet dough with about one cup of water to each two cups of flour. By scoop and scrape that would be the equivalent of 80% hydration by baker's percentages in a bread dough--a very soft ciabatta like dough. Further down the article mentions a food personality who worked out a challenge and came up with a mix of soft and hard flour--like Luke Rymarz. But he doesn't give exact proportions. Finally it mentions that a published Chinese articles gives a recipe made from high protein flour and 45% water with 1% kansui powder. High protein flour doesn't necessarily mean bread flour. Durum flour is high protein, but the gliadin/glutenin balance is not the best for bread. A dough which is about 45% water would be equivalent again to the ciabatta dough in wetness. Perhaps the actual amount of water is, in fact, a function of the hardness of the flour. In any case, the best thing to do is sample some dough. I don't have to make a huge batch to see how dough behaves. A few ounces of each will do, provided I measure accurately.

                          1. re: Father Kitchen

                            While I've not made la mian, I've certainly eaten many examples. (g) My favorites tend to be the ones that are a bit darker in color with a tan cast, implying that they have gansui or lye water.

                            The email I just got re: Foo's book says, "Ms. Foo's noodle dough recipe is 3:1 flour to water, that's it." So it looks like our little group on Saturday is on our own. The intro to Foo's noodle section that I linked above does mention hard wheat flour and maybe we should use some durum flour.

                            I don't have much of a feel for flour, so I am especially grateful for all the tips you've shared, FK.

                            1. re: Melanie Wong

                              Interesting. Presuming Ms Foo measures by the more current method of fluffing, spooning, and then leveling, that would give a medium dough with all-purpose flour and a somewhat firmer or softer dough depending on whether you use flour that is made from harder or softer wheat. (I calculated it using a standard 126 grams of flour per cup for most baking books--not bread books--and 378 milliliters = grams for a cup of water. It is about the same as a typical formulation for French bread.) So perhaps anything from a medium to a soft dough will work. We'll soon find out! :>)

                              1. re: Father Kitchen

                                Rather sheepishly, I must report that I have little to report. Others took care of the dough making and rolling the dumplings and cats ears. Three batches of dough were made and for one, a proportion of bread flour was mixed the King Arthur all-purpose flour (which we understand has higher gluten than other brands). However, in the pinching, rolling, and stuffing frenzy, the batches got mixed up and combined and we lost our experiment.

                                How did your noodle experiement turn out?

                                1. re: Melanie Wong

                                  Melanie, I am just as sheepish. Friday I was able to get the Korean flour that Luke Rymarz recommends (from a Super H Mart in Fairfax), and I found a second copy, hardbound, of the Florence Lin book for only six dollars. I did cook, but time available was limited. And as I got out ingredients, I discovered that mice had gotten into our kitchen. (Field mice sometimes come in through our elevator tower when the weather turns cold.) So the time budgeted for noodles was taken up in cleaning and disinfecting and laying out traps. I hope before the week is out to make those noodles. So let us not give up!

                                  1. re: Father Kitchen

                                    Oh my! I had a much easier time of it than you. At least I got to EAT the dumplings and noodles even if I can't claim to have made them. They were plenty chewy and toothsome, as well as delicious, whatever their make-up.

                                    But the most impressive, I must say, was the husband and wife team who whipped up a batch of pate choux, filled them with pastry cream, dipped them in caramel, and assembled a croquembouche before our eyes.

                                    1. re: Melanie Wong

                                      Melanie, funny thing. Last night our convalescing brother cook was admiring some bread I put together and we talked about another brother who died many years ago. He used to make eclairs for feast days. Soon we were talking about choux pastry. Ah the wonderful things that can be done with flour!

                                      1. re: Father Kitchen

                                        "Ah the wonderful things that can be done with flour!" You are so right. I have to say, I've never stopped to think about it before, but the variety of things that one can make some combination of flour, water, yeast, salt, eggs, butter and milk is truly wonderful.

                2. I see someone else has got the "Hand-pulled noodle Bug" :)

                  Here's a thread that might have some random information:

                  I've found that the flour to water ration is roughly 3:1 in most dough. stone ground buckwheat noodles might need a little more water, and udon needs a little less water. It's not so much the exact ratio that's important, but HOW you mix the dough. There's the dripping-faucet method used for dumpling skin dough, and there's the fast finger-work for buckwheat, for example. The object is to get as even a hydration as possible with as little water as possible. This way you have a lot more control over the dough's texture, since it will relax and soften as it rests. When the dough is right, even at the cutting stage very little dusting flour is needed; when it's too "workable", then it tend to be too soft and want to stick together at the noodle stage.

                  Now, i want to try hand-pulled noodle making again....

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: HLing

                    Thanks for the link. I'm getting hungry just reading about it. :>)