• Cantonese Chinese: Yi Min, Yi Fu Min 伊麵, 伊府麵
  • Minnan Chinese: Yi Mi 伊麵
  • Mandarin Chinese: Yi Mian, Yi Fu Mian 伊面/意面, 伊府面

Some time ago, I introduced Yi Min in the recipe “Cantonese Lobster Noodles 龙虾上汤焖伊面”. I could not find Yi Min in Belgium so I had to replace it with something far inferior. This time round, I finally found it and it was made by the renown Hongkong “Shou Tao” noodles maker.

Yi Min” is a Cantonese invention and it was originally called “Yi Fu Min” 伊府麵 – literally “The Noodles of Residence Yi”. And its origin can be traced to a real person.

Yi Bingshou 伊秉绶 was a government official who lived in the Qing dynasty from the year 1754 to 1815. Originally from Fujian, Yi learned under the greatest writers and thinkers of his day and quickly rose through the ranks in the Chinese civil service. He served in various provinces, notably in Canton and Jiangsu, and his rule was marked by fairness and transparency. When he retired from his last post as the Governor of Yangzhou 扬州 in Jiangsu province, tens of thousands of citizens came onto the streets to bide him farewell.

As a Chinese version of a Renaissance man, Yi Bingshou received poets, writers and thinkers at his residence everyday, as he encouraged and promoted the free exchange of ideas and the arts. According to records, when Yi was the county judge of Huizhou 惠州 in Canton, his cook was so busy that he accidentally drop fresh egg noodles into a pot of frying oil. To save time, the cook served the crispy noodles instead. Poet Song Xiang 宋湘 was at the dining table and he loved the new invention. He asked Yi if the noodles already had a name, otherwise, it should be named “The Noodles of Residence Yi” to honour Yi’s efforts in promoting thinking and the arts.

Hence, the precursor of the modern instant noodles was born!

As explained in the recipe, Yi Min is normally cooked in themen’ (stuffed) method, so as to absorb the flavours of the surrounding broth. Throughout the ages, Yi Min making has been perfected, as soda bicarbonate was added to its manufacturing process, such that it has a longer shelf life after was it fried and dried. Hence, Yi Min is different in taste to normal deep-fried egg noodles and is more absorbant.

Now that you know Yi Min, I look forward to presenting you with more Yi Min recipes using the ’men’ method of cooking!

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