It's 1 p.m. when I receive a phone call from an anxious voice on the other end of the line, asking me where I am. It's Sky Kuo, owner of Plano's Noodle House, and he's wondering if I am still coming by to snap pictures in the restaurant's kitchen. I assure him I am en route and politely recall that our appointment was scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Yes, he remembers, but he's got 2,000 more dumplings to make and he'd like to move the process along.
|Photos by Kristy Yang|
|Noodle House's custom-made dough-roller.|
It's an understandable frustration. After all, he's been up since 7 a.m. getting his son ready for school, then making the daily trek from Bedford to Plano to work what will be a 14-hour shift. Normally, it's "only" a 12-hour day for the chef/owner at his restaurant, but today is when the week's dumplings and noodles are made from scratch. It's a twice-a-week ritual and requires all hands on deck. Dads, uncles and staff gather in the kitchen to pour, sift, knead, roll, cut and stuff. By the end of the day, 3,000 dumplings will be made, 200 buns will be formed, and more than 100 pounds of flour will be used for the noodles, alone.
When I arrived at the restaurant, most of the workers were taking a break while awaiting the blogger to show up before resuming their laborious tasks. Sky greeted me and ushered me directly into the back of the kitchen where his father was kneading thick sheets of dough in a massive rolling machine. Seeing the intimidating apparatus at work, I sheepishly asked how much a machine like this would cost and if this was in all Chinese restaurants' kitchens. He wasn't very put off by my questioning and rather proudly revealed that the rolling and cutting machine is one of a kind and was custom-made in Taiwan for his restaurant. Coming from a lineage of noodle and dumpling makers, Sky knew what type of machinery his restaurant would require and had a factory in his home country build him a contraption that his family had long ago patented.
|Noodle House uses more than 100 pounds of flour for a batch of noodles alone.|
The back room where the rolling machine is housed is also home to a long stainless steel table and a large sifting/mixing mechanism. Twice a week in this room, Sky's father pours hundreds of pounds of flour into the violently vibrating mixer then patiently watches as the flour blends with just the right amount of water -- as measured by eyeballing perfected by years of experience. He plops the resulting large balls of dough onto the rolling machine to be flattened. After numerous sheets of dough are pressed out, a helper lays the sheets in a tall even stack and uses a circle cutter to slice through the layers. The result is thousands of perfectly round dumpling skins. The extra dough is rolled back up, flattened back out, and used for noodles.
|Thin sheets of dough are rolled out for noodles and dumpling wrappers.|