In northern China, where Year of the Tiger is set, people don't eat much rice. In the past, ordinary families like the Li's thought they were lucky if they had noodles. In bad times, they ate porridge made from the husks (that is the outside) of the grain. That's about as tasty as potato peel. Meat was only for special occasions like Chinese New Year.
This recipe gives you a taste of Beicheng:Li Family Noodles
200g Hokkien or egg noodles
200g Chinese green vegetables, such as bok choy, washed and chopped
2 cloves garlic (optional)
2 teaspoons black bean sauce
1 1/2 cups of hot water
Prepare noodles according to directions on packet. (The Li family made their own by swinging dough into longer and longer ropes; buying them from the supermarket is a shortcut). Drain noodles and divide between 2 bowls. Put spoon of sauce on each.
Heat oil in saucepan. Add garlic then fry vegetables for 2 minutes. Add water. With water boiling, crack egg into soup. As soon as eggs turn white, divide vegies, eggs and soup between bowls, pouring over noodles. Stir very gently. Eat with chopsticks; slurp soup.