As our time in China is coming to an end (more about that later), I feel the need to write about one of my other favorite Chinese foods. After dumplings, noodles are a very close second, making me also happily hum while eating them, especially the spicy ones!
It has been the thing I craved most after many days of western food last Christmas. Perhaps it had something to do with the book I had just started reading; ‘On the noodle road‘ by Jen Lin-Liu, an enjoyable and often mouthwatering read where she goes on a mission to find out who invented the noodle. She travels, cooks and eats all the way from Beijing to Rome. Best not to read when hungry!
In China noodles can be purchased fresh in many places and I have often been intrigued by the noodle machines pulling the dough into long strands although not as much as by the chefs doing it by hand, making lāmiàn (拉面) or pulled noodles.
There are many different types of noodles for grabs in China, with just as many different names, depending on where you are in the country. There are about three general categories; you’ll find noodles made from wheat flour, rice flour or some kind of starch (usually mung bean). The last of the three are also known as cellophane or glass noodles, as they become translucent when cooked. Wheat noodles are probably the most popular in China, particularly lāmiàn, known in Japan as ramen. They are definitely my favorite ones.
Egg can be added to wheat flour noodles to create a more chewy texture and apparently this chewiness is sometimes achieved by adding a chemical called lye, which incidentally can also be used to illegally wipe a $10 bill so you can make a $100 one… (not sure if I want that noodle…).
Then I found this guy, who slices strands of dough into a boiling pot at the speed of light. He is making dāoxiāomiàn (刀削面) or pared noodles, a specialty from Shanxi province.
Apparently many years ago I laughed at people eating the instant noodle packs, fāngbiànmiàn (方便面) – literally translated meaning convenient noodle – thinking they looked terrible. Now I happily have some for lunch every day, although it can never beat a fresh bowl.
Luckily for us someone has already made the effort of finding some of the best noodles in the San Francisco Bay Area, the place we will be returning to soon. Jonathan Kauffman went on The Great Noodle Quest to find the bay area’s 21 best bowls of noodles. Hmmmmm, I can’t wait.
Have a nice weekend!