The story appears on

Page B11

February 28, 2010

GET this page in PDF

Free for subscribers

View shopping cart

Related News

Home » Feature » iDEAL

Noodles star at home, on film

THE recent hot New Year movie "San Qiang Pai An Jing Qi" by famous Chinese director Zhang Yimou, creator of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games opening ceremony, not only smashed box office records but also exposed to a bigger audience the already popular dish youpomian, Shaanxi noodles in spicy oil.

The film's English name, "A Simple Noodle Story," indicates the important role of the food in the movie. The dramatic acts of making the dough, cutting the noodles and boiling the oil in a big spoon directly over the fire all impressed viewers who have slavered over this simple but delicious dish.

Shaanxi cuisine is very famous for its various treatments of pasta, among which hand-made noodles in spicy oil is a very popular and traditional one in local people's daily life. Director Zhang and the film's lead actress Yan Ni are both Shaanxi natives.

Due to the straightforward character of Shaanxi people, the noodles are usually cut thick and wide and look like waist-belts. Compared with noodles from elsewhere, the Shaanxi version are called miantiao (noodles as thick as a bar), while those of other areas should be called miansi (noodles as thin as a thread).

Miantiao are not only tensile, tasty and savory but also are served in a very big bowl in large quantity.

Youpomian to Shaanxi people is like zhajiangmian (fried noodles with soy bean paste) to Beijing people. In Shaanxi, especially in its provincial capital Xi'an, youpomian can be found in nearly every local noodle restaurant: dry noodles usually seasoned with oiled, red pepper powder, white salt and vinegar. Some restaurants may add garlic and chopped onions to enhance the flavor.

Outside the restaurants, most Shaanxi local families are masters in rolling noodles or making a bowl of genuine youpomian. And due to different family preferences, noodles are given various flavors with the addition of homemade toppings and sauces, such as fried eggs, vegetables, fresh cucumbers, peppers and soy-bean sauces.

Though you can find a lot of these varieties in big cities like Beijing and Shanghai, it's best to try them in their originating environment.

In Xi'an, the most authentic handmade noodle in spicy oil can be found in a very small place called Biang Biang Noodle Restaurant. Biang Biang's noodles, touted as one of the "10 strange wonders of Shaanxi," are hailed as being like a belt, due to their thickness and length.

Made up of 57 strokes, the Chinese character biang is one of the most complex in contemporary use, although it is found in neither modern dictionaries nor the Kangxi Dictionary. The origins of Biang Biang noodles and the character biang are unclear. In one version of the story, the character was invented by the Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC) Premier Li Si.

The restaurant was opened in 1990 by a Shaanxi native from Liquan County, Xianyang City, and although there are now dozens of branches around the city, the most famous is its headquarters in downtown Nanyuanmen, Beilin District.

With only 10 tables, there is always a long queue outside. Youpo biang biang mian is popular due to its heavy, hot flavor, the texture of the noodles, the weird character of the noodle's name and, most important, the cheap price.

For a large bowl of youpomian, you just need to pay 5 yuan (73 US cents). And when you sit down to eat, you might think twice about picking up sticks for fear of destroying the presentation of wonderfully arranged noodles which are considered artworks in a bowl by Shaanxi people.

Not only local people but also many from other cities and countries who visit the city list this dish and restaurant as a must-try, in the company of other famous Shaanxi foods, like yangroupaomo (mutton soup with shredded bread) and liangpi (cold rice noodle in spicy and sour sauces).

There is also a very interesting saying in the region about cooking noodles. Old people say that if a girl can't cook noodles well in her own home, she is apt to be despised to a large extent after marriage. In some rural areas of Shaanxi Province, the most important thing for a grown-up girl is not to be able to sew clothes or weave a certain pattern, but rather to roll a full board of noodles. This interesting perspective underscores the important role noodles play in Shaanxi people's daily diet.

The other reason youpomian has become popular is that it is suitable as a homemade dish.

If you do not have the ability or time to make the noodles yourself - do not fear that you may not qualify to be a Shaanxi wife - just use Chinese fine dried noodles which are available in every supermarket.

The process is very simple: boil the noodles (you can also include some vegetables if you like), dry them and place in a bowl.

Put salt, red pepper powder, ground cumin powder and other dressing on top as you like, along with chopped onions and garlic. Then pour in the hot oil and they're done. And delicious.


Copyright © 1999- Shanghai Daily. All rights reserved.Preferably viewed with Internet Explorer 8 or newer browsers.

沪公网安备 31010602000204号

Email this to your friend