Noodles in the south: The fifth station for gourmets in China
By Anastasia Wang
IN MY last post, I introduced to you the noodles popular in north China. In this post, we will go to the south and see what they have to offer. There are five most reputable varieties of noodles in China. They are the Beijing noodles, Daoxiaomian, Yifumian, Reganmian, and Dandanmian. You may be familiar with the first three from my earlier article on Chinese noodles in the north. So, let’s take a look at the last two varieties now.
Reganmian can be called ‘hot-and-dry noodles’ in English. Generally, it features as a breakfast dish in Wuhan city, Hubei Province. So, if you want to taste the very best hot-and-dry noodles, you must visit Wuhan and go to Cai-Lin Ji (Cai and Lin’s restaurant). It is not easy to make these hot-and-dry noodles. To begin with, these noodles need to be boiled until they are 80% ready, and then they are stirred in oil. During this process, it is important that every single noodle is wrapped in oil. Then, these noodles are dried. They are later boiled and cooked when desired. In my opinion, and in those of my friends, the best aspect of this dish is not the noodle, but its sauce. These hot-and-dry noodles are not served with soup, but mixed with a special sauce – the sesame butter – contributing hugely to its taste. As the Wuhan people prefer spicy food, it is common to see chilli sauce served with a portion of hot-and-dry noodles.
Chengdu, the capital of the Sichuan province, is the gastronomic capital of China. So how can we give noodles from here amiss? The special noodle in Chengdu is Dandanmian – Sichuan style noodles. Different to other noodles, Dandanmian is usually served as a snack rather than a main course. But this snack has a unique taste and is very popular. It is not sweet; it is fragrant, sour and spicy. Chilli is the spirit of the Sichuan cuisine, and snack as it is, the Dandanmian is not simple. The sauce’s ingredients include mince, sesame butter and vegetables. And the soup is obtained by boiling pigs’ feet. As it is sour, it is more suited to an appetizer.
Most Chinese noodles are salty. In the Guizhou province, however, they have sweet noodles – Taishimian. These noodles are white and thin, like fine hair of the elderly. They are therefore used as a token to wish elders longevity on their birthdays. The sauce is a mix of rose sugar, white sugar, sesame butter, peanuts and walnut. It is an arresting snack, isn’t it?
In China, noodles are not made only of flour, but also rice. There are two common varieties of rice noodles – Mifen and Mixian. Mi, “米” in Chinese, means rice. Although these two varieties are both made of rice, there are some differences.
Mixian is much thinner than Mifen; it tastes silky, while Mifen tastes comparatively sticky.
The best Mixian can be obtained in the Yunan province; and Mifen in Guilin city, Guangxi Province. These two provinces are renowned for their wonderful landscapes and cultures and are worthy of a visit – whether for food or view.