Food inheritance — Lanzhou hand-pulled noodles

Food inheritance — Lanzhou hand-pulled noodles

In 2002, a Chinese archaeological team made a startling discovery in the Lajia Ruins of Minhe County, Qinghai Province, which sent shockwaves throughout the world. At one of the sites, they uncovered an unassuming porcelain bowl, but the “treasure” beneath it had the potential to rewrite history. That “treasure” was none other than a food we now take for granted – noodles. This bowl measured approximately 50 centimeters in length and had a diameter of about 0.3 centimeters, with uniformly thick noodles. This discovery had a significant impact on the field of world archaeology, as these noodles, dating back over 4,000 years, came to be known as the world’s first bowl of noodles. As they spread along the Silk Road and through the passage of time, they accumulated the wisdom and craftsmanship of our ancestors, gradually evolving into the traditional handmade noodles we are familiar with today, imbued with a rich cultural heritage.

Noodles and the Silk Road:

  1. Approximately 4,000 years ago, the earliest known bowl of noodles was discovered in the Lajia Ruins of Qinghai. Research indicates that the world’s first noodles were made from millet, making a unique contribution to global culinary culture.
  2. Around 2,500 years ago, in the Silk Road hub of Lanzhou, a site called the Subeixi Ruins revealed noodles crafted by the local ancestors, who belonged to the Caucasian ethnicity.
  3. Around the year 1300 AD, Marco Polo introduced Chinese noodles and their production techniques to Europe. Marco Polo’s travels facilitated the first exchange of noodle culture between the East and West.
  4. Around the year 1900 AD, the Muslim Hui people residing in northwest China discovered that adding alkali produced from the ashes of desert tumbleweeds found in the Gobi Desert to wheat flour greatly improved the dough’s elasticity. This innovation made it possible to hand-pull noodles into strands as thin as candle wicks.

Lanzhou hand-pulled noodles:

Lanzhou, known as the “Golden City” and situated at the crossroads of Northwest China, has been a vital hub on the ancient Silk Road, fostering a rich tapestry of diverse cultures. However, amidst this cultural mosaic, Lanzhou has managed to unite people from all corners of the world with a single bowl of noodles, making it an integral part of Silk Road culture.

When a Lanzhou local enjoys a bowl of beef noodles, the first sip of the broth reveals its authenticity. The broth is meticulously prepared with tender beef, large pieces of beef bones, and leg bones simmered in a colossal iron pot, resulting in a fragrant, flavorful, and clear broth. The saying goes, “Guests from all directions will dismount their horses upon smelling the aroma and stop their carriages once they taste it,” and it perfectly captures the essence.

But did you know that the “Lamian” we mentioned isn’t the same as the “noodles” we commonly find in supermarkets? The noodles we buy are mostly machine-made, while Lamian is hand-pulled by skilled artisans who repeatedly stretch and fold the dough into various noodle shapes. This art demands mastery of ingredients to ensure the noodles don’t break during the pulling process and requires exceptional pulling skills to achieve consistent thickness and prevent the noodles from sticking together.

Originating during the Qing Dynasty in the Jiaqing era, Lanzhou Lamian stands as a symbol and gastronomic totem of Chinese culinary culture. Over more than two centuries, it has adhered to the enduring standards of “one clear (broth), two white (radishes), three green (cilantro and garlic sprouts), four red (chili peppers), and five yellow (bright noodles).” With its tender meat and fine-textured noodles, Lanzhou Lamian has earned a well-deserved reputation as the “Number One Noodle in China.”

About the Shapes and Texture of Lanzhou Lamian:

  1. Maoci (Hair-thin):

   – Hand-pulled 8 times, resulting in 256 strands.

   – Approximately 384 meters long, equivalent to the height of a 130-story building.

    -The diameter is about 1 millimeter, almost thin enough to thread a needle.

   – Beloved by those with a refined palate.

  1. Xifeng (Fine):

   – Hand-pulled 7 times.

   – Diameter is approximately 2 millimeters.

   – A timeless classic among Lanzhou noodles.

  1. Sanxi (Triple-fine):

   – Hand-pulled 6 times, with greater stretching.

   – The Diameter is about 2.5 millimeters.

   – Slightly finer than “Xifeng” but thicker than “Maoci,” tailored for discerning eaters.

  1. Erxi (Double-fine):

   – Hand-pulled 6 times.

   – Diameter is approximately 3 millimeters.

   – A must-order for hearty eaters in Lanzhou.

  1. Qiaomai Leng (Buckwheat Angular):

   – Hand-pulled 6 times.

   – A technical challenge for Lamian artisans.

   – Has a triangular cross-section, a favorite among creative and artistic individuals.

  1. Jiuyezi (Chive-leaf):

   – Hand-pulled 6 times.

   – Width is about 5 millimeters.

   – Resembles chive leaves and represents the flattened and wide noodle category.

  1. Erzhuzi (Double-pillar):

   – Hand-pulled 5 times.

   – Diameter is approximately 5 millimeters.

   – A choice for those who prefer a heartier noodle.

  1. Dakuai (Large-width):

   – Hand-pulled 2 times.

   – Width is nearly 50 millimeters.

   – Also known as “kelp noodles” due to its resemblance to kelp. The favorite of the working class.

  1. Baokuan (Thin-wide):

   – Hand-pulled 4 times.

   – Width is 15 millimeters.

   – Thin and wide, but still has a satisfying chewiness.

Where to eat:

Omni Noodle: 1800 Sheppard Ave E, North York, ON M2J 5A7

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