Thursday, January 27, 2011

Wuhan & The Curious Case of the Hand-Pulled Noodle

It seems like hand-pulled noodles are all the rage in the US at the moment. Even for us in Hong Kong it's always been a spectacle, available for viewing only at fancy/kitsch restaurants like Peking Garden (I don't think they even do it customarily anymore, only on special request). When I went to Wuhan late last year, I found that in some parts of China, hand-pulled noodles aren't "special" at all. It's just the way they, ahem, roll. (In fact they roll nothing, just thought it would be a funny dough-related giggle. Anyway, didn't quite pull it off, did I? Ok, I'll stop, I'll stop.)

These are just photos from a random Muslim beef noodle hole in the wall on Xinhua Lu, Wuhan. We ordered one la mian (pulled noodles) and one daoxiao mian (knife "shaven" noodles).

While the knife noodles were pretty wide, rough-edged, chewy, papparadelle-like shards, the la mian were neat, thin, uniform and less elastic strings. Incidentally, they came from the same brick of dough the size of a newborn baby (hmm, that's a pretty macabre way of describing it, but I can't really think of a better object of comparable size/weight...). 

I wonder if these dudes would find it funny or cool that the way they've always made noodles is suddenly so in vogue in New York (and ironically in Shanghai too).

By the way, don't you love the fuel barrel-turned-stove? It makes me feel like I'm living life dangerously even though I'm just having noodles. Sad. (It also reminds me of a laneway cafe/kopitiam called Toh Soon in Penang that charcoal grill their toast in a barrel. Mmm...)

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