China is a paradise for food enthusiasts, with its renowned eight Great cuisines and a plethora of dishes and delicacies, including vegetarian options, medicinal foods, and street snacks. However, the culinary experience goes beyond lavish restaurant dining. China also boasts exceptional expertise and innovation in the realm of noodles, a simple yet immensely popular food in the country. Noodles are versatile, prepared using various cooking techniques, and offer an ever-evolving array of flavors. For an authentic foodie adventure in China, here are eight must-try noodles:
1. Stir-Fried Sauce Noodles (炸酱面)
Among China’s most celebrated noodles and an iconic dish in Beijing, stir-fried sauce noodles are prepared by mixing the noodles with diced vegetables and fried sauce. Complementing side dishes include cucumber, cedrela sinensis, bean sprouts, green beans, and soybeans. The fried sauce is made by combining ground meat, onion, ginger, and soybean paste. While stir-fried sauce noodles are particularly popular in northern regions like Shaanxi, Tianjin, Shanghai, and Guangdong, each place has its own unique twist on the cooking method. South Korea also features its version of stir-fried sauce noodles, introduced by Shandong’s overseas Chinese community, with black bean sauce as the seasoning and additional ingredients such as onions, shrimp, and meat.
2. Spicy Sesame Noodles (热干面)
A favorite among the people of Hubei province, especially for breakfast in Wuhan, spicy sesame noodles feature medium-sized, light yellow noodles. The heart and soul of this dish lies in the sesame paste. Other ingredients include salad oil, sesame oil, red oil, chives, garlic seeds, diced radish, pickled beans, brine sauce, light soy sauce, vinegar, and more. Spicy sesame noodles have a flavorful kick with hints of spice and saltiness. Wuhan’s hot dry noodles, Beijing’s fried bean noodles, Shanxi’s sliced noodles, Lanzhou’s ramen noodles, and Sichuan’s Dan Dan noodles have long been acknowledged as the top five noodles in China.
3. Shanxi Knife-Cut Noodles (山西刀削面)
Authentic Shanxi-style knife-cut noodles are known for their distinctive taste. The dough is kneaded into a firm consistency, formed into logs, and then sliced into medium-thick pieces that are boiled until cooked. Once the noodles are ready, minced meat and seasonings are added for extra flavor. Shanxi knife-cut noodles are also referred to as “emperor’s son-in-law noodles.” Legend has it that these noodles were created by Chai Shao, the husband of a Tang Dynasty princess. Resembling willow leaves, the noodles were cut using a knife, hence their name.
4. Handmade Lanzhou Noodles (兰州拉面)
Witnessing the creation of handmade noodles is nothing short of a spectacle. The dough is meticulously twisted, stretched, and folded until it transforms into delicate strands. Complementing the noodles are a medley of toppings such as sliced cucumber, chili oil, eggs, beef, and fragrant coriander leaves. The soup, made from simmered cattle or sheep bones, infuses every bite with rich flavor. Lanzhou Handmade Noodles undeniably reigns as China’s most beloved noodle dish, making its presence known in nearly every city across the nation. It has rightfully earned its place as a staple in Chinese fast food.
5. Adventurous Dan Dan Noodles (担担面)
Originating from the gourmet city of Chengdu, Dan Dan Noodles have become a quintessential masterpiece of Sichuan Cuisine. Hand-rolled noodles take center stage, adorned with a symphony of flavors including fiery red chili oil, velvety sesame paste, and fragrant chopped green onions. Legend has it that Dan Dan Noodles were crafted by a street vendor named Chen Baobao in Zigong, back in 1841. On one end of Baobao’s carrying pole, a coal stove simmered beneath a copper pot. The pot was partitioned with two grids, one brewing noodles and the other stewing chicken. At the other end of the pole, chopsticks, spices, and a dishwashing bucket completed the unique setup.
6. Pian Er Chuan Noodles (片儿川)
Hailed as a beloved delicacy in the enchanting city of Hangzhou, Pian Er Chuan Noodles revel in the harmony of light broth and delectable toppings like fresh potherb mustard, tender bamboo shoots, and succulent lean meat. The century-old kuiyuanguan (奎元馆面店) Restaurant proudly showcases Pian Er Chuan Noodles as its signature creation, unanimously acclaimed as the ultimate haven for savoring this exquisite dish.
7. Harmonious Stewed Noodles (烩面)
A renowned noodle delicacy in China, Stewed Noodles symbolize the traditional flavors of Yu Cuisine in Henan province, located in Central China. This dish magically melds together meat, vegetables, soup, noodles, and rice. Variations of Stewed Noodles include mutton, beef, and five-delicacies. At the heart of this dish lies the soulful broth. Tender mutton and lamb bones simmer for over five hours, infused with a blend of aromatic Chinese herbs. The resulting soup boasts a pristine white hue akin to milk, hence earning the nickname “white soup.” During the cooking process, the noodles are lovingly dropped into the original broth, accompanied by sliced kelp, tofu, vermicelli, coriander, quail eggs, sea cucumber, squid, and other delectable garnishes. Finally, the dish is served alongside a selection of condiments like coriander, chili oil, and sugared garlic to elevate its flavors.
8. Wonton Noodles (馄饨面)
Renowned for its culinary delights, Hong Kong and Canton are most famously associated with Wonton Noodles. The allure of these delectable noodles lies not only in their taste, but also in their meticulous preparation. The foundation of a perfect bowl of wonton noodles lies in its key components, which I have aptly named the “three characteristics.” Firstly, the noodles themselves must be crafted from silver bamboo, offering a distinct texture and aroma that cannot be replicated. This unique choice of material elevates the overall experience and sets it apart from any other noodle dish. Moving on to the star of the show, the wonton stuffing demands utmost attention. It is a flawless blend of lean meat, shrimps, crabs, or various other treasures from the sea. Each morsel is lovingly wrapped in a delicate egg yolk cocoon, ensuring a burst of flavors with every bite. This harmonious composition of three-parts fat and seven-parts lean pork creates an unparalleled taste sensation. Completing this symphony of flavors is the soup, an essential component that ties everything together. The soup base, a result of patient and time-honored cooking techniques, features a braise of flounder and pig bones. This remarkable combination yields a broth that is both rich and nourishing, culminating in a soup that brims with depth and complexity. If you’re craving more culinary adventures, consider exploring these tantalizing options:
- Discover the Top 10 Most Popular Hot Pot in China, a melting pot of flavors that will ignite your taste buds and warm your soul.
- Embrace the traditions of the Chinese New Year through its symbolic cuisine with the Chinese New Year Food: Top 6 Foods to Bring You Good Fortune.
- Indulge in the diverse and enticing world of vegetarian Chinese food with the Most Popular Vegetarian Chinese Food, where plant-based creations take center stage.
- Savor the best of Halal Chinese cuisine with the Halal Chinese Food, a fusion of flavors that caters to diverse palates.
To truly immerse yourself in the world of Chinese culinary delights, embark on these highly recommended China Food tours:
- Embark on a tantalizing journey with the 10-day Taste of China Top Cuisines, where you’ll experience the epitome of Chinese gastronomy.
- Unleash your inner foodie and delve deep into the art of Chinese cooking with the 15-day China Cooking & Foodie Tour, a culinary adventure like no other.