For home kitchens, pulling noodles by hand is still a challenging task. For everyday cooking, hand-rolled noodles are the answer because they are relatively easy to make with just flour and water.
One notable hand-rolled noodle is the Sichuan-style dandanmian, which uses a dough of wheat flour, egg and water to make thin noodles that are then boiled and served with a rich, spicy sauce.
The Qishan noodle with minced meat topping in Shaanxi is a local staple — incredibly thin flat hand-rolled noodles with a smooth surface.
When cooking, fresh hand-rolled noodles are favored for their wet and chewy texture. The ones with a larger surface area can cling onto the rich flavors of sauces, while the thin noodles are perfect for soups.
Noodles with various shapes
Like Italian pasta, Chinese noodles are not always thin and long.
Daoxiaomian, or noodle shaved by knife, is a very popular flat noodle from Shanxi Province. It’s deemed one of China’s top 10 noodles and can be found in noodle shops across the country.
To make daoxiaomian, the first step is to make the large dough in a ratio of 150 grams of water for each 500 grams of flour.
After mixing them together, cover the container with wet cloth so the flour can rest a little before being rolled into a dough.
The knife used to slice the noodles off the dough is not a common cutting knife, but a special arc-shaped cutter.
The craftsmanship is critical in making high-quality daoxiaomian that’s neither too thick nor too thin, which requires moderate strength and a sense of rhythm to make every piece even.
Experienced chefs can shave the noodles very quickly and it’s a joy to watch all the noodles fall into the boiling water seamlessly.
Daoxiaomian is served with a variety of toppings including minced meat, egg, black fungus and tomatoes as well as bean sprouts and cucumber slices.
A touch of aged vinegar is essential to give the dish the unique Shanxi flavor.
The most famous daoxiaomian is found in the city of Datong. Here, the success or failure of a noodle shop depends on its minced meat topping recipe.
Although daoxiaomian is often cooked with fresh noodles, the dried form is also available for home cooks who want to recreate the delicacy.
And now, even robots have been developed to make daoxiaomian.
Cat’s ear noodle, or mao erduo, is a traditional noodle in Shanxi and Shaanxi that’s named after its unique shape which resembles cat’s ears.
After rolling the dough into a long strip and cutting it into small pieces the size of a fingernail, press the tiny dough on the kitchen board with a thumb and push upward so that it rolls to form one cat’s ear noodle. It’s easy and fast to make.
To cook cat’s ear noodles, simply boil them in hot water while making a simple stir-fry of desired meats and vegetables, toss the noodles in the wok to coat them evenly with the sauce.
Mashi is an alternative name for cat’s ear noodle in Shaanxi. It’s often served as a soup noodle in a sour broth made with tomatoes. Cat’s ear is also found in Hangzhou and often in stir-fried.
Cat’s ear also refers to a snack in which flour chips are fried in a swirling pattern.
In Shanxi, jiupian is a similar noodle made by pulling small pieces from the dough and boiling it in water. The thick noodles have a very chewy texture.
Miangeda, or dough balls, is the Chinese version of the Italian gnocchi. The small pieces of dough are mostly served in soup style with vegetables.
Fish noodle is a dough ball shaped like small fish or tadpoles, which can be stir-fried with meat and vegetables. In Shanghai, fish noodle can be found in some stalls in the wet markets.