Friday, April 18, 2008
Chinese Food: Beef Noodles 牛肉面
Whenever I am asked "why do you like China?", there are two things I never fail to mention: the people, and the food. I haven't done quite enough traveling to know for certain, but surely China has one of the world's finest cuisines. But "Chinese food" encompasses a huge variety of foods. Each region in China has its own particular cuisine, and even particular cities usually have their own specialties. If I go to a nice restaurant in town, the menu will have dozens or possibly hundreds of dishes, some unique just to that restaurant. Though we undoubtedly have the occasional craving for Western dishes not available in such a remote place, I feel that we are pretty spoiled in the food category in Zhangye. In Shanghai for example, I'm not alone in thinking the Chinese food is at best mediocre, though of course they have the advantage of a fantastic international selection. At any rate, food being as important as it has been in my life in China, I thought I might write a few posts describing some of our favorite dishes, starting with niuroumian, or "beef noodles."
This is a local favorite with students, as it originated in this province (the city of Lanzhou) and is one of the cheapest meals you can get, usually going for around 2.5 yuan (or around 30 cents US). I didn't care for it at first as it is pretty spicy by American standards (note the red hot sauce in the picture), but I got used to it and it eventually grew on me. It's also not particularly filling, consisting mostly of some thin noodles and small scraps of beef in a soup, but it makes a great late lunch. Below is an old video I took at a small beef noodle shop during my first year in China. My friend Andrew and I befriended the owner, so he was happy to oblige my filming of some noodle making. Towards the end he can be heard announcing excitedly, "Lanzhou hand-pulled beef noodles!"