Rare and tasty fruit
Noodles are a form of staple food very popular among
the Chinese. They can be made either by hand or by machine and are divided into
“cut noodles” or “dried noodles” by the way they are made. Made in whatever way,
they maybe of different widths varying from ribbons to threads. As a prepared
dish, they can be served warm or cold, dressed with chili oil or not, eaten
with fried bean sauce, port or chicken sauce, duck chops, any soups, etc.
There are also a variety of “instant noodles”, which are precooked, dried and commercially packed. Before eating, all you have to do is soak them in hot, boiled water for a few minutes. This makes them very handy for a quick meal.
As noodles are always in the form of long strings, they are symbolic of longevity and are therefore indispensable at Chinese birthday parties.
Two types of noodles stand out among the rest and require professional skill. The “hand-pulled noodles” are probably unique to China and can be made only by a trained cook. He prepares the paste by stretching it in his hands, holding it stretched and shaking it gently up and down four or five times. He then drops down the middle of the long paste and swings it in such a way that it twists around itself. He repeats the stretching, shaking and twisting many times until he feels the paste is firm enough. Then on a work board he starts pulling the paste with his arms stretched. He folds the thick string of paste in two, pulling again. This is then repeated many times over and the strings of paste become longer, more numerous, thinner and thinner, turning finally into very fine noodles. The whole process of making “hand pulled noodles” is done with such magical dexterity that to watch an experienced cook doing it is like watching a juggler’s show.
Another specialty that takes years to perfect are longxu mian (dragon beard noodles). Commercially they are available fried, so they are golden in color, crisp to bite and with a distinctive flavor. “Dragon beards” are also hand pulled but are made extraordinarily fine. It has been calculated that a piece of paste prepared with 1.5 kilograms of wheat flour can make 144,000 hair thin noodles, each 17 centimeters long, which means a total length of 2 kilometers.
At the beginning “dragon beards” were simply called “beards” but since they caught the fancy of an emperor and as the dragon was the symbol of all emperors, they have come to be known as “dragon’s beards”.
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