Chinese noodle refers to noodle or pasta dishes from the Chinese cuisine. They can be differentiated from Western pasta dishes by usage of ingredients such as soy sauce, vinegar, ginger, peanut butter or fish sauce. Pasta dishes in China may be prepared by stir frying, deep frying or boiling, and they form a part and parcel of the daily diet of Chinese people. Noodles is the term used for the Chinese form of pasta, and egg noodles, ramen noodles or vermicelli noodles are the most often used varieties.
Pasta is not a new form of food for Chinese, and mention of Chinese pasta can be found in the journals of Marco Polo, who wanted to import them to America.
Various different regions of China have their own local adaptations of the dish.
History of Chinese Noodles
One or the other variant of noodles are popular throughout the world, and so many of the European and Asian countries have staked claim for being the original makers of the noodles. Italians, Arabs and Chinese are strong contenders for the title of makers of noodles. It is still not clear as who came up with the idea of combining water and flour to make noodles. The Arabs claim that they were the first to use dried pastas for preserving flour during their long journeys across the dessert. But the first recorded mention of noodles occurs in Chinese historical texts which were written between AD 25 and 220, during the reign of East Han Dynasty. It is believed that during the reign of Song Dynasty (960-1279) the noodle shops in China were very popular and they rarely closed even during nights. Some historians debate that the Italians started making pasta only after getting inspired from Marco Polo’s write-ups about Chinese noodle.
In October 2005, archaeologists identified traces of noodles from 4000 year old artifacts, during an excavation at Lajja archaeological site at Qinghai province of China. These noodles were made up of broomcorn millet and foxtail millet. Nowadays, the millet is rarely used for noodle preparation in any of the Chinese homes.
Types of Chinese Noodles
The noodles in China are collectively known as mien, and they are place under following categories:
- Wheat Flour Noodles: These noodles are prepared with water and wheat flour. Salt is added to the product if dried version of wheat flour noodles is intended. These noodles are popular in north of China, where wheat grows in abundance. Depending on the choice of combining ingredients and the purpose, the wheat noodles can be made yellow or white; thick, like fettuccine; or thin like spaghetti, or very elastic.
Rice Based Noodles: These noodles are basically prepared from rice-flour, water and salt. They can be prepared in two ways:
1. By extruding the paste and steaming them.
2. By streaming the sheets made from rice paste and the slicing them into strands. The hand pulled noodles are also popular in China and they are made by stretching out the rice paste between hands.
- Egg or lye-water based noodles: These noodles are yellow in color and have chewy texture. Also, they have very subtle but distinctive taste.
- Starch Noodles: This variant of Chinese noodles is prepared with plant starches. Mung bean starch and tapioca starch are commonly used in the preparation of these noodles.
Ingredients and Preparation
Pasta, usually long noodle shaped one, sesame oil, soy sauce, rice or white wine vinegar, sherry, red pepper, ginger, onions, bean sprouts, water chestnuts, peanut butter and fish sauce are some of the commonly used ingredients for making Chinese pasta. Most of these ingredients are distinct to the Chinese cuisine and very different from ingredients used in European or American versions.
Chinese pasta dishes typically consist of cooked noodles, which are stir fried with vegetables and/ or meats of different kinds and seasoned with ingredients such as those mentioned above. They may also be simply boiled and served with a sauce made by combining together ingredients such as soy sauce, vinegar, ginger, garlic, sesame oil and seasonings. Many permutations and combinations of the sauce are used. There are variations that involve frying of the noodles and others serving them in the form of noodle soups.
Popular Chinese Pasta Dishes
- Dandan Noodles: These belong to the Chinese Sichuan cuisine, and consist of noodles in a spicy sauce made with chili oil, Sichuan pepper, minced pork and preserved vegetables.
- Chow Mein Noodles: This is a popular dish of stir fried noodles, which has also been adopted by the American cuisine.
- Chinese Peanut Noodles: This form of Chinese pasta includes a sauce made ingredients like with peanut butter, chili garlic paste, fermented fish sauce and scallions. Another popular combination includes peanut butter, soy sauce, vinegar and broth.
- Chinese Fried Noodles: This version is made by frying noodles in heated oil till golden brown, and then serving with stir fried bean sprouts, chicken, cubed pork or vegetables of one's choice.
- Hand pulling of noodles is considered an art in China, where noodles are prepared by stretched dough by whirling actions of the hand.
- Long noodles are served to guests during Chinese New Year to wish them long life and a luck-filled year.Noodles are also served on marriages, birthdays, and at gravesites too.