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Beijing, China — My husband and I both come from ‘the land of rice and fish‘ — Hubei Province. As the alternative name suggests, we grew up eating a lot of rice and fish. Before I left home for university, I wondered whether my taste buds could adjust to food made from wheat, the staple in northern China, since I seldom ate delicious dishes made from wheat in my hometown. My husband felt the same way. It turns out, I’m in love with many foods made from wheat; so is my husband. Sometimes we feel a little bored of eating rice so we follow our cravings and eat noodles in a restaurant.
There is a popular saying in China:
“Good food made from grains is from China, while good Chinese food made from grains are the wonders from Shaanxi Province.”
We frequent a Shaanxi noodle restaurant, called Xīnyǒujìn dōu shí fǔ (辛酉晋都食府), certainly serves wonders.
Dāoxiāo miàn (刀削面, knife-sliced noodles)
I love dāoxiāo miàn (13RMB) dipped in sauce of eggplant and pork belly. The noodles have a slippery exterior and chewy center; soft but not sticky. The more I chew, the more delicious it becomes. The sauce, savory and fragrant, perfectly balances the eggplant with pork. Combine the dāoxiāo miàn and sauce together. It is only 13RMB ($2) for a big bowl!
Legend behind dāoxiāo miàn
Dāoxiāo miàn is a signature of Shaanxi province. Legend says Mongolians once intruded on Zhongyuan to establish Yuan Dynasty, they confiscated metals from homes of common people to prevent Han Chinese from rebelling and regulated 10 families to share one knife. The people had to take their turn using the knife then return it to the Mongolians for safe keeping. One day, an old lady used corn and sorghum to make a dough. She asked her husband to get the knife. However, another family was using it and the old man return empty-handed. As he returned home, he stumbled upon a thin iron sheet and picked it up.
At home, water was boiling in the wok and the whole family waited for the knife, hungry. The man was anxious and thought of the sheet! His wife found the sheet too thin and too soft and murmured ‘How can this slice noodles?‘
Her husband answered with frustration, ‘If you cannot slice, cut it with all your strength!‘
His wife had an idea. She placed the dough on a wooden board and held it in her left hand while gripping the iron sheet in her right. Standing by the boiling water, she swiped the iron sheet swiftly across the dough from which noodle pieces fell into the wok. As they cooked, she ladled them into bowls, added a sauce, and served her husband. While eating, her husband praised, ‘Perfect! Perfect! I do not need to ask for the knife any more.‘ Knife-slicing method spread throughout Shaanxi province and beyond. Nowadays, many people in Shaanxi, whether male or female, can make dāoxiāo miàn.
Tī jiān (剔尖, chopstick-tip twisted noodles)
Chewy jīng chǎo tī jiān (16RMB) is sautéed with shredded pork, bok choy, dark soy sauce, and onions. Tī jiān noodles absorb flavors of its accompanying ingredients at the right point. It is so flavorful! My husband especially loves this dish!
Tī jiān is one of many classic styles of Shaanxi noodles. Literally, tī jiān means ‘making pointed noodles delicately‘. It is usually made on a special board with a special pair of chopsticks. Chopsticks are used to twist off pieces of dough into noodles. Good quality tī jiān noodles are cylindrical with pointy ends.
Menu at Xīnyǒujìn dōu shí fǔ
Another great catch at this restaurant is guests can see clearly how the cooks make all kinds of noodles magically, while eating. The red window decals (photo above) are a menu featuring the following Shaanxi wonders:
- Zhōnghuá yī gēn miàn (中华一根面, one long noodle in a big bowl)
- Dāoxiāo miàn (刀削面, knife-sliced noodles)
- Zhuànpán tī jiān (转盘剔尖)
- Hóng miàn cā jiān (红面擦尖)
- Qiáo miàn māo ěrduo (荞面猫耳朵, buckwheat flour cat ears)
- Huáng mǐmiàn zhà gāo (黄米面炸糕, deep-fried cakes made from yellow rice flour)
- Yóu miàn kǎolǎo lǎo (莜面栲栳栳, nest-shaped oat flour noodles)
- Yóu miàn dūn dūn (莜面墩墩, oat flour rolls)
- Yóu miàn niúròu zhēng jiǎo (莜面牛肉蒸饺, steamed oat flour dumplings with beef filling)
- Yóu miàn sù xiàn zhēng jiǎo (莜面素馅蒸饺, steamed oat flour dumplings with vegetarian filling)
Xīnyǒujìn dōu shí fǔ (辛酉晋都食府)
No.14, Kexueyuan Nanlu, Zhichunli, Zhongguancun, Haidian District (Very close to Zhichunli Subway Station)
Chinese address: 海淀区中关村知春里科学院南路14号 Open 11 a.m. – 11 p.m. | 010-6257-8414, 010-6257-8413