Scallion Oil NoodlesNoodles are ubiquitous today. You can find them in all parts of the globe prepared in thousands of ways. When we think of noodles, many westerners think of Italy with its hundreds of varieties of pasta. But at the other end of the Silk Road, here in China, the noodle is a just as popular and integral part of the culture. 
There is even evidence that China is the birthplace of the noodle. In a 2005 article published in the journal Nature, archaeologists talk about their discovery in northwest China of the oldest noodles ever found — over 4,000 years old! That was about the time that the Ancient NoodlesPyramids of Giza were being built. Interestingly, those noodles were made with two types of millet instead of the wheat we normally use today. Noodles have long been an important part of the diet in Northern China because rice does not grow well up there, so other grains have had to take over as the staple. 
With the advent of modern shipping and agriculture, both north and south enjoy rice and noodles. Today, you can walk down any street in Shanghai and it won’t be long before you see a restaurant or food stall selling noodles. In Shanghai alone you can commonly find hand-pulled Lanzhou beef “la mian” noodles (兰州拉面), fried sauce noodles (炸酱面), yellow croaker noodles (黄鱼面), knife-cut noodles (刀削面), scallion oil noodles (葱油拌面), sesame noodles (麻酱面), noodle soups and spicy dan-dan noodles (担担面), just to name a few. 
We have two major varieties of noodles. Mian (面) is the word for any noodle that is primarily composed of wheat including egg noodles. Fen (粉), is the word for any type of noodle that is made from rice flower, meng bean or any kind of starch.  
At Cook In Shanghai, one of our guests’ favorite activities is learning to make hand pulled noodles. Hand Pulling NoodlesIf you go to any Lanzhou beef noodle restaurant, you will see cooks turning a lump of dough into a bowl of noodles in seconds. It’s not easy at first, but with the help of our chefs and a little practice you can learn to make these fresh noodles at home. 
Dan Dan NoodlesAnother very popular type of noodle is the aforementioned dan dan noodles. The noodles themselves are a fiery Sichuanese invention that mix together noodles, spicy sauce, Sichuan peppercorns and sometimes sesame paste.  
The name comes from the word dan (担), meaning to carry over your shoulder. This is because vendors used to carry the ingredients for these noodles on either end of a long stick of bamboo that they carried on their shoulder. They would walk through the streets and shout “Dan dan mian!” and whenever someone wanted one, they would stop, put down their load, unpack the ingredients and make the noodles on the spot. Even though you won’t find people carrying the noodles on bamboo poles anymore, the dan dan noodle is still an extremely popular noodle. 
A final type of noodle that is very famous is the Long Life Noodle (长寿面). Knife Cut NoodlesWe eat this noodle instead of having cake on our birthday to represent our wishes for a long life. It’s a noodle made from high gluten flour and can be prepared a variety of ways. Tradition says that this custom came about during the Han dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD). There was a famous Sichuanese folk opera called Xiangshu, in which it is said that the longer your philtrum (人中, the grooved part on the middle of your upper lip), the longer your life. Because in Chinese, the words for face and noodle sound the same, it eventually came to be that people ate long noodles to symbolize a long face and therefore long life.  
We hope you enjoyed learning a bit about the history and making of Chinese noodles! What’s your favorite type of Chinese noodle? Would you like to learn to wrestling noodles into shape by hand? Come join us anytime for a cooking class!