Lanzhou La Mian (Lanzhou Stretched Noodles 兰州拉面)
What is it?
Lanzhou la mian originates from Lanzhou, Gansu, where an Islamic ethnic minority called the Hui live. Their religious belief means no pork (setting it apart from other Chinese cuisine where that meat is a staple ingredient). The emphasis instead is on beef and mutton. La mian, meanwhile, means hand-pulled noodle. So Lanzhou-style la mian usually implies a bowl of freshly made noodles served with beef or mutton in a clear beef broth (most restaurants will also add radish, a spoonful of chili oil, and a handful of coriander).
Why is it famous?
To make Lanzhou-styled noodles, the dough is worked very aggressively. Usually a young man is hired for the job, to pull the dough in straight, rapid tugs with little twisting. Some of the noodle-pullers slam the dough against their prep boards to ensure even stretching and a uniform thickness. Flour is added to dust down the strands and prevent them from sticking.
Lanzhou is also famous for niang pi, which is a type of thick and springy noodles that’s made (tediously) by separating the gluten from the wheat flour. The noodles is mixed with shredded cucumber and carrots in a sauce that is mainly made from sesame paste, soy sauce and a lot of chilli.
Where to eat it?
If you are in Lanzhou, be sure to check out the city’s most popular la mian joint, Mazilu. The restaurant is famous for its beef noodles (in fact, it’s also the only item on the menu that can be ordered there).
Address: 86, Dazhong Alley, Lanzhou, Gansu; Tel: 86-93-1845-0505. The restaurant is open from early: noodles are also eaten for breakfast. Dongfang Palace is a chain in Beijing that specialises in Lanzhou cuisine. One of the locations in the capital city: 2/F West Wing within Longfor Paradise Walk (a shopping mall) on Chaoyang North Road, Beijing; Tel: 86-10-5367-0605.
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