Dao Xiao Mian (Knife Sliced Noodles 刀削面)
What is it?
Dao xiao mian, which means knife-shaven noodles, is a specialty of Shanxi Province. The most authentic technique for making dao xiao mian is to hold a large block of dough downwards with one hand at about a 30-degree angle. The other hand, clutching a sharp knife (that’s specifically made for this purpose) shaves the noodles directly into a large pot of boiling water. It takes years of practice to cut the noodles quickly – it is believed that a top chef can shave 200 noodle strands a minute.
Why is it famous?
It is believed that knife cut noodles were first made at the beginning of the Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368), when the government confiscated all personal weapons – even knives used for cooking. Instead ten households were allowed to share just one knife.
One day, while preparing lunch, an old woman asked her husband to borrow the knife from their neighbour but found it was being used. On his way home the old man picked up a thin piece of iron. The two pondered how to use it and the husband came up with the idea of shaving the noodles instead of cutting it. In fact, the technique resulted in noodles thick around the centre but soft around the edges. Since then the tradition of making shaved noodles has been carried on in Shanxi.
One way to enjoy dao xiao mian is to coat the noodles with just enough sauce (usually a rich meat sauce). The noodles can also be eaten in a broth or in a stir-fry to highlight its starchy and bouncy texture.
Where to eat it?
In Beijing, Fenglinge is one of the most popular restaurants for dao xiao mian. The noodle shop is also known for Datong Yangza, another famous Shanxi snack. Yangza, which means organs of a sheep, are first cleaned thoroughly before going into a stew with shallots, ginger, chilli and a generous amount of salt, pepper and cilantro. The soup and stew are served with noodles. Address: 5/F, Wanda Plaza, Wuquan Road, Fengtai District; Tel: 86-10-8368-3506
Another popular dao xiao mian joint is Jinfeng Manor. While you slurp away the noodles, be sure to try its kao baozi (which means ‘baked bun’ in Chinese). The bun contains minced lamb meat and egg, seasoned with salt, cumin and peppercorn before it’s baked in the oven. Address: Shuanglin East Road, Xiaotuncun, Fengtai District, Beijing; Tel: 86-10-8369-5829.
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