Do You Even BiangBiang ? We're Talking Noodles!
To encounter your first biang biang noodle is to be surprised by its appearance: Of a farcical width, a single biang biang noodle is about as wide as a dozen or so uncooked spaghetti strands placed side by side. Hand cut and tenaciously elastic (these are wheat noodles), each strand possesses a density somewhat higher than that of a sheet of cooked lasagne. A typical serving of biang biang noodles might be just a single complete strand. Lathered in spicy chile oil, the dish is usually served with some sort of green vegetable—usually a head of steamed or wok-fired bok choy—to give it a pleasantly contrasting crunch.
As a humble staple amongst the working class, biang biang—and noodles in North China in general—emerged as a cornerstone of the local cuisine. Given the climate differences between Northern and Southern China, rice, so commonly associated with Chinese food, quickly transforms into a luxury as one creeps up the map in latitude. “Put simply, rice requires a lot of water, which is abundant in South China and relatively lacking in North China, says Dr. David Wank, a professor of sociology at Sophia University in Japan. “North China grows a lot of other grains, such as wheat, corn, sorghum, and millet.” So it’s possible to go for a long time in Shaanxi, the province of which Xi’an is the capital, without eating rice.
For the chef, making these extraordinarily wide noodles doubles as an exercise in dexterity. Once the dough is adroitly kneaded to give the noodles a calculated chewiness, the chef freezes midframe. Grabbing opposite ends of the chunk, he begins to slowly pull his hands apart, stretching the dough while flicking his wrists in a perfectly fluid motion. With each gesture, the amorphous white blob slams against the counter, causing it to extend longer and longer until it finally reaches its ultimate shape. For those watching, the chef’s tranquil motions are a fascinating counterpoint to the chaos that engulfs the activity—the vigorous slapping of the dough against the counter, the loud staccato cracks upon impact.
Here are Mister Chen’s you can watch the video to see exactly how our Chef makes them in house. If you haven’t tried them we recommend you stop by and sample them for yourself.