When traveling to Shanxi Province (not to be confused with its neighbor, Shaanxi Province) this autumn and winter, the words “wool,” “fleece,” and “long underwear” quickly come to mind. Though Shanxi is located southwest of Beijing, Shanxi is in fact already much colder at this time of year than the Northern Capital. How, then, do visitors enjoy a trip to this province during the colder months?
Not to be deterred by weather, WildChina’s Alex G. set out to find ways to enjoy this compellingly historical province even in down-jacket-season. The secret? Shanxi’s fantastic local selection of specialty noodles. As wheat is one of Shanxi’s main crops, a wide range of noodle dishes are enjoyed here. Thick or thin, round or flat, pulled or sliced, these noodles can please, and warm, any visitor in this ancient cultural hub. The following dishes are some of the author’s favorites, which travelers can find in local restaurants or neighborhood street corners:
1) Kao Lao Lao: Kao Lao Lao refers to short and hollow cylindrical noodles that are crafted from buckwheat. Known for its unique, honeycomb-like shape – the noodles are all connected – Kao Lao Lao is first steamed and is then stir-fried with a variety of sauces.
2) Dao Xiao Mian: These “shaved noodles,” sliced from a ball of dough and then immediately boiled, are chewy, hearty, and taste great in any soup or sauce.
3) Mao Er Duo: As one might imagine, “cat’s ears” are small, curled, and resemble their Italian cousin orrechiete. They are often served with meat and vegetables.
4) Jiu Pian Er: To prepare this noodle dish, one simply pulls off small bits of dough from a large coil of dough and tosses them into boiling water. The result? Bite-sized morsels of wheat-y goodness.
Shanxi’s many types of noodles are traditionally served with a tomato and egg or spicy meat sauce (which vaguely resembles what might be the Chinese version of Bolognese). However, there are many more combinations of vegetables, meat and tofu that the province’s noodle chefs pair with their delectable wheat creations. No matter what type of noodle dish you choose, be sure to add a little extra flavor with another prevalent local specialty: Shanxi vinegar!