There’s more than just Lo Mein and Chow Mein.
Thought Italy was the origin of noodles? Think again. In 2005, a 4,000-year-old bowl of yellow noodles was found in northwestern China, making it the earliest sighting of noodles ever found. With centuries to perfect the craft of making noodles, China is now home to over 30 different varieties of noodles. From Shrimp Roe Noodles in Hong Kong to Sweet Water Noodles in Chengdu, here are 10 types of Chinese noodles and must-try dishes to try when you’re traveling through China. Whether you like a dry noodle dish or you prefer a soup-based bowl, there are plenty to choose from.
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Guilin Rice Noodles
WHERE: Guilin, China
Guilin may be better known for its picturesque mountain landscapes, but Guilin rice noodles are a close second. As one of the most popular and affordable eats in town, locals eat it during any time of the day. The noodles are commonly made from rice flour and are long, smooth and shaped on the thicker side, similar to spaghetti. Try a bowl from Shengji, a grand Chinese restaurant in Guilin that offers the rice noodles to be eaten dry or in a soup. Pair it with your choice of meat such as Taiwanese braised pork, ox tongue, and Chinese sausages.
Tian Shui Mian
WHERE: Chengdu, China
Tian Shui Mian, meaning Sweet Water Noodles, is a classic street snack from Chengdu, the capital of China’s Sichuan province. This wheat noodle is served cold and usually plain, without additional toppings, but still remains flavorful due to the coating of sauces and spices that the noodles are tossed in. Eat it like a local by loading on the chili flakes, peppercorn powder and coarse sugar to experience the balance between hot and sweet. Get your Tian Shui Mian fix at 洞子口张老二凉粉 where you can choose to add hot, fiery red spice or keep it simple with a dash of soy sauce.
WHERE: Lanzhou, China
Hand-pulled noodles, also known as La Mian is traditionally made by hand by repeatedly stretching a lump of dough, turning it into strands of long, thin noodles. Although La Mian is served throughout the country, Lanzhou style La Mian is made with more aggressive slams and stretches compared to Beijing style. Due to the high Muslim population in western China, you’ll find finger-licking bowls of beef La Mian at Islamic restaurants such as 清真·松鼠家牛肉面.
WHERE: Xi'an, China
Commonly eaten as a side dish, Liang Pi is a cold noodle dish made from rice or wheat flour. Light and refreshing, the noodle is often served in a mixture of sauces, herbs, and spices such as salt, vinegar, chili oil, sesame oil and garlic. For a healthier, modern take on Liang Pi, 醉长安’s version includes freshly sliced carrots, cabbage, and cucumber and served with a light, vinegar-based sauce.
Shrimp Roe Noodles
WHERE: Hong Kong, SAR
Made of wheat flour, tapioca flour, salt, and shrimp roe, shrimp roe noodles is a popular Hong Kong noodle that is thin and chewy with a bounce to them. Usually served dry with a sprinkle of vibrant dried shrimp roe and spring onion on top for extra flavor, you’ll find this dish at no-frills Cantonese restaurants such as Ho To Tai Noodle Shop in Hong Kong.
WHERE: Yan’an, China
Known as one of the “eight strange wonders of Shaanxi”, Biangbiang noodles may have the most character on this list. Thick and flat, the chef hand pulls the dough, creating unique, uneven strands of noodles. Biangbiang noodles are usually seasoned with red hot peppers to fight against Shaanxi’s cold winters, so keep a bottle of water nearby or let the chef know beforehand if you can’t take spice! Noodle restaurant, 昌盛红岐山面 in Yan’an, a city in Shaanxi province serves up popular Biangbiang noodles with bean sprouts to give the dish more texture.
Wonton Egg Noodles
WHERE: Guangzhou, China
Wonton egg noodles is a particular type of Cantonese noodle that is usually served in soup with shrimp wonton dumplings and green vegetables. To ensure that the thin egg noodles are served al dente without any egg odor and taste, restaurants have to use freshly made noodles and follow a precise cooking process. When you get your bowl of wonton noodles, be sure to eat it quickly or else the noodles will get overcooked in the soup! 宝华面店 in Guangzhou will make your wonton noodle dreams come true with their wide selection of wonton fillings for you to choose from.
WHERE: Shanghai, China
Shanghai-style noodles are a thicker, doughier noodle that resembles the texture of Japanese udon. Made from wheat flour and water, this noodle is common in Northern China and can be served in soup or dry. One of the most popular ways of eating this noodle is by ordering a Shanghai fried noodles, a stir-fried dish made with Shanghai-style noodles, meat, bok choy, onion, and other vegetables. Try this dish at 长寿粗面馆 in Shanghai, where the dish is even topped with a fried egg.
Thick Wheat Noodle
WHERE: Beijing, China
Slightly thinner in size compared to Shanghai noodles, thick wheat noodles is white in color, smooth and differ in size and thickness with each restaurant. In Beijing, you’ll find the famous Zhajiangmian, translating as “fried sauce noodles” made with thick wheat noodles and mixed with zhajiang sauce, a dark soybean paste infused with the flavors of ground beef or pork by simmering it on a hot pan. Zhajiangmian is garnished with an array of vegetables such as cucumbers, bean sprouts, and green onion as well as protein such as chicken or tofu. 四季民福炸酱面馆 in Beijing specializes in Zhajiangmian, serving the bowl of noodles and the garnishes in different bowls so that you can add as much— or as little vegetable and sauce as your heart desires.
WHERE: Taipei, China
Originating from the Fujian province, Misua is a very thin, salted noodle that takes only two minutes to cook in boiling water. Eaten throughout Asia, it’s cooked during important festivals because Misua represents longevity in Chinese culture. In Taiwan however, the oyster vermicelli made with Misua has gained wide popularity by locals and tourists and is eaten as a street snack in day to day life. You can try this dish at 蚵仔麵線 in Taipei, a small business that offers big bowls of noodles with delicious oysters.