Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Biang Biang Mian

If you think supercalifragilisticexpialidocious is not easy to remember try the most complex Chinese character related to a noodle's name. This word is so complex it is not in any Chinese dictionary or any computerised Chinese type set. Take a look at one single Chinese word with 57 strokes!

This word reads as 'biang'


Biang biang mian (in Chinese charaters)

Biang biang* mian is a well known noodle from Shaanxi** 陕西 Province in China. It is famous probably due to the complexity of its name. Biang biang noodles is an ancient recipe, has been known for over a thousand years.

*Biang biang is not related or sounded like bang bang chicken.
**the terracotta army site in Xian is in Shaanxi province

It is still not clear how this weird and complex word 'biang' was created. Some said it was created by the restaurant who first made the noodles and gave it a weird name so everyone would take notice of it. There are also some folk tales saying the Emperor at the time created it. Here is a story quoted from this blog:

"One day, Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of the Qin dynasty of terracotta warriors fame, was sick and lost his appetite for all of the delicate food available in his palace. One of his servants got him a bowl of biang biang noodles, which were sold by vendors in the streets of Xianyang, the capital of Qin dynasty near present-day Xian. Qin Shi Huang liked the noodles so much that he designated the dish as a must-have food in the palace. After Qin Shi Huang recovered, he went to the street to examine how the food vendors prepared the noodles. After he saw the whole process, he proclaimed, "People in Qin are great, Qin will unify the whole country, and the Qin people will be united and bravely ride horses to win battles to protect the land of Qin. May the Qin people have biang biang noodles every day and visit Xianyang every month." Qin Shi Huang took a brush and ink and created a character for "biang" including parts of all of the words in his statement."

This word 'biang' is difficult to remember or write. There are several ways how people try to remember it by using rhythmic songs/poems i.e. breaking the word into its original simple pictograms (simple characters like English alphabets) which form the complex ideogrammic combined word; something like breaking the word 'biang' into small pieces of jigsaws (pictograms).

Here is one example of the song or poem:  


  • ( ' ) 一點上了天 (yì diǎn shàng le tiān) - 'A dot rises to the heaven', represents the dot on top of the word
  • (冖) 黃河兩道彎 (huáng hé liǎng dào wān) - 'The Yellow River has two bends'
  • (八) 八字大張口 (bā zì dà zhāng kǒu) -  'The word eight opens its mouth'. '八' is 'eight' is Chinese
  • (言) 言字往進走 (yán zì wǎng jìn zǒu) - 'The word speech enters'. '言' is 'speech' in Chinese
  • (纟) 左一纽,右一纽 (zuǒ yī niǔ, yòu yī niǔ) - 'Left a twist, right a twist'.  (纟) is the pictogram symbol for silk rhymes with twisting of silk
  • (長) 東一長,西一長 (dōng yī zhǎng, xi yī zhǎng) - 'one length east and one length west'. This character (長) means length or growth.
  • (心) 心字底 (xīn zì dǐ) - 'The word heart (心) at the base'
  • (月) 月字旁 (yuè zì páng) - 'moon by the side'. This character (月) can mean moon or month. 
  • (刂) 留個釣搭挂麻糖 (liú ge diào dā guà má táng) - 'a hook at the right to hang sesame candies', because this character (刂) looks like a hook
  • (辶) 坐著車車逛咸陽 (zuò zhe chē chē guàng xián yáng) - 'ride a carriage to tour the streets of Xianyang'. This (辶) is the character for carriage like car, horse cart etc... Xianyang is the formal capital of China in Shaanxi during the Qin Dynasty.

What is Biang Biang mian?


Biang biang mian is super wide handmade noodles about 4 cm. Some called it belt noodles. It's a poor man noodles with simple ingredients, flavoured with some chopped garlic, spring onion and a simple spicy sauce. The final drizzling with boiling oil bring out the flavour of the herbs and spices. Use freshly rendered lard for a even better flavour.

How to make Biang biang noodles?

Ingredients: (recipe makes 2 large bowls)

300g bread flour or high gluten flour
about 180 ml water
1 tsp salt 

oil for coating dough

Sauce:
3 tbsp light soy
1 tbsp dark soy
2 - 3 tsp Chinkiang vinegar
1/2 tsp chicken bullion powder, optional
2 - 3 tbsp warmed non salted stock or water
some sugar to taste

spice mix:  (amount of spice mix is more than enough for this qty of noodles, keep excess for future use)
1.5 tsp sichuan peppercorns
1 tsp fennel seed
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 star anise, break into small pieces
1 - 3 tsp chilli powder or chilli flakes (amount up to you and spiciness of chilli)

4 - 5  clove garlic finely chopped
2 - 3 stalks of spring onion finely chopped

about 1/3 cup of cooking oil or freshly rendered lard***

some green vegetable like pak choi

Method:
Dough is quite simple but must be stretchy.
  1. To make the noodle dough, mix flour, water and salt together to rough dough. Leave to rest for 15 minutes. Knead for about 5 minutes or till smooth and pliable.  If dough is sticky knead with a bit dry flour. Leave dough to rest for 30 min - 1 hr.
  2. While the noodle dough is resting prepare the other ingredients. Dry roast the spices (except chilli powder or chilli flakes) for 1 - 2 min till fragrant. Leave to cool then ground to powder with chilli powder or flakes. Mix the sauce ingredients together. Prepare the garlic and spring onion.
  3. Divide the dough into 8 pieces. Roll each piece into a standard sausage shape. Put some oil on a flat plate. Roll each sausage dough with oil. Leave to rest for few minutes. 
  4. Place dough sausages on clean working area, flatten and smoothen with fingers to about 2 - 3 mm thick 4 - 5 cm wide. Leave to rest for another few minutes. Press each piece again thinner to about 30+cm long, gently lifting and stretching the dough helps to stretch it further. Brush top surface of dough with more oil. Leave to rest for another 5 - 10 minutes. Resting at each stage helps the dough to relax so it can be stretched easier. Oil also helps to stretch the dough. 
  5. Get ready a pot of vigorously boiling water. Take a piece of flatten dough grip with both hands, one at each end of the dough, gently stretch as far and as thin as you can to a belt like noodle about 1 metre or longer.  When stretching, flip/swing the noodle up and down gently at the same time helps to stretch it easier. Drop the noodle straight into boiling water and cook for about 2 minutes. 
  6. While cooking the noodles pop in some green vegetable, blanch till tender.
  7. Put enough noodles and green veggie in a bowl. Heat oil/lard in a small saucepan till very hot. Drizzle some sauce on noodles. Sprinkle on some garlic, spring onion and spice powder. Finally drizzle on some boiling hot oil/ lard on the herb and spice mix. You will notice the oil/lard will sizzle in contact with the herb and spice mix. Mix and enjoy.
Mix and ready to enjoy

Biang biang noodles are cheap but tasty. Good fun to make too.

***To render lard, cut some pork fat into small pieces. Stir fry till liquid fat is rendered and pork fat meat turns to brown and crunchy pork scratching. The pork scratching can be added to the noodles to add flavour. 


3 comments:

  1. What an interesting and intricate character. Love the song too. Defo have to try this noodles when I get the chance.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Brilliant stuff. They look delicious; I'll definitely be making them soon.

    ReplyDelete
  3. What a complex character! The noodles look delicious too - I've never used fennel seeds in Chinese cooking.

    ReplyDelete

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