Citizens, Biángbiáng noodles are a type of noodle popular in China’s little-known Shaanxi province. As noted on bingetherapy.com:
Shaanxi province is located in the land behind the shoreline that links the Yellow River with the Yangtze River, in the northwest of China. It means “West land of Shan” (shan means mountain). It is one of the cradles of the Chinese civilization and Chinese food culture. Often times, it is mistaken with another province named Shanxi as their pronunciation is differentiated only by tone.
Another fun fact is that Shaanxi cuisine is greatly influenced by the legacies left behind from thirteen feudal dynasties including Zhou, Qin , Han and Tang Dynasty. And because of the cuisine’s long history of being served as palace food, Shaanxi cuisine has a powerful punch of flavor, often sour and spicy flavor.
“Belt” noodles (裤带面 ku dai mian) are a Shaanxi specialty. They’re also known as “biang biang mian” due to the sound they make when being slammed against a metal table, written with a special, extremely complex Chinese character that doesn’t exist in dictionaries. Just like the name, they’re wide like a belt and somewhat thick with a good chew to them.
The noodles, touted as one of the “ten strange wonders of Shaanxi” (陕西十大怪), are described as being like a belt, owing to their thickness and length. The noodle is broad and hand-made and dishes with this noodle are often topped with lots of red hot peppers for the cold winter in Shaanxi. It was originally part of a poor man’s meal in the countryside, but has recently become popular in fashionable restaurants due to the unique character used in its name.
The character for “Biáng” is perhaps the most complex in Chinese – made up of 58 strokes in its traditional form (43 in simplified Chinese), the Chinese character for “biáng” is one of the most complex Chinese characters in contemporary usage, although the character is not found in modern dictionaries or even in the Kangxi dictionary.
The character is composed of 言 (speak; 7 strokes) in the middle flanked by 幺 (tiny; 2×3 strokes) on both sides. Below it, 馬 (horse; 10 strokes) is similarly flanked by 長 (grow; 2×8 strokes). This central block itself is surrounded by 月 (moon; 4 strokes) to the left, 心 (heart; 4 strokes) below, and刂 (knife; 2 strokes) to the right. These in turn are surrounded by a second layer of characters, namely 穴 (cave; 5 strokes) on the top and 辶 (walk; 4 strokes) curving around the left and bottom.
The Chinese character for “biáng” cannot be entered into computers. Therefore, phonetic substitutes like 彪彪面 (biāobiāomiàn) or 冰冰面 (bīngbīngmiàn) are often used.
Most of this recipe is adapted from one I found on the fantastic blog chinasichuanfood.com – I have tweaked the recipe to include bread flour for the noodles for more “chaw”, massively upped the amount of garlic to be more in the Shaanxi style and specified smoky black chinkiang vinegar.
Battle on – The Generalissimo
4 cups bread flour
1 pinch salt
1 cup water
1 whole head of purple garlic minced
2 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp black Chinkiang vinegar
½ tsp kosher salt
1 tbsp red pepper flakes
3 stalks green onions chopped
Bok choy or spinach
To make the noodle dough:
In a large bowl, mix salt with flour and stir in water by batches. I usually add 130ml firstly and then see whether the dough is too tough to knead. Less water indicates a chewier taste. Grasp everything by hand and continue kneading the dough until smooth. Forcefully please or resort to a standard mixer. Cover with plastic wrapper and rest for 20 minutes.
Knead the dough again for several minutes until the surface is really smooth. Cover with plastic wrapper again and rest for another 15-20 minutes.
Prepare a plate and brush some vegetable oil on surface. And then cut the noodle dough into halves and each half into 6 portions (as equal as possible and cover the other half with plastic wrapper to avoid drying out ). You will end up with 12 portions. Shape each one into a long log and brush oil around. Cover with plastic wrapper and let the noodle strip log rest for 1 hour.
Take one portion out, flat it and roll out to a rectangle. Press the center with a chopstick so we can separate the noodles later. Hold the two ends of the noodle strip and smash it against the operating board. You can slightly stretch it during the smashing process. But do not hurry; slow down so that you will not break it.
Separate the noodles along the chopstick trace line.
To cook and assemble the noodles:
Boil water in pot and add noodles in. If you feel they have shrunk, stretch each strip slightly. Bring the large pot to boil.
Add cold water once it boils again, then add green vegetable to blanch. The whole process of cooking lasts for around 4 minutes. Transfer out to serving bowl.
In the meantime, heat up 2 tablespoons of cooking oil in a small pot until slightly smoky.
Place garlic, green onion and chili peppers on top and pour the hot oil over the noodles (mainly on the chili powders). Add soy sauce and vinegar and combine well.
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