In week 2 of my Mandarin course here at BLCU, we had a cultural lesson to explain the basics of Chinese characters. No prizes for knowing that like many other ancient scripts Chinese characters are pictograms, their current form represents what man thought the word looked like. But what on earth did the Chinese see when they came up with this character…
An internet search uncovered this entertaining post by Sunflower Food Galore who has a recipe on how to make the noodle from scratch, and relays an interesting background to the character. My first actual run in with biáng biáng mian was at local western supermarket BHG in Wudaokou. I spotted those crazy strokes immediately and had to buy a packet. Although they look slim in dry form, they do grow significantly when cooked.
And just when I thought I’d have to delve into the depths of Beijing city to find it served up, I spot it just round the corner from my apartment.
Xi’an is the capital of the Shaanxi province, also home to the famous Terracotta Army. So from the outset this restaurant bore all the right signs. It wasn’t hard to find it on the menu, they had it printed in pinyin as there aren’t any computer-generated scripts with this character!
Enveloped in a tomato-ey, beefy (and kinda oily) sauce, this was my kind of noodle. There’s a balanced spicy undertone of cumin and star anise, and my first version was a little sweet. I love the spring and the bite, and how it's impossible to slurp up elegantly.
If you ever find yourself on Xueyuan Lu up in the Wu (on the part in between Qinghua Donglu and Linye Daxue Beilu), you won’t miss the soldiers and the huge red biang character outside. And in the mean time I’ll continue to report back on future encounters with the biáng!