Mian’splained: An Illustrated Guide to Chinese Noodles

Part One

There are so many varieties of noodles in China — some made from wheat (mian 面), some made from rice (mifen 米粉) and oats (youmian 莜面), and others made from flour and starch. Some aren’t even prepared in the long, thin shapes you might expect.

Curious? Eager to learn more about Chinese noodles? Well, here’s part one of our illustrated guide to some of the most popular Chinese noodles.

Lanzhou Lamian  兰州拉面


Named after the capital of Gansu province, this is one of China’s most famous wheat flour noodles and is similar to hand-pulled Japanese ramen. Its signature springy, tender texture is made by stretching and folding the dough in a process that can take years to master.

Named after the street hawkers (dan 担) that traditionally sold these noodles, dandan mian are world-famous for their salty, spicy, and refreshing flavor profile. This dish is served dry and is as much about the noodles themselves as the minced pork on top.

Sichuan Dandan Noodles  四川担担面


Like dandan noodles, Chongqing xiaomian is a local noodle staple that lays it on thick with spice, oil, and minced pork. Chongqing noodles are usually drenched in a flavorful broth and heavy seasoning, and the noodles themselves tend to be slightly thinner.

Chongqing Street Noodles  重庆小面


Wuhan made international headlines for its association with the Covid pandemic, but it deserves more positive attention for its reganmian (or hot and dry noodles). Noodles are boiled and doused with sesame oil, scallions, and soy sauce, before being served dry as street food, usually as a breakfast item.

Wuhan Hot and Dry Noodles  武汉热干面


Shanghai Scallion Oil Noodles  上海葱油拌面


Shanghai’s scallion oil noodles are made with scallions and soy sauce — two cornerstone ingredients of Shanghai cuisine — and topped with extra fragrant scallions. Locals know to judge a good bowl of scallion oil noodles by how aromatic the scallions are.

Old Beijing Noodles with Soybean Paste  老北京炸酱面


These noodles are practically synonymous with Beijing and are one of the capital’s most beloved street snacks.  The secret lies in the zhajiang (炸酱), literally ‘fried sauce,’ made by mixing stir-fried ground pork or beef with thick, salty fermented soybean paste.

Shaanxi Oil Spilt Noodles  陕西油泼扯面


These noodles are named for the bowl of boiling oil that’s poured onto them after cooking. But to many, these are better known as ‘biang biang’ noodles. Thick, flat, and wide, a single strand of these hand-pulled noodles can sometimes be enough to fill an entire bowl.

Click the link below to read part one of our illustrated guide to Chinese noodles.