Chinese noodles

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Chinese noodles
Misua noodle making Taiwan.jpg
Making Misua noodles in Lukang, Taiwan
Place of originChina
Cookbook:Chinese noodles  Chinese noodles
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Chinese noodles
Misua noodle making Taiwan.jpg
Making Misua noodles in Lukang, Taiwan
Place of originChina
Cookbook:Chinese noodles  Chinese noodles

Noodles are an essential ingredient and staple in Chinese cuisine. There is a great variety of Chinese noodles, which vary according to their region of production, ingredients, shape or width, and manner of preparation. They are an important part of most regional cuisines within China, as well as in Singapore, and other Southeast Asian nations with sizable overseas Chinese populations.

Chinese-style noodles have also entered the cuisines of neighboring East Asian countries such as Korea (jajangmyeon) and Japan (ramen), as well as Southeast Asian countries such as Vietnam (hủ tiếu and mì xào are both examples of Vietnamese dishes that are of Chinese origin), the Philippines, Thailand, and Cambodia.


Nomenclature of Chinese noodles can be difficult due to the vast spectrum available in China and the many dialects of Chinese used to name them. In Chinese, miàn (simplified Chinese: ; traditional Chinese: ; often transliterated as "mien" or "mein" ) refers to noodles made from wheat, while fěn () or "fun" refers to noodles made from rice flour, mung bean starch, or indeed any kind of starch. Each noodle type can be rendered in pinyin for Mandarin, but in Hong Kong and neighboring Guangdong it will be known by its Cantonese pronunciation. Taiwan, Malaysia, Singapore and many other Overseas Chinese communities in Southeast Asia may use Hokkien (Min Nan) instead.


The earliest written record of noodles is from a book dated to the Eastern Han Dynasty period (25–220).[1] Noodles, often made from wheat dough, became a prominent staple of food during the Han Dynasty (206 BCE - 220 CE).[2] During the Song Dynasty (960–1279) noodle shops were very popular in the cities, and remained open all night. During the earlier dynastic periods Chinese wheat noodles were known as "soup cake" (湯餅), as explained by the Song Dynasty scholar Huang Chaoying (黃朝英) mentions in his work "A delightful mixed discussion on various scholarly topics" (Chinese: 靖康緗素雜記; pinyin: jìngkāngxiāngsùzájì, Scroll 2) that in ancient times dough foods are referred collectively as "bing" and differentiated through their cooking methods.[3]

In 2002, archaeologists found an earthenware bowl containing world's oldest known noodles, 4000 years old, at the Lajia archaeological site of the Qijia culture along the Yellow River in China.[1][4][5] The noodles were well-preserved.[1][4] After analysing the noodle remains in 2004,[4] it was determined that the noodles were made from foxtail millet and broomcorn millet.[6][1][4][5]


Chinese noodles are generally made from either wheat flour, rice flour, or mung bean starch, with wheat noodles being more commonly produced and consumed in northern China and rice noodles being more typical of southern China. Egg, lye, and cereal may also be added to noodles made from wheat flour in order to give the noodles a different colour or flavor. Egg whites, Arrowroot or tapioca starch are sometimes added to the flour mixture in low quantities to change the texture and tenderness of the noodles' strands. Although illegal, the practice of adding the chemical cross-linker borax to whiten noodles and improve its texture is also quite common in East Asia.[7]

The dough for noodles made from wheat flour is typically made from wheat flour, salt, and water, with the addition of eggs or lye depending on the desired texture and taste of the noodles. Rice- or other starch-based noodles are typically made with only the starch or rice flour and water. After the formation of a pliable dough mass, one of five types of mechanical processing may be applied to produce the noodles:

CutqiēThe dough is rolled out into a flat sheet, folded, and then cut into noodles of a desired width.
Extruded挤压jǐyāThe dough is placed into a mechanical press with holes through which the dough is forced to form strands of noodles.
PeeledxiāoA firm dough is mixed and formed into a long loaf. Strips of dough are then quickly sliced or peeled off the loaf directly into boiling water.
PulledThe dough is rolled into a long cylinder, which is then repeatedly stretched and folded to produce thinner and thinner strands.
KneadedróuA small ball of dough is lightly rolled on a flat surface until it is formed into the desired shape.

While cut and extruded noodles can be dried to create a shelf-stable product to be eaten months after production, most peeled, pulled and kneaded noodles are consumed shortly after they are produced.

Peeling thin strips of dough from a loaf directly into a container of boiling water to make daoxiaomian (刀削面) 
Pulling wheat dough into thin strands to form lamian 
Noodle maker in Peng Zhou extruding noodles directly into a pot of boiling water. 


A bowl of mala beef daoxiaomein (刀削面)

Noodles may be cooked from either their fresh (moist) or dry forms. They are generally boiled, although they may also be deep-fried in oil until crispy. Boiled noodles may then be stir fried, served with sauce or other accompaniments, or served in soup, often with meat and other ingredients. Certain rice-noodles are made directly from steaming the raw rice slurry and are only consumed fresh.

Unlike many Western noodles and pastas, Chinese noodles made from wheat flour are usually made from salted dough and therefore do not require the addition of salt to the liquid in which they are boiled. Chinese noodles also cook very quickly, generally requiring less than 5 minutes to become al dente and some taking less than a minute to finish cooking, with thinner noodles requiring less time to cook. Chinese noodles made from rice or mung bean starch do not generally contain salt.



These noodles are made only with wheat flour and water. If the intended product are dried noodles, salt is almost always added to the recipe.

Common English nameCharactersPinyinCantoneseHokkienThaiThai transliterationWestern equivalentDescription
Cat's ear貓耳朵māo ěr duǒmaau yi do-OrecchietteLooks like a cat's ear
Cold noodles凉面/涼麵liang miànlahng mein-Served cold
Dao xiao mian刀削面 / 刀削麵dao xiao miàndoe seuk meinRelatively short flat noodle peeled by knife from a firm slab of dough
Lamian拉麵lā miànlaai mein-เส้นบะหมี่ba meeHand-pulled noodles from which ramen was derived.
Yaka mein (Yat Ca Mein, Yet Ca Mein)-North American Chinese style wheat noodles similar to spaghetti; sold in Canada and the United States
Lo mein捞面/撈麵lāo miànlo meinlo mi-egg noodles that are stir fried with sliced vegetables and/or meats and other seasonings
Misua面线/麵線miàn xiànmein sinmisuaหมีซั่วmee suaLong, short, very fine VermicelliThin, salted wheat noodles (1 mm diameter). Can be caramelized to a brown colour through extensive steaming
宮麵gōng miàn
Saang mein生面/生麵shēng miànsaang mein-Soapy texture
Thick noodles粗面/粗麵cū miàncho meinThick wheat flour noodles, from which udon was derived.

Lye-water or egg[edit]

These wheat flour noodles are more chewy in texture and yellow in colour either due to the addition of lye (sodium carbonate, potassium carbonate, calcium hydroxide, or potassium hydroxide) and/or egg. This class of lye water noodles (Chinese: 碱面/碱麵; pinyin: jiǎn miàn) has a subtle but distinctive smell and taste, described by some as being "eggy".[8]

Common English nameCharactersPinyinCantoneseHokkienThaiWestern equivalentDescription
Oil noodles油面/油麵yóu miànjau4 min-Made of wheat flour and egg or lye-water; often comes pre-cooked
Thin noodles幼面/幼麵yòu miànjau meinThin lye-water noodles; one of the most common Cantonese noodles
Mee pok麵薄miàn báo-mee pokmee pokLinguineFlat egg or lye-water noodles
Yi mein伊麵
yī miàn
yī fǔ miàn
yi mein
yee min
yee foo min
ee mee
ee foo mee
-Fried, chewy noodles made from wheat flour and egg or lye-water
Shrimp roe noodles蝦子麵xiā zǐ miànha tsz min-Made of wheat flour, lye-water, and roe, which show up as black spots
Jook-sing noodles竹昇麵zhú shēng miànzuk1 sing1 min6a rare type of Cantonese noodle in which the dough is tenderized with a large bamboo log.


Rice based noodles can be:

  1. Extruded from a paste and steamed into strands of noodles
  2. Steamed from a slurry into sheets and then sliced into strands

These noodles are typically made only with rice and water without the addition of salt. Although unorthodox, some producers may choose add other plant starches to modify the texture of the noodles.

Common English nameCharactersPinyinCantoneseHokkienThaiThai transliterationWestern equivalentDescription
Kway teow粿条gǔo tiáokwai tiukway teowเส้นใหญ่Sen yaiRice fettuccineFlat rice noodles
Ho fun, Chow fun沙河粉Shā hé fěn-Rice pappardelleVery wide, flat, rice noodles
河粉hé fěnho funhor fun-
Lai fun瀨粉
lài fěnlaai fun-Rice spaghettiThick round semi-transparent noodle made from sticky rice
Mai sin米線
mǐ xiànmai sinBee suaเส้นเล็กSen lekRice spaghettiniRice noodles also called Guilin mífěn (桂林米粉)
Rice vermicelli米粉mí fěnmai funbee hoonเส้นหมี่Sen mee-Thin rice noodles


These noodles are made using various plant starches. Mung bean starch noodles will often be cut with tapioca starch to make them more chewy and reduce production costs.

Common English nameCharactersPinyinCantoneseHokkienThaiThai transliterationWestern equivalentDescription
Winter noodles冬粉dōng fěndung fundang hun-Thin mung bean vermicelliVery thin mung bean starch noodles
Bean threads粉絲fěn sīfun sze-วุ้นเส้นWun senMung bean vermicelliThin cellophane-like noodles
Mung bean sheets粉皮fěn pífan pei-Wide, clear noodles made from mung bean starch
Liang pi凉皮líang pí-Translucent noodles made from wheat starch left from producing gluten
Silver needle noodles銀針粉yín zhēn fěnngàhn jām fánSpindle-shaped wheat starch noodles, ca. 5 cm in length and 3–5 mm in diameter
老鼠粉lǎo shǔ fěnlóuh syú fánngiau chu hoon
Sichuan-style liangpi, a noodle made from wheat starch

Chinese noodle dishes[edit]

The following are Chinese dishes that incorporate noodles:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Roach, John. "4,000-Year-Old Noodles Found in China". National Geographic. Retrieved 12 October 2011. 
  2. ^ Sinclair, Thomas R.; Sinclair, Carol Janas (2010). Bread, beer and the seeds of change : agriculture's imprint on world history. Wallingford: CABI. p. 91. ISBN 978-1-84593-704-1. 
  3. ^ 黃, 朝英 (北宋), 靖康緗素雜記 2  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  4. ^ a b c d Ye, Maolin; Lu, Houyua. "The earliest Chinese noodles from Lajia". The Institute of Archaeology. Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Retrieved 12 October 2011. 
  5. ^ a b "Oldest noodles unearthed in China", BBC News, 12 October 2005
  6. ^ Lu, Houyuan; Yang, Xiaoyan, Ye, Maolin, Liu, Kam-Biu, Xia, Zhengkai, Ren, Xiaoyan, Cai, Linhai, Wu, Naiqin, Liu, Tung-Sheng (13 October 2005). "Culinary archaeology: Millet noodles in Late Neolithic China". Nature 437 (7061): 967–968. doi:10.1038/437967a. 
  7. ^ 使用硼砂替代品吃得更安心, 彰化縣衛生局 (Changhua county health bureau), 2008-09-04 
  8. ^ McGEE, HAROLD (2010-09-14), For Old-Fashioned Flavor, Bake the Baking Soda, The New York Times Company 

External links[edit]