I adore noodles, and the thicker and wider, the better. I love pappardelle, I often crave hor fun (河粉), and I put whole wonton skins in my soups because NOODLES. When I ran across some wide “Shaanxi” noodles at the grocery store I bought them without even hesitating—they’re wide, bulky noodles. I needed a soup base to go with them, so I threw together some delicious things to make one up.
Shaanxi province is in the North of China, between Shanxi (not a typo) and Sichuan. The city of Xi’an is in Shaanxi (famous for the Teracotta Warriors), and it was the final destination of the Long March led by Mao Zedong in the 1930s. In this part of China, noodles are more common than the rice traditionally associated with Chinese food, and the noodles are thicker and longer than many other types of Chinese noodles. MOAR NOODLEZ FTW.
I did some research on the Shaanxi noodles and discovered these wide, thick noodles are gifted with a unique name, biangbiang mian:
Made up of 58 strokes, the Chinese character for biáng is one of the most complex Chinese characters in contemporary usage…The Chinese character for biáng cannot be entered into computers. Therefore phonetic substitutes like 彪彪面 (biāobiāo miàn) or 冰冰面 (bīngbīng miàn) are often used…
The noodles’re easy to cook, and satisfyingly chewy and Q (read more about Q, one of my favorite Chinese words, at the bottom of this post)…a lot like flat udon or hor fun, with a bit more tooth. Suddenly one of my favorite noodles, TBH. The package I bought had the noodles separated into portion-sized balls, and they were perfectly apportioned for an average serving (I weighed them for this recipe).
Note: The portions didn’t look like much in the package; one ball looked like a tiny serving. But once cooked, this tiny ball of noodles filled the bowl nicely. Noodle rule: noodles are deceptively more than they seem! I’d like to think I’m an “expert” noodle-r and I still think to myself, no way that’s enough noodles. (On the bright side, if you have extra, you can make more broth tomorrow, and have them again! YAY!)
Since my taste runs more to the southern provinces of China and SE Asia, than north-central China (and idk how to cook northern Chinese food), I served these noodles with a broth with typical Taiwanese flavors and a bit of seafood for protein.
The night I made this, I very much missed Taiwanese street food, which is often characterized by one (or both) of the flavors from 5 Spice powder and fried onions. Either of these flavors can bring back the memories of night markets of Taiwan in a moment.
This dish also qualifies as lazynomz (because it uses largely premade/frozen ingredients) and is finished in twenty-ish minutes. I hope you love it as much as I do!
- ½ c frozen corn
- ½ c frozen peas (or other frozen green veggie)
- 5 oz Shaanxi noodles, cooked per package instructions
- 1 c frozen, pre-cooked seafood (shrimp, langostino (pictured), crab)
- 4½ cups water
- 3-4 onion bouillon cubes (I used Knorr, and they come in little ¾" cubes) or other onion stock
- ½ tsp five spice
- ¼ c fried onions (You can probably substitute French's if you can't find the Asian version)
- cracked pepper/chili paste to taste
- 1 large phở bowl (64-72 oz, about a half-gallon)
- soup spoon
- Boil the noodles per package instructions (usually 8-10 minutes).
- While that cooks, put the frozen peas and corn in a bowl underneath a colander. You will blanch them with the boiling water from the pasta. If you have frozen pre-cooked seafood, drop that in there, too. The idea here is to heat it all up, but not to overcook it.
- Heat the water for the broth in a separate pot, adding all "broth" ingredients and bringing to a boil. After it boils, let it simmer on low until the noodles are done.
- Drain the noodles into the colander above the frozen veggies and seafood. Take the bowl with the veggies out from under the colander, and rinse the noodles in cold water to stop the cooking. The noodles should be al dente so they don't turn to mush in the soup.
- Now pour the veggies into the colander as well.
- Place your noodles in the large soup bowl, and then drain the veggies and seafood in the colander. Pour in the soup and serve piping hot.
Taste the soup before you serve it in the bowls – if it’s too salty, add hot water; if it’s not salty enough, add some soy sauce. This combination pairs well with lighter wheat beers, sake and soju. The flavors are delicate, but you can add chili paste for spice or hoisin for sweetness. Treat this as you would treat a bowl of phở and you’ll be just fine.
I haven’t tried adding lime juice, but I’ve added several types of veggies, and it’s hard to go wrong. Chicken with chicken broth would also be good, or you could use beef and beef stock for a more robust flavor in the dead of winter or if you wanted a darker beer.
From my research, the adjective commonly written as “Q” is from the Hokkien (福建話) dialect, which is closely related to Teochew (潮州話) from southern Fujian province, and is spoken by many in SE Asia. The character for Q is「食邱」and pronounced “kiu”, the same as the English letter “Q”. It’s slang for “chewy”, similar to al dente in texture. You can see it in example phrases such as “Q感十足” (very chewy). You would expect foods such as tapioca pearls (boba), jelly candies, pasta, or rice to be described as “Q”. This term is more popular in Taiwan and Hong Kong.
Years ago my Taiwanese student of English, Wennie, taught me this word using her fingers to illustrate the concept. I don’t have the words to describe the motion accurately except to say it was a delicate chomp, if such a thing is possible. Bite a boba or gummy bear and you’ll know Q.