Jose Mier Starts Off With A “Biang” in Sun Vallley

Noodle dish recipe Jose Mier Sun Valley, CA

A Comprehensive Guide to Different Types of Noodles in Chinese Cooking

Jose Mier and his Sun Valley, CA kitchen are known for many types of cuisines. In Chinese cooking, noodles are often the primary ingredient and Jose Mier’s search for interesting noodle dishes has led him to this Biang Biang noodle recipe on the Food and Wine site. That’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to noodles and Chinese food.

Chinese cuisine is renowned for its diversity and complexity, reflecting the vast and varied landscape of China itself. Among the many staples of Chinese cooking, noodles hold a special place. They are not just a source of sustenance but also a symbol of longevity and prosperity in Chinese culture. From the bustling streets of Beijing to the serene villages of Guangdong, noodles are a culinary thread that weaves together the rich tapestry of regional flavors and traditions. This comprehensive guide will delve into the different types of noodles used in Chinese cooking, exploring their unique characteristics, regional variations, and culinary applications.

Noodle dish recipe Jose Mier Sun Valley, CA
Noodle dish recipe Jose Mier Sun Valley, CA

Wheat Noodles

1.1. Lo Mein

Lo mein, which translates to “tossed noodles,” is a versatile type of wheat noodle known for its chewy texture. These noodles are typically boiled until soft, then tossed with a savory sauce and a variety of ingredients such as vegetables, meat, and seafood. Lo mein is a staple in both Northern and Southern Chinese cuisine, and its preparation can vary widely depending on regional preferences. In Northern China, it might be more robust with hearty, meat-based sauces, while in Southern China, it could be lighter with more emphasis on seafood and fresh vegetables.

1.2. Chow Mein

Chow mein means “fried noodles,” and this dish can be found in many different forms across China. The noodles used for chow mein are first parboiled, then stir-fried until they develop a slightly crispy texture. The cooking method gives chow mein its characteristic crunch, which contrasts beautifully with the softer ingredients like sautéed vegetables, meats, and aromatic sauces. There are two main styles: the softer, saucier version found in Southern China and the drier, crispier version popular in the north.

1.3. Shanghai Noodles

Shanghai noodles, also known as cu mian, are thick, chewy wheat noodles that are a staple in Shanghai cuisine. These noodles are typically stir-fried or used in soups. When stir-fried, they are often paired with robust ingredients such as pork, cabbage, and soy-based sauces, creating a hearty and comforting dish. Shanghai noodles are celebrated for their ability to absorb flavors, making them a favorite for richly flavored and aromatic dishes.

Rice Noodles

2.1. Vermicelli (米粉, Mǐfěn)

Rice vermicelli, known as mifen, are thin rice noodles that are incredibly versatile. They are used in a variety of dishes, from stir-fries to soups to salads. In Southern China, they are often used in light, clear broths, absorbing the delicate flavors of the ingredients. Vermicelli is also popular in street food, where it is often stir-fried with vegetables, meats, and spicy sauces, creating a quick and flavorful meal.

2.2. Ho Fun (粉, Héfěn)

Ho fun, also known as wide rice noodles, are a signature of Cantonese cuisine. These broad, flat noodles have a tender texture and are often used in stir-fries and soups. One of the most famous dishes featuring ho fun is “beef chow fun,” where the noodles are stir-fried with marinated beef, bean sprouts, and scallions in a savory soy sauce. Ho fun is also used in soups, where its wide surface area helps to soak up the rich, aromatic broths.

2.3. Mei Fun (米粉, Mǐfěn)

Mei fun, or rice stick noodles, are thin rice noodles that are commonly used in both Southern Chinese and Southeast Asian cuisines. These noodles are particularly popular in dishes like Singapore noodles, which, despite their name, are a staple in Cantonese cuisine. In this dish, mei fun is stir-fried with curry powder, shrimp, barbecued pork, eggs, and a variety of vegetables, resulting in a vibrant and flavorful dish. Mei fun can also be found in soups and salads, where their delicate texture adds a pleasant contrast to other ingredients.

Egg Noodles

3.1. Wonton Noodles

Wonton noodles, known for their distinctive yellow color and springy texture, are a central component of Cantonese wonton noodle soup. These noodles are made from wheat flour and eggs, which give them their rich flavor and firm texture. Wonton noodles are typically served in a clear broth with wontons (dumplings filled with shrimp and pork), leafy greens, and sometimes sliced barbecue pork. This dish is a beloved comfort food in Southern China, particularly in Hong Kong.

3.2. Hong Kong-Style Pan-Fried Noodles

These thin, crispy egg noodles are a specialty of Hong Kong cuisine. The noodles are first parboiled and then pan-fried until crispy on the outside but still tender inside. They are typically served with a savory sauce and a variety of toppings, such as seafood, meat, and vegetables. The contrast between the crispy noodles and the succulent toppings makes this dish a favorite in Cantonese restaurants.

3.3. Dan Dan Noodles

Dan dan noodles originate from Sichuan province and are known for their spicy, numbing flavor profile. The noodles themselves are usually thin and made from wheat flour and eggs, providing a slightly chewy texture. The dish is typically served with a spicy sauce made from chili oil, Sichuan peppercorns, minced pork, and preserved vegetables. The name “dan dan” refers to the carrying pole used by street vendors who traditionally sold this dish.

Glass Noodles

4.1. Cellophane Noodles (粉丝, Fěnsī)

Cellophane noodles, also known as glass noodles or fensi, are made from mung bean starch. They are transparent and gelatinous once cooked, making them a unique addition to various dishes. These noodles are commonly used in hot pots, where they soak up the flavorful broths

, but they also appear in stir-fries, soups, and salads. Cellophane noodles have a neutral taste, allowing them to absorb the flavors of the accompanying ingredients and sauces. They are particularly popular in Northern and Eastern Chinese cuisine.

Hand-Pulled and Knife-Cut Noodles

5.1. La Mian (拉面)

La mian, which translates to “pulled noodles,” are a traditional type of Chinese noodle made by hand-stretching dough into long, elastic strands. This technique requires significant skill and practice, as the dough is repeatedly stretched and folded to create noodles of varying thickness. La mian are typically used in soups, especially in Northern China. One famous dish featuring these noodles is Lanzhou beef noodle soup, where the noodles are served in a rich, clear broth with beef, radish, and aromatic herbs.

5.2. Dao Xiao Mian (刀削面)

Dao xiao mian, or knife-cut noodles, are another Northern Chinese specialty. These noodles are made by shaving a block of dough directly into boiling water using a sharp knife, resulting in irregularly shaped, thick noodles with a chewy texture. Knife-cut noodles are often served in hearty soups or stir-fried with a robust sauce. The technique of cutting the noodles directly into the pot is a dramatic and skillful method that adds a unique texture to the dish.

Buckwheat and Specialty Noodles

6.1. Soba Noodles (荞麦面, Qiáomài Miàn)

While soba noodles are more commonly associated with Japanese cuisine, they also have roots in Chinese cooking, particularly in regions close to Japan such as Northern China. Made from buckwheat flour, soba noodles have a nutty flavor and a slightly coarse texture. In Chinese cuisine, these noodles are often served in cold salads or hot soups, providing a nutritious and flavorful option.

6.2. Sweet Potato Noodles (红薯粉条, Hóngshǔ Fěn Tiáo)

Sweet potato noodles, also known as dangmyeon in Korean cuisine, are made from sweet potato starch and are a popular ingredient in Chinese hot pots and stir-fries. These noodles have a chewy, elastic texture and a slightly sweet flavor, making them a unique addition to various dishes. They are particularly popular in Northeastern China, where they are used in hearty, warming dishes suitable for the cold climate.

Regional Noodle Specialties

7.1. Yunnan Rice Noodles (米线, Mǐxiàn)

Yunnan province, located in the southwest of China, is famous for its rice noodles, known as mixian. These noodles are typically thin and round, with a delicate texture. One of the most famous dishes featuring Yunnan rice noodles is “Crossing the Bridge Noodles,” a complex dish where raw ingredients and noodles are added to a bowl of boiling hot broth just before serving. The story behind this dish is as rich as its flavors, involving a wife’s ingenuity to keep her husband’s meal hot as he studied for exams.

7.2. Guilin Rice Noodles (桂林米粉, Guìlín Mǐfěn)

Originating from Guilin in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Guilin rice noodles are known for their smooth, silky texture and their distinctive flavor. These noodles are often served in a flavorful broth with a variety of toppings such as pickled vegetables, peanuts, and chili oil. Guilin rice noodles are a beloved breakfast food in their hometown, providing a comforting and flavorful start to the day.

7.3. Sichuan Sweet Water Noodles (甜水面, Tián Shuǐ Miàn)

Sichuan sweet water noodles are a lesser-known but delightful specialty from Sichuan province. Made from wheat flour, these thick noodles are coated in a sweet and spicy sauce made from sugar, soy sauce, chili oil, and Sichuan peppercorns. The combination of sweet and spicy flavors, along with the numbing sensation from the peppercorns, creates a unique and addictive dish that is a testament to Sichuan’s bold culinary style.

Noodles in Chinese Festivals and Celebrations

Noodles play a significant role in Chinese festivals and celebrations, often symbolizing longevity and good fortune. During birthdays and the Lunar New Year, long noodles, such as longevity noodles (长寿面, Chángshòu Miàn), are prepared to symbolize long life and prosperity. These noodles are typically served in a light broth or stir-fried with a variety of auspicious ingredients like mushrooms, greens, and shrimp, reflecting the celebratory nature of the occasion.

Health and Nutrition

Chinese noodles vary widely in terms of their nutritional content, depending on the ingredients used and the method of preparation. Wheat noodles, for instance, are a good source of carbohydrates and provide some protein and fiber, especially if made from whole wheat. Rice noodles, while gluten-free and lighter in texture, are lower in protein and fiber compared to wheat noodles. Egg noodles add more protein and fat due to the eggs, making them a richer option. Specialty noodles like buckwheat and sweet potato noodles offer additional nutritional benefits, such as higher fiber content and essential minerals.

Culinary Techniques and Cooking Methods

Chinese noodles can be prepared using a variety of cooking methods, each bringing out different textures and flavors:

10.1. Boiling

Boiling is the most common method for cooking noodles, especially for those used in soups and cold dishes. The noodles are boiled until they reach the desired level of tenderness, then drained and either added directly to soups or rinsed in cold water for salads.

10.2. Stir-Frying

Stir-frying noodles involves cooking them quickly in a hot wok with oil, vegetables, proteins, and sauces. This method imparts a smoky flavor known as “wok hei” and creates a combination of textures, with the noodles absorbing the flavors of the sauce and ingredients.

10.3. Deep-Frying

Deep-frying is used to create crispy noodle dishes, such as crispy chow mein or noodle nests used as edible bowls. The noodles are deep-fried until golden and crispy, then topped with a savory stir-fry or used as a base for various toppings.

10.4. Steaming

Steaming is a less common method for cooking noodles but is used in some traditional dishes. The noodles are placed in a steamer basket and cooked until tender, often served with a light soy-based sauce and fresh herbs.

Modern Innovations and Fusion

Chinese noodles have also evolved with modern culinary trends and fusion cuisine. Contemporary chefs experiment with different types of flours, incorporating whole grains, quinoa, and even spirulina to create health-conscious variations. Fusion dishes combine Chinese noodles with elements from other cuisines, such as Italian pasta techniques or Southeast Asian spices, resulting in innovative and exciting new flavors.


Chinese noodles are a fundamental aspect of Chinese culinary tradition, reflecting the diversity and richness of China’s regional cuisines. From the chewy lo mein and crispy chow mein of the north to the delicate ho fun and mei fun of the south, each type of noodle offers a unique experience. Specialty noodles like hand-pulled la mian and knife-cut dao xiao mian showcase the artistry and skill of Chinese noodle-making, while regional varieties like Yunnan rice noodles and Sichuan sweet water noodles highlight the local flavors and traditions.

Whether enjoyed in a simple street food stall or a fine dining restaurant, Chinese noodles bring comfort, flavor, and a sense of cultural heritage to the table. They are a testament to the adaptability and creativity of Chinese cuisine, continually evolving while staying rooted in tradition. As global interest in Chinese food grows, the variety and versatility of Chinese noodles continue to capture the imagination and palates of food lovers around the world.