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Biángbiáng noodles (simplified Chinese: 面; traditional Chinese: 麵; pinyin: Biángbiáng miàn), also known as (simplified Chinese: 油泼扯面; traditional Chinese: 油潑扯麵; pinyin: Yóupō chěmiàn), are a type of noodle popular in China's Shaanxi province. The noodles, touted as one of the "ten strange wonders of Shaanxi" (Chinese: 陕西十大怪), are described as being like a belt, owing to their thickness and length. The "Noodle King" chain in Beijing (Chinese: 面北京连锁店) serves biáng biáng noodles.
The noodle is broad and hand-made. It was part of a poor-man's meal in the countryside, but has recently become popular in trendy restaurants due to its unique character name.
Use in dishes
Dishes with this noodle are often topped with lots of red hot peppers for the cold winter in Shaanxi.
The Chinese character for biáng
Made up of 58 strokes, the Chinese character for "biáng" is one of the most complex Chinese characters in contemporary usage, although the character is not found in modern dictionaries or even in the Kangxi dictionary.
The character is composed of 言 (speak; 7 strokes) in the middle flanked by 幺 (tiny; 2×3 strokes) on both sides. Below it, 馬 (horse; 10 strokes) is similarly flanked by 長 (grow; 2×8 strokes). This central block itself is surrounded by 月 (moon; 4 strokes) to the left, 心 (heart; 4 strokes) below, 刂 (knife; 2 strokes) on the right, and 八 (eight; 2 strokes) above. These in turn are surrounded by a second layer of characters, namely 宀 (roof; 3 strokes) on the top and 辶 (walk; 4 strokes) curving around the left and bottom.
One version runs as follows:
|一點上了天||一点上了天||Yīdiǎn shàngle tiān||A point rises up to heaven,|
|黃河兩道彎||黄河两道弯||Huáng hé liǎng dào wān||and the yellow river has two bends.|
|八字大張口||八字大张口||Bāzì dà zhāngkǒu||The character "eight" (八) opens its mouth,|
|言字往進走||讠字往进走||Yán zì wǎng jìn zǒu||and the character "speak" (言) walks in.|
|你一扭 我一扭||你一扭 我一扭||Nǐ yī niǔ, wǒ yī niǔ||You make a twist, I make a twist, (幺 'tiny')|
|你一長 我一長||你一长 我一长||Nǐ yī zhǎng, wǒ yī zhǎng||you grow, I grow (長),|
|當中加個馬大王||当中加个马大王||Dāngzhōng jiā gè mǎ dàwáng||and we add a horse (馬) king in between.|
|心字底||心字底||Xīn zì dǐ||The character "heart" (心) forms the base,|
|月字旁||月字旁||Yuè zì páng||the character "moon" (月) stands at the side,|
|留個釣搭掛麻糖||留个钓搭挂麻糖||Liú ge diào dā guà má táng||a hook (刂 'knife') at the right to hang sesame candies,|
|坐著車車逛咸陽||坐着车车逛咸阳||Zuòzhe chēchē guàng Xiányáng||and we ride a carriage to tour (radical: 辶 'walk') the streets of Xianyang.|
Note that the first two lines probably refer to the character 宀 (roof), building it up systematically as a point and a line (river) with two bends.
Origin of the character
The origins of the biang biang noodles and the character biáng are unclear. In one version of the story, the character biáng was invented by the Qin Dynasty Premier Li Si. However, since the character is not found in the Kangxi Dictionary, it may have been created much later than the time of Li Si.
In the 2007 season of the TVB show The Web (Chinese: 一網打盡), the show's producers tried to find the origin of the character by contacting university professors, but they could not verify the Li Si story or the origin of the character. It was concluded that the character was invented by the noodle store[clarification needed].
One theory is that there was no such character or meaning for this word in the beginning, and the word actually came from the sound people make from chewing such delicious noodles, "biang biang biang".
According to an article on China Daily, the word "biang" actually refers to the sound made by the chef when he creates the noodles by pulling the dough and slapping it on the table.
- (Chinese) CCTV Forum Discussion on Biang Character
- (Chinese) Sunny Days blog post on biang biang noodles
- Blog post by Dan Washburn on biang biang noodles
- (Chinese) CCTV writeup on the ten strange wonders of Shaanxi
- (Chinese) "Origins of biang biang noodles" in the Cultural Origins Blog
- Pictures of Chinese sign with "biang" characters