It seems like everybody loves spaghetti. Whether you try to eat them with chopsticks, slurp them like Lady and the Tramp, or gobble them down, cultures around the world have adopted noodles in their meals.
Nearly every culture has a dish with noodles – the Lebanese have Macaroon U Djej, a meal made with chicken and spaghetti, the Jews have Kreplachs and of course, there are the Italians who can’t get enough of pasta.
Yet, the dispute over who mixed flour with water to create noodles first is an ongoing one. Most think that the Chinese or the Italians were the divine creators, when in fact it seems that the Arabs first used dried pasta as a way to preserve flour while walking through the desert.
Nevertheless, noodles have been core to any Chinese meal for over 2,000 years. Chinese nutritionists believe that every meal should be divided equally between grains, starches, fan, tsai, fruits and vegetables. To keep this balance, they heavily rely on noodles. It turns out that pasta only arrived to Italy after Marco Polo tried it out in China.
Noodles are eaten as a typical lunch or snack throughout China. They can be cooked stir-fried style in a wok, or plunged in a soup.
They vary in size, just like Italian pasta. But no matter their length, the Chinese believe that cutting noodles is a sin. They should be served long and uncut, because they symbolize longevity of life.
Some noodles are made of rice, known as fen, others are done out of wheat, called mian. Depending on the way they are made and how they are cooked, the noodles can either come out thin as toothpicks or thick as toothbrushes.
Then there are the hand-pulled noodles, a Chinese specialty and an art in itself.
Making hand-pulled noodles in China is seen as an art, as the cook has to handle stretching out the dough while twirling it at the same time.
The dough has to be pounded several times and folded and refolded until it is soft enough to swirl. Eventually, after such a long process, the dough magically turns into thin, long lines of heaven.
Unfortunately, most hand-pulled noodles in China are not made by hand anymore. Machines have replaced the traditional way of making them.
As soon as I heard that I could witness a noodle performance in Hong Kong, I knew I couldn’t miss out on the opportunity. I headed to the Peking Garden restaurant, known for the best Chinese food in the city as well as for their show.
After watching the ten-minute event, mesmerized by the speed and deep concentration of the chef, I sat down and ate some of the best noodles my taste buds have ever experienced.
Minutes later, I heard the pounding noise once more from a distance. I turned around tracing the sound, and saw the chef, flattening the dough on a table, twirling it in his fingers, ready to make a fresh batch of noodles again.Address: Star House (3rd floor), Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon, Hong Kong. Phone number: +852 2735 8211 Tip: If you’re staying on Hong Kong side, take the ferry to Kowloon and enjoy the breathtaking view of the city from the boat.