Published: 12:22, June 24, 2024
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Hand-pulled perfection
By Ma Jingna in Lanzhou

Editor's Note: Using a blend of words and visuals, this series explores unique communities and reveals the heart of China through food, architecture, craftsmanship, landscapes and traditions.

In this file photo dated April 2, 2019, a chef pulls noodles at a beef noodle restaurant in Lanzhou, capital of Northwest China's Gansu province. Lanzhou beef noodles, a Chinese hand-pulled noodle originated in Lanzhou, has a history of about 100 years. There are about ten types of noodles of different width and shapes, depending on noodle chefs' pulling skills. It has won fame both at home and abroad with its speciality of noodles and soup recipe. (PHOTO / XINHUA)

Lanzhou beef noodles, originating from the capital of Gansu province in Northwest China, are not simply a gastronomic delight with a rich historical and cultural legacy, but are also a dish that has garnered widespread acclaim for a distinctive taste and impeccable artistry. Evolving from a humble bowl of noodles over a century ago to becoming the quintessential symbol of Lanzhou today, the narrative around Lanzhou beef noodles epitomizes a fusion of tradition, innovation and meticulous craftsmanship.

A storied legacy

Revered as being "China's first noodles", the history of Lanzhou beef noodles can be traced back to the Tang Dynasty (618-907). The traditional preparation is intricate, involving meticulous ingredient selection, dough kneading, noodle pulling and soup simmering. The noodles, painstakingly hand-pulled to achieve a delicate and elastic texture, are complemented by a robustly flavored beef broth, culminating in a wholesome culinary experience. In 1915, Chef Ma Baozi popularized the dish on the streets of Lanzhou, swiftly captivating diners with his exceptional noodle-pulling prowess and delectable broth.

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In the 1980s, Lanzhou beef noodles garnered global recognition as China embraced international engagement, assuming the role of a cultural conduit. In 2021, the exemplary artistry of the dish secured its inclusion on the National Intangible Cultural Heritage list.

In this file photo dated April 2, 2019, a noodle chef adds chili oil to noodles at a beef noodle restaurant in Lanzhou, capital of Northwest China's Gansu province. (PHOTO / XINHUA)

Harmonizing tradition

Lanzhou beef noodles have constantly evolved, harmonizing tradition with innovation. With evolving consumer demand and market dynamics, the industry has proactively pursued new avenues for expansion. Through franchising, partnerships and joint ventures, Lanzhou beef noodles have proliferated across various domestic and international locales, serving as a cultural emissary for the city.

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The Lanzhou bureau of commerce has formulated a strategic blueprint for developing the industry around Lanzhou beef noodles, emphasizing diversification and global outreach. This blueprint centers on establishing industry clusters via the creation of the Lanzhou Beef Noodles Industrial Park to attract enterprises and foster high-quality advancements. Furthermore, work is underway to elevate brand exposure and increase participation in national exhibitions to augment brand recognition and market penetration.