Annie Bananie en Europe

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Tag Archives: beijing

Chinese noodles at their places of origin

Last week, the noodle restaurant beside my apartment building in Wuhan finally resumed business! When I saw the open door I knew I had to get myself some hot dry noodles (I had written about it briefly before). What are hot dry noodles? You ask. It is a literal translation of “re gan mian” in Chinese and it’s only the most popular street food in Wuhan. If there is one food item that represents Wuhan, this would be it.

But this post is not only about hot dry noodles. There are in fact hundreds of types of noodle dishes in China, each region with their own specialty. I thought about which types of noodle I’ve tried and compiled a list of ones that I’ve had the privilege of having in their places of origin (with one exception). This means that (1) I’ve certainly had other noodle dishes, just not in the region/city where they originated, and (2) only one dish was selected for each region (Xi’an, for example, has tons of noodle dishes but only one is showcased here).

Re gan mian (hot dry noodles), Wuhan, Hubei Province, April 13, 2020.

You know I have to start with hot dry noodles. What’s an introduction without photos?! The first is the unmixed version that you get from the shop. Usually the noodles are blanched quickly in boiling water and topped with a variety of sauces, among which sesame sauce is the main feature. You then get to add whatever toppings you want and I usually only go for green onions, pickled green beans, and sour radish. The second photo is what you get when you mix everything together – and c’mon, you HAVE to mix everything together to eat hot dry noodles properly. It may look like a mess, and sometimes it is, but oh man it is a bite of heaven in my mouth. After three months of absence, welcome back, hot dry noodles!!

Xiao mian (small noodles), Chongqing, December 31, 2019.

Next up we’ve got what we literally call “small noodles” (xiao mian) in Chinese, and it is a specialty of Chongqing. Small noodles have the same status in Chongqing as do hot dry noodles in Wuhan. They are really just ordinary noodles immersed in a hot soup – both in terms of temperature and spiciness! This one may not LOOK very spicy but pay attention to the red soup base and you’d understand how much hot oil went into it. Delicious but painful for those who can’t stand spicy food!

Dan dan mian (dan dan noodles), Chengdu, Sichuan Province, February 6, 2018.

Another spicy one here, dan dan noodles of Chengdu, Sichuan. The province of Sichuan, of which Chongqing used to be a part, is famous for its flavourful and spicy palate. “Dan dan” doesn’t really translate to anything and the noodles are consisted of minced meat and a lot of hot sauce/oil. This was a small portion as a snack and thankfully it was a small portion because heck it was spicy!

Zha jiang mian (fried sauce noodles), Beijing, December 8, 2016.

We now go north to the capital of China, where zha jiang mian (fried sauce noodles) are quite popular among locals and tourists alike. I never really figured out why they’re called “fried sauce” noodles because I definitely don’t think the sauce (bean paste) is fried. And it may not seem like a lot of sauce from the photo but it is very thick and heavy, so this was actually enough to coat all of the noodles evenly for a great flavour.

Biang biang mian (biang biang noodles) with lamb, Xi’an, Shaanxi Province, February 1, 2019.

The word “biang” doesn’t really exist in China and is a made-up character that you can’t even type on a computer. But that doesn’t stop biang biang noodles from being loved in Xi’an, where noodles are the main staple. The unique thing about biang biang noodles is how long and wide they are. The first photo doesn’t quite do them justice and that’s why I’m posting the second one for comparison – the noodles are almost as wide as a person’s mouth!

Hui mian (braised noodles) with lamb, Zhengzhou, Henan Province, March 25, 2020.

J and I had a chance to stop by Zhengzhou for a connecting train on my way back to Wuhan, so we seized the opportunity to try to famous lamb hui mian (braised noodles). This was at a restaurant that ONLY served lamb hui mian and side dishes, so you can’t even get other types of meat if you wanted to. There’s normal-quality lamb, superior-quality lamb, top-quality lamb…you get the point. We only got the normal-quality lamb but oh man it was tasty! Perfect balance of lean and fatty meat that falls apart in your mouth without chewing. And the lamb soup based was top-notch!

Yun tun mian (wonton noodles), Guangzhou, Guangdong Province, December 21, 2016.

I had to save this for the end because Guangzhou (or Canton) is my hometown and I love Cantonese food. Out of all the noodles on this list, I would think that westerners would be most familiar with this one – wonton noodles. “Yun tun” is the Mandarin pronunciation of “wonton”, which is actually the Cantonese pronunciation (though more like “wun tun”). Whenever I go back to Guangzhou I always make sure I get myself a bowl of wonton noodles at least once. My dad told me that back in the day, the original wontons only contained pork and a little bit of shrimp and are not too huge. Nowadays, most wontons are gigantic and contain mostly shrimp, and my dad complained of the authenticity and texture of modern wontons. I’m often heavily influenced by my dad, this time in particular because he is the true Cantonese local who grew up in the city. So I went and looked for the “original” wonton noodles with the pork-based fillings and luckily they still exist (wonton noodles at Wu Cai Ji restaurant shown in photo). I understand what my dad meant but you know, I don’t mind the shrimp in any case 😛

Gan chao niu he (dry-stir-fried rice noodles with beef), Toronto, Canada, August 8, 2011.

BONUS!!! I said there’d be an exception and this is it – dry-stir-fried rice noodles with beef. “Dry” has to be specified because there is a wet version – with sauce. Anyway, this is the exception of the post for two reasons: (1) It is the second Cantonese specialty and (2) I had this in Toronto, not the place where it originated. Again my dad seemed to be an expert on this dish, telling me that Cantonese chefs are evaluated on their basic kitchen skills based on this dish because it tests so many essential techniques in Cantonese cooking. Indeed it may look simple but the amount of work that goes into making the perfect stir-fried noodles takes years and years of training. And we love it!

So, do I have a favourite or a ranking for these goodies? I admit that I am completely biased and I will say that wonton noodles are my favourite, followed by stir-fried noodles with beef. Unsurprisingly hot dry noodles come third so I guess the conclusion is…the taste of home is the best???

Which noodles would you like to try? 😉

From high places, part 6

Why hello there! I think the time has come to add another post to the “From high places” series, which showcases views of cities and towns from high vantage points such as towers, hills, and airplanes. Let’s see how many more I’ve managed to collect since the last post!


I fly with KLM quite a bit and so I often have connecting flights in Amsterdam, which means that I get to see Amsterdam from the air from different perspectives as the plane takes off or lands (if I get a window seat, and I often do). Here are a few of them.

Beijing (read about it)

When I went to Beijing 13 years ago, I saw the Forbidden City from a hill in Jingshan Park, took a picture of it, and lost the photo. Then last year, when I went back to Beijing in December, I decided that I’d have to go back to Jingshan Park and retake that photo – and I did! Magnificent history right in front of my eyes!


Bilbao certainly had its fair share of hills and as a result offers many wonderful viewpoints of the city. The first three photos (featuring the famous Guggenheim Museum in the second photo) were taken on Mount Artxanda (reached by funicular) and the last one from Parque Etxebarria at the top of the Mallona stairs.


Conwy has arguably the most majestic castle of all the castles I’ve seen, and the view from the top of the town walls was amazing. Seas, hills, castle – seems like Conwy has everything needed for a medieval tale!


I’ve written about Edinburgh before and shown the view from the top of Arthur’s Seat, but there are plenty of other fine viewpoints around this hilly Scottish capital. On the way to Calton Hill, stop to appreciate the Salisbury Crags and Arthur’s Seat on the opposite side and the city below!

Falkirk (read about it)

I visited Falkirk on a rainy day, mainly to see the Kelpies and the Falkirk Wheel, on which this photo was taken. If you look for the carefully, the Kelpies can be seen in the far distance on the right side of this photo.


Not to be confused with Falkirk, Falkland was the starting point of the hike up the East Lomond Hill. I had to stop many times to take a break and catch my breath but the view over Falkland was certainly a welcomed treat!


Even though I live in Glasgow, I may be a little ashamed to say that I don’t know many places to see the city from up high! Well, The Lighthouse is one such place, but I would be surprised if there weren’t more.

Holyhead (read about it)

After visiting South Stack, I decided to walk back to Holyhead along the coastal path, which was to take me around an hour an a half. I ended up taking approximately two hours because of a detour to the summit of the Holyhead mountain, one that I was glad I took because I was rewarded with this view!


I only dropped by Inverness for a short while during a day tour of Loch Ness, but I had the chance to see Inverness Castle and see the city by the river from the castle, which was situated on a hill. I’d love to go back to Inverness if I still have the chance before I leave Scotland!


Mississauga was featured in the first part of the “From high places” series, but here is a different point of view – downtown Mississauga from the air right before landing at Toronto Pearson Airport. The slender and defining shapes of the Marilyn Monroe Towers would be recognizable from any distance, though unfortunately the photo turned out slightly blurry 😦


I’ve been to Oban three times within the past three years but it was only during my most recent visit (last week) that I finally went to the looming McCaig’s Tower that is visible from the town centre. The uphill walk offered some great views of the coastal town and the Inner Hebridean islands (not shown here)!

Stirling (read about it)

Stirling wasn’t a city that left a deep impression on me, but it was still worth exploring as a day trip from Glasgow. Here’s a view of Stirling from the Wallace Monument.

Warsaw (read about it)

Warsaw – ah, yes, Warsaw, as seem from the top of the Palace of Culture and Science. What amazing views from every angle! I was so mesmerized that I was sad to go. To make it even more spectacular, I was there right in the midst of a thunderstorm – how cool was that!

That’s all for part 6! Be right back as I continue to hunt for more high places… 😉

26 days in China, part 1 – Beijing

Happy new year! It’s been a month since I last wrote but I have an excuse – I was in China for 26 days during the Christmas holidays and had only gotten back to Glasgow three days ago. I’m still suffering from post-holidays withdrawal because there’s such a drastic difference between Glasgow and my port of departure, which happened to be the Pearl of the East, Hong Kong. I’ll get to the Hong Kong post eventually – this is supposed to be chronological.

Within these 26 days I visited 9 cities. In order, they are Beijing, Shanghai, Suzhou, Huzhou, Hangzhou, Wenzhou, Guangzhou (my hometown), Kunming, and Hong Kong. The main mission was to visit friends from Bordeaux or Glasgow who have gone back to China and now reside and work in these cities, so it’s a series of reunions plus local-guided tours of these cities, half of which are new to me. This is something that I had wanted to do for a long time, and I finally made it happen at the end of 2016!

Yep, it was very tiring because I was constantly on the move. As I only had 26 days and I wanted to spend most of it in my hometown with my family, I could only spend around two days in each of the other places. Throughout my travels, I summarized my experiences in each place and condensed them in 9 photos for each destination. Why 9? As WeChat is the main social networking platform in China, I chose to share my travels there and the maximum number of photos per post is 9. This may seem very limited, but it forces me to choose from the highlights without excessive photo-binging. Was it hard narrowing down each place to 9 photos? You bet it was! But I’m glad I did because that allows me to get to the most important points without rambling on too much like I’m doing now.

Without further ado, here I present my series on my trip to China 2016. If you do wish to see more pictures, feel free to visit my Facebook album where a much more complete selection of photos are found.

Bejing, the capital of the most populous country in the world and my port of entry into China this time. I had been to Beijing twice before, in 1995 and 2004, so it’s been 12 years since my most recent visit. The first visit was with my mom when I was 7 years old, the second with my dad when I was 16, and both were made with tour groups. This was the first time I went to Beijing all by myself, but I had the best local buddies to accompany me, as you will see!

First, before the plane even landed, I saw the most majestic mountain ranges at the China-Mongolia border (thanks to the little plane icon thing on the flight status screen), layers among layers of grandiose peaks seemingly stretching far beyond the horizon. I was rather intrigued and almost gasped aloud at such amazing scenery right at the tip of my nose. Window seat forever!

At the airport I was greeted by two good friends that I met in Glasgow last year, LY and XM. Big hugs!! They’ve only gone back to Beijing for three months but it felt like forever since I had seen and hung out with them. Best of all, they are both authentic Beijing locals that knew the best places to eat…oh yes, did I tell you that eating all the best foods in each city was also one of my missions? As we were all part of our own “Mini Glasgow Foodie Group”, I was excited to see what food paradise (AKA Beijing) had to offer…drooling alert!

So I arrived in Beijing with…no smog?! I had anticipated to experience the infamous Beijing-style smog during at least one of the two days that I was there, but I was surprised that the entire time I was there, the skies were clear and crisp blue. Apparently the wind blew away the smog, ha! Even LY and XM marvelled at my extreme luck. The temperature was moderately chilly at 5 degrees, but it was a very comfortable chill and I began to wonder if I had indeed overpacked. I was going from north to south so I stuffed my suitcase with clothes for all seasons…could you blame me?!

First tourist stop: Jingshan Park for a panoramic view of the Forbidden City. I think 12 years ago I was at this exact spot and remember taking a photo with an old-fashioned film camera, but I cannot find that photo to save my life. Therefore the first out of the two “must-go” places (second being the Bird’s Nest, which I did end up seeing) was this. Oh, how magnificent was the Forbidden City, the imperial history of this rich culture that stood right in front of me!

In the evening was a rendez-vous with the first of many Bordeaux friends, HR! How I missed student life in France! We had a delicious lamb hot pot and ended the night with some drinks and some heart-to-heart talk that was long overdue. I had so little time and that meant that every meeting was short but precious.

Second day was spent on another typical tourist activity: climbing the Great Wall! I had gone with my mom during my first trip to Beijing and apparently also with my dad in 2004, though for some reason I have no memory of the latter…?! I will just trust my dad, who said that we went to Juyongguan… O_o This time around I went to the more popular Badaling as it was easily accessible via train and the most well known section of the Wall. Oh, the climb was tough, alright! But at least I was prepared with snacks 😛 Still a long way to go from here…

My company for the day was LY’s mom whom I met for the first time. LY was unfortunately unavailable for the day but Mrs. L was kind enough to be my buddy in conquering the Great Wall! Fun fact: the person who took this photo for us was a cute guy that I had been eyeing throughout my climb. Maybe Mrs. L noticed and that was why she asked him to take the photo, hehe 😛

There’s a saying in Chinese that goes, “If you don’t go to the Great Wall in your lifetime, you are not a real man”. Literal translation that takes away its poetic feeling, I apologize! There happens to be a rock somewhere along the Badaling Wall named…”Real Man Rock”. These two gentlemen decided to show off some of their kungfu skills on said rock. Perhaps they are the legendary…crouching tiger and hidden dragon???

Oh, food…did I forget to mention food in Beijing? Of course not! Here’s only a small sample of the delicious food that I had in the capital. Top left: mixed pig internal organs with chunks of flatbread (sorry, I cannot translate it better…), absolutely appetizing and flavourful and wonderful. Top right: snow pea cake (left) and red bean roll (right, otherwise known as “rolling donkey”). Bottom left: zhajiangmian, or noodles in soybean sauce/paste. According to my friends this was the perfect noodle to sauce so that the sauce doesn’t overpower the dish. Bottom right: Peking duck feast. Finally some real authentic roasted duck in its place of origin and can I just say…that it was SUPREME!!! Crispy golden skin combined with succulent meat wrapped in a thin pancake with scallions, cucumber slices, and a sweet bean sauce…the most heavenly combination one could imagine. I’ve had Peking duck in Canada before but it’s got NOTHING on the real thing. Can I just emphasize again how AMAZINGLY DELIGHTFUL it was. Absolute unbeatable perfection and made my trip to Beijing complete ❤

So here you go, folks, my experience in Beijing in 9 photos. Next stop: Shanghai!

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