Pasta lovers at home with Shanxi noodles

Pasta lovers at home with Shanxi noodles
A chef displays noodles to a mixed crowd of Chinese and Europeans.
PHOTO: China Daily/ANN

Drown them in abundant tomato sauce or dip them in soy sauce. Top them with chives or sprinkle them with parmesan cheese. Eat them with chopsticks or handle a fork and spoon. Call them spaghetti or miantiao.

No matter what, noodles remain the same.

Skillful hands are needed to mix flour and water and work the dough into one of the most ubiquitous dishes on Earth.

It's a mystical procedure that takes place every day in Taiyuan, as well as in Rome, Italy. The stomachs and hearts of Italians and Chinese alike are fed with the same warmth.

Through the centuries, the two peoples were able to preserve tradition despite brutal epicurean practices that are painful even to write - like topping pasta with ketchup and mayonnaise, as some in central Europe do.

Luckily, a true noodle culture has emerged on both sides of the Eurasian continent.

Variety is the cornerstone that sustains the temple of carbohydrates. The chefs of Shanxi, like their Italian counterparts, are able to turn water and flour into an extraordinary array of noodles - literally hundreds of shapes and sizes. Different sauces and toppings make each type a unique delicacy to taste. As a consequence, Italians and Chinese equally enjoy dishes that are rich in colour and flavor, while maintaining a healthy diet.

There are certain imilarities between some Italian pastas and Chinese miantiao. Shanxi's pulled noodles are the result of relentless efforts in working the dough beyond all rational limits to reach an incredible thinness that make them similar to Italian capelli d'angelo, or angel hair pasta, a type of spaghetti.

Depending on their length, shaved noodles may resemble other kinds of spaghetti, such as vermicelli or tonnarelli, which are dipped in abundant cheese and pepper in Roman cacio e pepe pasta. Finally, chopped noodles arguably are as delicious as those in Italy, served in liguria under thick layers of pesto.

The beautiful Italian orecchiette, skillfully prepared every Sunday by old women in Apulia, look a lot like Shanxi's zhuan pan noodles, which are usually drowned in tasty soups.

Whereas many differences and similarities are easy to see, it is noodles that that draw Italy and China surprisingly close. Tasting Shanxi noodles will surely be a pleasant experience for visitors from the Bel paese - beautiful Italy - as well as for all pasta lovers traveling in this equally beautiful Chinese region.

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