[Milpitas] Lanzhou Hand Pulled Noodles 兰州牛肉拉面

We waited for a long time before finally visiting Lanzhou Hand Pulled Noodles, because of all the controversy about running out of handmade noodles and resorting to machine made noodles. I thought they changed to a ‘pay more for handmade’ model but the server suggested all the noodles were handmade.

We finally went there. The noodle dish was somewhat disappointing.

First, the noodle was overcooked. We chose the thickest type for one bowl and thin and round for the other. Slightly overcooked when we got it except for the thickest sections. But totally overcooked towards the end of the meal. Hand pulled or machine made, its almost irrelevant.

The meat- Not sure which cut the slices used, but its too tough to be sliced like that.

Finally, the broth, the beef taste was a bit watered down, with the chili oil supplying a welcomed layer of complexity.

30% full on a Saturday evening.

Plum juice:

Raw garlic for chewing or dunking into soups.

Some may disagree, but I think the whole “Lanzhou Lamian” craze is driven a lot by the marketing efforts of those involved from China. In reality, the noodle is itself nothing too special, just a local version of the common everyday noodle. The same can be said for Taiwanese beef noodles, or even Shandong 炒嗎麵 seafood soup noodle and 炸醬麵 black bean sauce/zha jiang mian。 Oftentimes one must have developed a taste for it growing up with it to appreciate it.

Interesting. I was curious soI found this article

“In the 1980s, Hualong pivoted from making illegal guns to serving Lanzhou lamian. It was an unusual move, with the county government providing financial incentives for residents to open eateries, starting locally and spreading outward.”

“But it worked…Authorities in Lanzhou, eager to promote their city, took note of the initiative’s success. In 2010 the city government created the official brand “Lanzhou Beef Lamian” and licensed its use to a catering company called Eastern Palace, which opened branches in Lanzhou in the same year. It began to expand its business nationwide about three years ago, and now it has over 400 branches.”

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I’d be the first to admit I don’t understand zha jiang mian. Despite that, I can still appreciate the texture, quality of ingredients, etc.

In this case, I think LZHPN fell a bit short in the areas that make up a bowl of beef noodle, whatever style it may be.

Interesting article, sort of echos what I’ve suspected and read elsewhere. The commercialization of brands and "百年老店“ food establishments in China had really done a good job for those truly deserved old business (such as 全聚德烤鴨 Quanjude Peking Ducks or 東來順 Donglaishun) but probably also gave rise to many lesser deserved brands.

Speaking of Dong Lai Shun. Has anyone been to their Mt View branch? I still haven’t had a chance…

I’m always amused by the dichotomy between the US and China re: hand pulled noodles. Here, it’s a premium service, exotic and showy (exploited so well M.Y. China’s Tony Wang). In Shanghai, there’s a hand-pulled noodle shop on nearly a very corner, and the task is given to the youngest, strongest hand and considered grunt work. Imagine what it’s like to work a shift that consists of making hand-pulled noodles for every customer who walks in the door.

There is an virtually unlimited pool of cheap labor ready to pull noodles in China though.

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“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold