The Noodle Wallahs of Kaifeng



A Chinese chef makes noodles in a night market in Kaifeng

Well, I am mixing up my foreign words. There cannot be noodle-wallahs in Kaifeng...'wallah' is a suffix common in India indicating a person is a specialist or talented in a certain field, usually a very proletarian one. This picture is in Kaifeng, China..quite far from India, even for a world cyclist like me who views a few thousand kilometers here and there as just a few determined turns of the cranks. Besides its parks, city walls and pagodas (the 'Iron Pagoda') it is famous for its Jewish or 'Israelite' community. The whole region was a political center during the ... dynasty, and probably the Jews arrived as traders who found their way to China via the silk or spice routes. One also sees mosques and arabic script in some places.

Particularly interesting is the complex of food stalls and restaurants that form near the downtown, especially weekend evenings. I chose to have soup, always a favorite with me for the noodles and low cost. Here, the noodles are tossed briefly into a vat of steaming broth. Then, into your bowl you could select any sort of vegetables, spices, ground meat or fish, or tofu..making the bowl of soup uniquely yours.

The chef make preparing the noodles look effortless and I know in the future in my own kitchen i will try my own hand and find this not to be the case. But they pulled and folded the dough into two strands; again, 4; again, 8 so on and on until maybe 64 noodles of just the proper thickness. Snapped (for dramatic effect?) and trimmed of extra dough left at the ends, they were erady to be briefly cooked. I am sure when I try to make my own noodles the result will not be something to be proud of..a tangled mass of dough, halfway between a pretzel and a pizza!

For a fantastic website about the mystery and history of the Jews in Kaifeng, got to Beverly Friend's home page.

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