Guogai Noodles – A Local Specialty from Zhenjiang

guogai noodles

Guogai Noodles (锅盖面, Pot Lid Noodles), also known as “Zhengjiang Xiaodao Mian,” is a traditional local specialty and culinary delight hailing from Zhenjiang, a city in Jiangsu Province, China. This delectable dish is a prominent representative of the Su-style cuisine. Guogai Noodles are beloved for their ideal balance of softness and firmness, making them a delightful snack suitable for people of all ages.

The secret to Guogai Noodles lies in the type of noodles used, which are known as “tiao mian” or “jumping noodles.” To create these unique noodles, skilled hands knead and roll the dough into a thin, flat sheet, which is then placed on a wooden cutting board. An operator sits at one end of a bamboo rod, which is anchored to the board at the other end. With an up-and-down motion that resembles a dance or acrobatics, they press the dough repeatedly, transforming it into a thin sheet. The sheet is then expertly sliced into noodles with a knife.

The origin of Guogai Noodles can be traced back to the Qing Dynasty. Legend has it that Emperor Qianlong once visited Zhenjiang during his journey through southern China. Dressed in plain attire, he inquired about the most renowned local eatery, which led him to Zhang Ma’s noodle shop, the most famous in the area. Zhang Ma and her husband rushed to serve the distinguished guest, and after some effort, they managed to present him with a bowl of noodles. From the kitchen, they heard the Emperor exclaim, “The flavor is excellent, not too soft or too firm, and it’s fragrant and refreshing!”

However, to their astonishment, Qianlong entered the kitchen and was taken aback. He asked, “Why did you cook the pot lid in the pot?” Zhang Ma realized that in her haste, she had mistaken the small lid from a pot for the actual cooking pot lid, inadvertently adding it to the pot without realizing her mistake. Qianlong’s visit to Zhang Ma’s noodle shop and his praise for the taste, albeit accompanied by the humorous mix-up, quickly spread as a popular tale. Consequently, numerous Guogai Noodle shops started cropping up in the streets and alleys of Zhenjiang, solidifying the dish’s reputation as a local delicacy.

Guogai Noodles showcase the rich history and culinary artistry of Zhenjiang. The process of creating these noodles, with their unique texture and taste, has been passed down through generations, making them a beloved part of the city’s culinary heritage. When you savor a bowl of Guogai Noodles, you’re not only tasting a delicious dish but also indulging in a delightful piece of Zhenjiang’s history and tradition, where an accidental mix-up transformed a simple dish into a local legend.

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