Kunshan Aozao Noodles

kunshan aozhao noodles

Aozao Noodle (奥灶面) is a traditional snack from Kunshan City in Jiangsu Province, China. It is a representative dish of Suzhou cuisine and is celebrated as one of the “Ten Great Noodles of China.” When visiting Kunshan, particularly the scenic Yu Feng Shan (Jade Peak Mountain), a must-visit spot for locals and tourists alike is the “Aozao Restaurant,” where you can savor a delicious bowl of Aozao Noodle.


Features of Aozao Noodle

What sets Aozao Noodle apart and makes it widely beloved is its unique soup and meticulous toppings. The soup’s distinct flavor comes from the traditional method of using scales, gills, flesh, and mucus of fresh crucian carp (青鱼) to create a rich and exceptionally tasty broth. The toppings are also carefully prepared: all the fried fish slices are made from crucian carp, and the braised duck is made using “Kunshan Da Ma Duck” (昆山大麻鸭) cooked in old soup, ensuring a satisfying yet not greasy taste. The noodles themselves are crafted from high-quality white flour and processed into long, thin strands, known as “dragon beard noodles,” which are boiled to the perfect level of tenderness.

Aozao Noodle places great emphasis on “Five Heats” and “Condiments to Freshen the Broth.” The “Five Heats” refer to the following: a hot bowl, hot soup, hot oil, hot noodles, and hot toppings. This ensures that the entire dish is served piping hot. The “Condiments to Freshen the Broth” concept implies that instead of preparing a large pot of broth and letting it sit, the restaurant assembles the broth according to each customer’s order, preserving the original and authentic flavors.

Aozao Noodle’s appeal extends beyond its ingredients and taste; it’s known for the “Three Hot” feature: hot noodles, hot broth, and hot bowls. The noodles are quickly blanched in boiling water during preparation, maintaining their ideal texture. The broth, after it’s prepared, is kept simmering in an iron pot, ensuring it remains at the perfect temperature. The bowls are washed and preheated in boiling water, not only to keep the food warm but also to guarantee hygiene.

Due to these meticulous preparations, Aozao Noodle can be enjoyed even on the coldest days, making diners break a sweat despite the frigid weather.


Origin of the Noodle’s Name

The origin of the name “Aozao” has several interpretations. One of the legends surrounding the name suggests that during a visit to Kunshan, Emperor Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty disguised himself and explored the region. After touring Yu Feng Mountain, he felt hungry and stumbled upon a small noodle shop. There, he had a bowl of red oil fried fish noodles (which eventually evolved into Aozao Noodle) and found the taste to be exceptionally delicious. Unable to communicate properly due to the language barrier, the Emperor’s eunuch attempted to convey the secret behind the dish, but the message was garbled. The Emperor, amused by the misunderstanding, declared, “The secret is in the stove,” and the shop became known as “Aozao Mian,” meaning “Noodle with a fantastic stove.”

Another, more plausible explanation suggests that “Aozao” derives from the local Kunshan dialect. The term “鏖糟” (àozāo) in the local dialect means “not very clean” or “somewhat messy.” This derogatory nickname was given to a small, old noodle shop run by Chen Xiuying, a woman of advanced age who had slowed down with time and whose eyesight was no longer keen. Due to her limitations, her shop was humorously referred to as “鏖糟面” or “Messy Noodle.” The name unexpectedly gained popularity, and this peculiar moniker eventually transformed into the renowned “Aozao Noodle.”


Conclusion

Aozao Noodle has a unique and captivating history, rooted in the rich culinary traditions of Kunshan. It continues to delight locals and visitors alike with its flavorful broth, exquisite toppings, and meticulous cooking techniques. Aozao Noodle represents a treasured culinary gem of Kunshan, inviting all to savor its delightful taste and savor the legends that have contributed to its unique name.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *