One of the latest regional Chinese noodle variations to arrive in the San Gabriel Valley? Biáng biáng noodles. Originating in Shaanxi Province in central China, Biáng biáng noodles are another regional iteration of handmade noodles. For this, wheat noodles are torn into long, thick, wide strips resembling a belt, giving them their nickname, belt noodles.
In China, the noodles have developed their own following owing to some novelty. The word biáng is an untranslatable local term, while the character for Biáng biáng noodles is one of the most complex in Chinese, requiring 57 strokes.
Much like pho and some other noodle dishes, it comes customizable and some assembly is required. First, six small dishes are placed on your table: long beans, sautéed greens, diced stewed pork, scrambled egg, tomato purée and one with a diced combination of carrot, onion, celery, mushroom and firm tofu. This is followed shortly by a large bowl of brothless noodles topped by bok choy. Add whatever you'd like from the small dishes, in whatever amount, then mix in with your chopsticks and you're ready to eat.
The noodles are thick and chewy, yet springy. The width and length can lead to a bit of unwieldiness, making one wish they were either at a Uighur style restaurant or in Koreatown, where scissors are provided and considered an appropriate eating utensil. The description fits: Imagine using the noodles as a belt.
So where can you find them? Only at Shaanxi Gourmet in Rosemead. At this impressive restaurant specializing in the cuisine of Shaanxi Province, replica terra cotta warriors greet you at the door and the waitstaff is dressed in colorful regional attire. Since opening last September, both the menu and the seating capacity have expanded. While the menu is untranslated from Chinese, that shouldn't dissuade you: The menu has photos of some items, and the walls of the main dining area also have large photo murals of some of the signature dishes. If you want to be one of the cool kids, simply order Biáng biáng mian (Bee-ong bee-ong mee-yen). Most of the waitstaff speak English quite well, but that would take the fun out of attempting your Chinese, wouldn't it?
Note: The restaurant is located in the shopping center behind Tip Top Sandwiches, so be forewarned, as parking can prove difficult. But it's worth it.