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When it comes to noodles, China has tons of different varieties. From the classic hand-pulled la mian from the country’s northwest, to Beijinger favorite zha jiang mian, there’s a bowl just waiting to be slurped up around every corner. Today we’re going to take a closer look at one famous type of Chinese noodle that has a very interesting legend attached to it – Yunnan’s “Crossing the Bridge Rice Noodles” (过桥米线 – guò qiáo mǐ xiàn).
As the story goes, there once was a small island in a lake located in the southern Yunnan town of Mengzi (蒙自 – méng zì). This beautiful, peaceful place attracted countless scholars, who came here to study under the towering trees for imperial exams. One particularly diligent student would spend entire days out on the lake, immersed in his studies. Every day, his loving wife would prepare his lunch and cross the bridge on foot to deliver it. What a lucky guy!
While the scholar had a hot, homemade meal delivered to him each and every day, he was often far too engrossed in his studies to eat. By the time he took himself away from the books to dine, his food would be cold and the noodles would be soggy. No one wants to eat cold, soggy noodles for lunch.
Since he wasn’t eating his lunch, the scholar began to grow thin and frail. Naturally, his wife was worried. In a stroke of genius, she decided to butcher a hen and cook a nice chicken soup for him in a large earthen pot. Rather than mix it up then and there, she brought the noodles and other ingredients in separate containers.
When she arrived on the island, she was pleasantly surprised to find that the soup was still piping hot. A thin layer of oil floating atop the soup along with the choice of pot had helped keep it nice and warm. Since her husband was able to add the ingredients on his own, soggy noodles were no longer a problem, either.
The scholar loved the new style of noodles so much that she made them day after day in the same manner, always crossing the bridge to deliver them. Eventually he was able to pass the exams, which he attributed to his wife’s kindness and delicious noodles. The name stuck, and the “Crossing the Bridge Rice Noodles” have been a famous staple of Yunnan cuisine ever since.
This dish can be found not only in Yunnan province, but all across China. In Kunming, there’s a guo qiao mi xian shop on just about every corner. Just as the dedicated wife did many years ago, the various elements of the dish are presented separately and combined just before eating.
When it comes to having a bowl of Crossing the Bridge Rice Noodles, you’ve got tons of choices. Common ingredients include: thinly sliced ham or chicken, quail, eggs, bok choy, spring onion, mushrooms, and tofu. Of course, you’ve got all kinds of options for condiments to season your bowl to perfection. Vinegar, soy sauce, and different kinds of chili are always available.
If you want to try crafting a bowl yourself, check out this great recipe from our friends over at GoKunming.