Day 10: Travel the Silk Road with Us | Part 2

The Tao of Noodles

Handmade noodles play an important part in Chinese food.  The Uyghur Bistro offers one of the most unique international foods in Houston and does so at a level of excellence that puts it in a league of its own.  The owner's family have run restaurants in Bejing and Ürümqi for many years.  The man who usually works the counter is one of the co-owners and he is tri-lingual so you can order easily in English, Mandarin, or Uyghur, assuming you are up on your Mandarin and Uyghur.

Uyghur Bistro employs two chefs who team up to make more than twenty kinds of noodle dishes with noodles that can be made to order (I was more specific last time I was in there when I ordered and it was delightful).  These chefs each have about twenty years of experience and are from Fuzhou in the Fujian province where an alleged seven out of ten people become chefs.  Chefs from Fuzhou, aside from being numerically significant are known in China for their work ethic and talent.  Uyghur Bistro's Jacob Chen is no exception to this rule.  Someone once tried to bribe him to the tune of 5k for the recipe to his noodles.  Once you try the food you will understand that it was worth a shot.

1. Jacob prepares to dazzle us with his talent.  Dazzled we were.

2. Noodles begin as a lump of dough that is made fresh every day.

3.  The dough is impressively stretchy.  This "rope" of dough is about eight feet long!

4.  The twisting and stretching causes a chemical reaction which gives the dough more elasticity and strength.

5.  The dough is slammed agains the table.

6.  Then the noodles are twisted again, slammed against the table, and stretched and folded again.

7. It is stretched and spun again.

8.  The amorphous lump is now refined into a tight roll and the ends are cut.  It is ready for the pulling process.

9. The dough is stretched to arm length and then folded.

10.  Stretched and folded again.

11. And again.

12. Jacob's strokes are precise and betray years of practice perfecting the art.  The speed of this process becomes evident, even in a photograph as the flour explodes off of the dough.

13.  2 strands becomes 4, 4 becomes 8, and so on.

14.  With every pass, the noodles are doubled and become thinner and longer.

15.  The flour falls off as the noodles start forming.

16.  With every pass the noodles become thinner and longer.

17.  He is able to make noodles consistently the same size.

18.  Then almost magically, in a flash the noodles are the perfect size.  This is "angel hair" sized.

19.  One final inspection as they go flying through the air before they go into the pot.

Not sure how this one got into here...

As beautiful as the pictures are, it is hard to truly appreciate the speed and skill involved in making noodles.  Fret not; you are in luck.  Check out our video complete with Turkic nomadic music.  In the video, he makes two different kinds of noodles, the sliced noodle and the ramen style noodle.


Lest you think that we do things half way or we are simply eating our way through Houston, here is a behind the scenes shot of Stephen's rig.  I think there was sixty pounds or so of gear.  

In addition to schmoozing with locals and eating great food, a great deal of planning goes into every post from conception to experience, to critiques and edits.  A "creative process" post is forthcoming.