In Shaanxi Province they pull them, in Shanxi Province they prefer to slice them. Not all noodles are made equal in northern China, and in Melbourne it’s the pulled ones we’ve proven hungry for in recent years, voting with our wallets and in our queues for belt-width noodles stretched to order at places like Elizabeth Street’s excellent Biang Biang.
But the poster noodles of single-A Shanxi Province, dao xiao mian, are a different story, albeit one just as theatrical. Sliced at speed from a stiff brick of dough, a rugged bowl of boiled dao xiao mian is a northern Chinese winter’s natural enemy. These noodles have been historically hard to come by in Melbourne, but that might be about to change with the advent of Little Lonsdale restaurant Dao Noodle.
Sharon Xu and Dong Ming Wang opened Dao Noodle in March 2021, introducing the flavours and technique of their hometown, Taiyuan – where Wang had worked as a noodle chef – to Melbourne’s CBD. “Shanxi is the most famous place for noodles in China,” says Xu. “We put our heart into the food – we want our customers to taste real food, not chemicals. Many people think Chinese food is oily, salty and spicy. One of our favourite comments from our customers is “your food is so clean”.’
Naturally, dao xiao mian have top billing on the menu here – wheaten noodles cut fast from shoulder height are topped with chicken gravy, tomato and scrambled egg or traditional minced pork – with dumplings, homestyle cold sides and rou jia bing (northern cousin of the ancient pulled pork burger, rou jia mo) bringing it home for the underrepresented province.
Northern Chinese restaurateurs would sooner pack up shop than pull a punch in their cooking, and Xu and Wang have met the brief head on; this is big-flavoured, bonesticking fare, but their preference for great ingredients means a meal here won’t derail your day. “We want to let people know these are our family meals in daily life; they bring comfort, warmth and love.” Come hungry, leave invincible.
By Frank Sweet