Controversy in the nation of noodles

PUBLISHED : Friday, 05 July, 2013, 6:26pm
UPDATED : Friday, 05 July, 2013, 6:49pm

Chinese noodles may not come in as many different shapes and sizes as Italian pasta, but there is no doubt that China is a nation of noodles with countless regional varieties in terms of flavours and cooking methods.

Last month China saw its first Noodle Cultural Festival draw to a close, but a controversy it sparked has just begun to unfold in cyberspace.

In the highlight of the event, which was hosted in Hangzhou in the coastal province of Zhejiang, the organiser announced the country’s top ten best noodles, with Wuhan hot-and-dry noodles, Beijing soy bean paste noodles and Shanxi knife-shaved noodles claiming the top three spots.

Other honoured dishes that made the list were Lanzhou hand-pulled noodles, Sichuan spicy noodles, Henan braised noodles, Hangzhou Pian Erchuan noodles, Kunshan aozao noodles, Zhenjiang pot-cover noodles and Yanji cold noodles.

The list soon came under fire, sparking debate online over its fairness and rationale as Chinese media reported the story.

Some asked why renowned minced meat noodles and plain noodles were omitted while little known Pian Erchuan noodles and aozao noodles made the list.

Many excited noodle lovers disagreed with the ranking and threw their own opinions into the mix.

One vocal critic was popular TV entertainment show host Meng Fei, who on Friday posted his own top ten on Sina Weibo, China’s Twitter-like microblogging platform. His choices, which have since received over 5,000 ‘likes’, included seven noodles that did not make it onto the official list.

Apart from Meng's comment, Shaanxi drew the most sympathy from internet users as none of its noodles made the grade, despite the central province being well known for its long tradition of noodle eating and variety of strong flavours .

A prolific microblogger and Shaanxi food critic blogging under the alias of “old wizard taking you on food tour in Xian” lodged his own complaint on Sina Weibo, too.

He posted a list of noodles on Friday, containing as many as 20 unique types of noodles originating from Shaanxi to illustrate the variety of flavours in the region.

Growing dissatisfaction online has even led to calls for the organiser to make public its selection process.

Responding to the online controversy, a spokesman from the co-organiser Chinese Hotel Association said that regions where the selected noodles from were so stretched across the nation that not every winning noodle was nationally known.

“Besides great flavours, cooking styles of noodles can’t be passed on without the involvement of restaurants. Therefore, the rankings were very much based on how well the restaurants that make these noodles perform,” added Jin Yong, vice secretary-general of the Chinese Hotel Association. Changjiang Times quoted him as saying.

But the Shaanxi food critic blogger had his own answer as to why Shaanxi noodles missed out.

“As China Hotel Association judged the ranking mostly according to sponsorship and no restaurant from Shaanxi participated in the panel,” he wrote on his blog, “such a result is foreseeable.”