The humble bowl of beef noodles is at the centre of a war of words between the country's top planning body and a watchdog in Lanzhou, Gansu province, over price caps on the local staple. The Lanzhou Bureau of Commodity Prices took the unusual step of calling a press briefing on Wednesday in an apparent attempt to rebut National Development and Reform Commission criticism of the city's decision to freeze the price of beef noodles late last month. The Guangzhou Daily reported the price of an ordinary bowl of beef noodles had shot up by 36 per cent in a year to about 3 yuan, prompting authorities in Lanzhou to limit prices to 2.5 yuan a bowl. The increases followed sharp price rises for food including flour and beef, but authorities in Lanzhou also accused noodle shop owners of deliberately pushing up prices. The bureau stood by its decision and said the commission had little idea of what beef noodles meant to the residents of Lanzhou. Food outlets in central Lanzhou sell an estimated 700,000 to 800,000 bowls of noodles a day and annual sales of beef noodles in Lanzhou could exceed 700 million yuan. Office clerk Pan Bo said it would be better for the market to decide the price of things like noodles. But like the majority of the community, he felt the cap on noodle prices was necessary 'because the people here are sensitive to noodle prices in the same way that Guangdong people care about the price of yum cha'.