Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

It pays to pay attention to details

By Hong Liang (China Daily) Updated: 2013-10-21 07:11

At an informal gathering in the Shanghai office, a visitor from Beijing wondered aloud why a humble bowl of plain noodles he had the night before tasted so good. All the learned editors and bright young reporters in the room were at a loss for an answer.

Indeed, the question may sound casual. But a bowl of plain noodles, lovingly called yangchun, or "sunshine of early spring", is anything but casual to people in this region.

It pays to pay attention to details

A shopkeeper waits for customers in Yiwu, Zhejiang province. Christmas orders have fallen, and foreign buyers no longer come in droves to talk shop with the many thousands of factory owners in this manufacturing powerhouse in East China. [Photo / China Daily]  

Connoisseurs and food critics professed that there is art in this deceptively simple fare. It's often likened to a particular style of Chinese water painting that follows the rule of simplicity to the extreme. In the hand of a Zen maestro, a few brush strokes in black ink, it is said, can convey a meaning as deep as the mind can fathom.

Of course, most diners aren't that philosophical when it comes to eating. But you really need to have to cultivate a taste of simplicity to truly appreciate a bowl of needles garnished by nothing more than a sprinkle of chopped spring onions.

The secret of good-tasting yangchun noodles, food critics agree, is in the soup. None of the canned varieties will do. Every master cook has his own closely guarded formulas distilled from many years of experience in the culinary art. But there are common ingredients, such as chicken, lean pork, bones, Chinese ham and a variety of herbs.

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