In Xi’an, we came across biang biang noodles, touted as one of the “strange wonders of Shaanxi.” (Xi’an is the capital of Shaanxi province.)
The noodle is thick and is as broad as a belt. It was originally part of a poor man’s meal in the countryside, but has recently become well-known due to the unique Chinese character used in its name.
Made up of 58 strokes – some scholars argue that it is actually made up of 62 strokes instead – the Chinese character for “biang” is one of the most complex Chinese characters in contemporary usage. In fact, it is believed that it is the Chinese character with the most number of strokes and is impossible to include in any dictionary.
Many stories have been told about the origin of the name of the noodle. “Biang biang” is onomatopoetic, so the most common story is that it was given by a scholar who created it for the original seller of the noodle after hearing the banging sound resulting from the dough slamming against a wooden table top when the noodle is being made.
I am no expert in etymology nor am I a gourmet, but a greedy gourmand perhaps and “foodie” enough to pronounce that this dish is so tasty and delicious enough for us to eat it twice when we were in Xi’an.
And here’s the word “biang” written by my friend’s dad, famous calligrapher Chen Zhaopeng: