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Crossing the Bridge Noodles

To be perfectly honest, I’ve been out-noodled. After nearly three weeks on the road with noodles for breakfast (standard Chinese hotel fare) noodles for lunch (favoured street food of Yunnan) and sometimes even noodles for dinner, I am kind of at my annual noodle limit, and it’s only April. Normally, I love noodles, but that’s when I’m eating them in addition to other foods. There’s one noodle dish though, that I had been dying to try ever since I arrived in Yunnan, probably Yunnan’s most famous dish. Once I ate Crossing the Bridge Noodles, I told my noodle-fatigued family, that will be it. Promise.
Crossing the Bridge Noodles, (Guò Qiáo Mĭxiàn  过桥米线), like so many famous Chinese dishes, has a story attached. Legend goes that an Imperial scholar, distracted while studying for an important exam, exiled himself to a pavilion on a small island. Every day, his wife would walk over the bridge to the island with his lunch, but it often got cold on the way. She discovered a simple solution to the problem – if she covered the broth with a layer of oil it retained the heat much better, and she could then add the noodles to the hot broth once she arrived. The dish is named in her honour.
Experiencing a meal of Crossing the Bridge noodles is as much theatre as it is sustenance. Having ordered and paid at the front door (13 yuan ($2) for noodles with the works), we take our seats in a giant and busy restaurant. The walls are lined with checkered pink and white tiles, and dozens of diners slurp noisily at every table. Around the outside of the dining room are assorted stations, where the white-coated waiters rush to and fro to bring the various components of the meal. There is the soup station, issuing forth bowl after bowl of hot soup through a hatch in the wall; the noodle station, where small bowls of rice noodles are stacked in precarious towers on a counter; and the meat and vegetable station, with piles of tiny platters of bok choy, shredded tofu, cooked chicken pieces, slices of pork, and scallions wait to be delivered.
The waiters, about twenty or so, rush back and forth with great speed, balancing huge trays and giant soup bowls as they weave between tables, yelling orders at one another all the while. Our waiter, a very young man in a very, very grubby white coat, brings a veritable tureen of boiling broth to begin with, one for each of us, made with chicken bones and pork and covered with a thin layer of oil. The soup is scalding hot, hot enough for the restaurant to have signs warning diners to ‘Mind The Soup’ on every wall, but no steam rises because the oil traps it within. 
Next comes an enormous tray with six separate small dishes and bowls. A tiny, freshly cracked raw quail’s egg. A platter of meats – slices of pork as thin as a petal, slivers of pink sausage, and chunks of cooked chicken. A saucer of scallions. A bowl of cold white rice noodles. A saucer of bok choy, 3 leaves. A dish of pickles. 
He theatrically demonstrates the technique needed for a perfect bowl. First, the quail egg goes in, mixed quickly. Next, the meats, to allow time for them to be properly cooked by the broth. Thirdly, the greens go in, and the finely shredded tofu, followed by the scallions. Last, very last, go the noodles, swirled around until the strands separate. The pickles stay separately, added as desired or eaten on their own. There is a dish of ground dried chili, and bottle of vinegar and one of soy on the table too, to be added to personal taste.
This giant bowl of noodles is a highly satisfying meal, hearty, tasty, and filling. I’m enjoying it as much as the little girl at the next table too, by all accounts. She can hardly see over the bowl, but deftly lifts the noodles with her chopsticks and slurps them into her mouth in one long, continuous schlluuuurrrp. Highly recommended, even if you think you couldn’t possibly enjoy one more noodle dish ever.
The Brothers Jiang 
Jiang Shi Xiong Di
Dongfeng Donglu, near Beijing Lu
Kunming, Yunnan
Read all of my Yunnan posts here:

Tiger Leaping Gorge Day 1: All in the Altitude
The Nakhi of Lijiang: Of the Cosmos and the Stars
Street Foods of Yunnan: Bugs, Bark and Dragonfly Nymphs
Yunnan: In Pictures

  • http://adventuresinalowgiworld.blogspot.com/ Louise

    Another fascinating window to a world I'll never see. Thanks for the glimpse.

  • https://www.blogger.com/profile/10966380108381463959 Adora’s Box

    I love the poetic way the Chinese name their food. You'd never guess why it's so until you hear the story attached to it. The noodles look so delicious. I love noodle soup especially if there are a lot of toppings that you add yourself.

  • http://dinedelish.com Franklin from Dine Delish

    So adventurous out in Shanghai. You are truly lucky to be traveling. That noodle dish looks amazing. The broth looks so fatty and delicious. Yum!! Thanks for taking me to Shanghai. 🙂

  • https://www.blogger.com/profile/11390453342365399230 Fiona

    Thanks Louise – the feeling's mutual – I love seeing your lovely part of the world too!

    And Adora – I think we really need to improve the calibre of names we use in the west, don't you? Fish and Chips? Not very poetic, is it?!

    Thanks for visiting Franklin, you are a true foodie to say it's 'fatty and delicious'! most would run a mile from that description but as the Chinese say, 'fat is flavour!'

  • https://www.blogger.com/profile/11228099508714697864 Tiny Urban Kitchen

    "Mind the Soup"!!! I love it! I just came from London a few weeks ago where "Mind the Gap" was all over the place.

    I absolutely love that pic of the little girl too . . . and the history behind the soup – who knew? 🙂

  • https://www.blogger.com/profile/11390453342365399230 Fiona

    Hi Jen – 'mind the gap' was exactly wht sprang to my mind too when I saw 'mind the soup' – I tried translating the (much longer) Chinese part of the sign but 'mind the soup' sums it up nicely 😉