Buckwheat noodles enema and other delectables

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Coming off our "Dynamic stew" high, it is a bit of a letdown to encounter "buckwheat noodles enema" on the menu of a Shanxi restaurant in Beijing.

Fuchsia Dunlop introduces us to this and other exotic delicacies in her "Fancy a buckwheat noodle enema?"

Fuschia does a pretty good job of introducing and explaining half a dozen odd items on the menu, so I won't comment in detail on each of them, but will only provide supplemental notes when necessary.

qiáomiàn guàncháng 荞面灌肠 Buckwheat noodles enema (–> "buckwheat pasta stirred by hand in a bowl")

In "Fried enema", I showed how guàncháng 灌肠 can mean both "enema" and "sausage", and how menu writers perversely often choose the wrong meaning.  See also "Fried Enema at a Restaurant in Beijing".

When you search all over the web for an English translation of qiáomiàn guàncháng 荞面灌肠, you will find either something disgusting like "buckwheat noodles enema" (most of the time) or, less nauseating, something on the order of "buckwheat noodles sausage".  It turns out that, in this case, neither "enema" nor "sausage" is the correct translation for guàncháng 灌肠.

By watching this video of guàncháng 灌肠 being made and reading this encyclopedia article about this dish, it is evident that guàncháng 灌肠 is a grossly misleading transcription of guànzhǎng 罐掌 ("crock / bowl + palm"), which is why I translate it as "buckwheat pasta stirred by hand in a bowl".  It is only for dialectal reasons that it comes out sounding and being written like guàncháng 灌肠.

liángbàn yóu miàn 凉拌莜面 Cold you face (–> "cold naked oats (Avena nuda) pasta")

lǎo cù shāo dàiyú老醋 烧带鱼 Vinegar burning octopus (–> " ribbon fish / hairtail fish / silver pomfret / cutlass fish braised in aged vinegar")

qúnyīng xiāng bào tiān'é pú 群英香爆天鹅脯 Beat hong explosion swan preserved (–> "prizewinning seared swan breast")

hóng miàn tī jiān 红面剔尖 Red-faced tick tip (–> "New Year's Eve pick-tip noodles")

Also called hóng miàn húhú 红面糊糊 ("New Year's Eve pasta")The appellation "red" comes from the characterization of New Year's Eve as hónghuo xīngwàng 红火兴旺 ("vibrant and thriving"). 

The technique of making the noodles is described here and depicted here.

wāndòu miàn mǐn kēdǒu 豌豆面抿蝌蚪 Peas face sip tadpoles (–> "pea flour grated tadpole pasta")

These tadpole-looking little noodles get their name from being pressed through the holes in a device called a mǐnchuáng 抿床 that looks a bit like a grater (a metal plate with holes drilled in it through which the dough is pressed).

The technique for making these "tadpole" noodles is described here and here.

I should mention that Shanxi cuisine has become quite fashionable in Beijing and elsewhere in China recently, and it is known especially for its non-wheat pastas, which makes it popular especially among the gluten-avoiding, health food conscious crowd.

Finally, one of the things that makes reading and translating regional cooking terminology so difficult is that the words often don't mean exactly what they do in Modern Standard Mandarin (MSM) or Literary Sinitic, or simply don't exist in those standard, "book" languages.

[h.t. Anne Henochowicz]


  1. Nathan said,

    October 28, 2013 @ 8:32 am

    I presume "here and here" were supposed to be links.

  2. Victor Mair said,

    October 28, 2013 @ 8:58 am


    Fixed now. I never had so much trouble inserting links before.

  3. ET said,

    October 28, 2013 @ 7:48 pm

    Still no links for tadpole noodles.
    I'm curious!

  4. Victor Mair said,

    October 28, 2013 @ 8:19 pm

    hmmm, ET, I put them there this afternoon, and tested them; they worked

    will try again.

  5. Victor Mair said,

    October 28, 2013 @ 8:26 pm

    The links are working as of this moment (9:25 p.m. EST). In case they disappear again, here they are:

    For the pick-tip noodles:



    For the tadpole noodles:



  6. Fluxor said,

    October 28, 2013 @ 10:27 pm

    According to the "encyclopedia article" linked to in the post, it seems like this type of pasta used to be made by pouring it into pig's intestines (the literal meaning of 灌肠 is to pour into intestines). There's also a section on how the term 灌肠 came about, which says this type of food cleanses the intestines of those working with animal fur. Nothing seems to suggest that the original word included stirring or palms (掌).

  7. JS said,

    October 28, 2013 @ 11:48 pm

    ^ Well, the article contains at least three different accounts of the origin of the name, one of which (copy/pasted from elsewhere) indeed hinges on "罐掌". Still, the "pouring into pig's intestines" direction with which the article opens seems to me more plausible (if its description of the traditional procedure is at all accurate…)

  8. Not a naive speaker said,

    October 29, 2013 @ 4:05 am

    This implement for making the tadpole dumplings is a dead ringer for a Spätzlehobel (http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sp%C3%A4tzlehobel).

  9. Victor Mair said,

    October 29, 2013 @ 5:42 am

    @Fluxor and JS

    Did you watch the video?

    All that stuff about pouring into pig's intestines and cleansing the intestines of people who work with fur (that really sounds far fetched!) seems like ex post facto rationalizations for the 灌肠 (mis?)writing of the term.

  10. BarryB said,

    October 30, 2013 @ 12:31 pm

    I have neither seen nor heard of any Shanxi restaurants here in the US. Most Chinatowns have varied cuisine, but not that varied. Should we assume our chances to taste exploding swans and pea faced sip tadpoles are close to nil? Barring a trip to Asia, of course.

  11. Newfur said,

    November 5, 2013 @ 2:08 am

    I think I prefer the "Beat hong explosion swan preserved". It sounds more interesting than mere prizewinning swan breast. Like "Regional Chinese Cooking as brought to you by MICHAEL BAY!"

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