Alkaline Wheat Noodles (Jianshui Wenzhou Mian for Dan Dan Mian, Xiao Mian)
We searched far and wide for the perfect dried noodle for dan dan mian, Chongqing xiao mian and other Sichuan noodles and soups and finally settled on the famed alkaline noodles called Jianshui Wenzhou.
We opted against importing the type of dried noodles often sold as Sichuan, Chengdu or dan dan-style because they are generally quite thin, and they cook up very unlike the fresh version used in Sichuan, lacking any heft or chewiness. We wanted a dried noodle that more closely matches the fresh ones, that has some Q, as the Taiwanese describe it—some springiness and chewiness—something that has presence and holds up better to sauce and broth.
Our local Chengdu team suggested these Jianshui Wenzhou-style noodles because like many fresh Sichuan noodles—and unlike most Chinese dried wheat noodles—they include jianshui/kansui, an alkaline lye water, which lends them that body and bounce (as well as a yellow color). These noodles are named after the city of Wenzhou, in the province of Zhejiang, because they originated there and were made with lake water that had naturally occurring kansui. But they have become popular in Sichuan and several other regions of China (not to mention Japan).
These noodles are mid-weight and round, as preferred in Sichuan, and the alkaline in these, as in ramen, is sodium carbonate. The packaging uses European standards and calls it E500i, which is merely water-soluble sodium salt of carbonic acid. See the second photo for the difference between non-alkaline (white) and alkaline (yellow) dried noodles. (We previously sold the white ones as a trial before importing these alkaline noodles ourselves.)
After making dan dan noodles, may we suggest Chengdu's favorite zajiang mian, Yibin ran mian or Sichuan sesame noodles? Alkaline noodles are also used in Wuhan hot dry noodles, as explained in this recipe from our affiliate The Woks of Life. They're an all-around good choice for soups, dry noodles and cold noodles.
Source: Jiangxi Chunsi Foods Company
Size: 1 pound (454 grams)
Ingredients: wheat flour, salt, sodium carbonate