Mark Hiew (more chengdu)|
Buckwheat, or “qiao” (荞), is the world’s highest elevation domesticate, grown near the Tibetan plateau in northern Yunnan. Beyond being the namesake of the most popular of, “The Little Rascals,” it’s also well known through its use in Japanese soba or Korean naengmyeon cold noodles. You can try some of the local variety in Chengdu at Grandma Wang’s, located just off of South Second Ring Road in Yulin.
Buckwheat hull is dark brown in color, and, unlike wheat flour, it contains no gluten, so it’s much harder to convert into noodles. At Grandma Wang’s they are traditionally made by hand and then pressed with a wooden apparatus housed in the front of the restaurant. The noodles do not possess the chewy character of ordinary noodles. These seem to fall apart immediately after being bitten. It’s this doughy, potato-like texture that seems to elicit a love-hate reaction from those unfamiliar with them.
On our visit, we found the broth, when not intensively doused in Sichuan peppercorns and red chili, to be somewhat bland, and the vegetarians in our party yearned for the inclusion of more vegetables. The beef noodles, however, (“Niu rou qiao mian”), featured delectably soft pieces of beef, and at 7RMB per bowl, it provides a quick and inexpensive meal.
In addition to the noodles, there are a series of soups (6-15RMB) and snacks (under 5RMB). The pork dumplings, reminiscent of those found at dim sum eateries, were so inundated with oil that their otherwise savory goodness was beyond saving, while the sweet breads, or “donggao” (1.5RMB each), were fluffy and sweet. Both can be selected when placing your order at the register from the racks displayed at the front of the shop.
The restaurant itself is laid out elegantly in traditional Qing dynasty style, with shapely wooden furniture, a small courtyard adorned by bonsai trees and several panel screen paintings. Service was charming, but for the racket made by one of the chefs, blasting sounds out of his phone.