Chinese Tuesdays: Chitty Chitty Biang Biang


There's a new noodle joint on my street, and this is the sign on the window:

That's biángbiáng miàn, for those not familiar with the character. Take another look. Now look away and write it from memory.

Biángbiáng miàn are a type of flat noodle from Shaanxi province, as famous for how it's written as how it tastes. There are 58 strokes in the character, and ten radicals: 言 (speak), 幺 (tiny, x2), 馬 (horse), 長 (grow, x2), 月 (moon), 刂(knife), 心 (heart), 八 (eight), 宀 (roof) and 辶 (walk). There's a mnemonic poem to help you remember them. Or just imagine a tiny speaking horse growing in the moonlight with a knife in its eight hearts as it walks on the roof. Simple.

The character was allegedly invented by Qin dynasty chancellor and calligrapher Li Si. The pronunciation is onomatopoeic, "biang" being either the sound of slapping dough on a table to make the noodles, or the chewing sound of eating them. Biang biang. Bon appetit.