Lanzhou beef noodle restaurants are an extremely cheap and easy type of Chinese food. Like malatang and malaxiangguo restuarants, they are also extremely common and easy to find all over Changzhou. While the mala places are very convenient for those who do not know Chinese, Lanzhou noodle shops quite often have Chinese-only menus without pictures. Learning to eat at these shops is also a lesson in Chinese. I that regard, I recently learned of two potato related dishes on their menu board, and a new category of Chinese food.
This is 土豆烧牛肉盖浇面 Tǔdòu shāo niúròu gài jiāo mian. It cost 15 RMB.
This is 土豆丝牛肉盖浇饭 Tǔdòu sī niúròu gài jiāo fàn. It cost 13 RMB. Both are a type of 盖浇 gài jiāo. This is a simple type of food where cooked food is served on top of rice — as opposed to being given a separate bowl. Noodles can be substituted for rice. Both of the beef and potato dishes are not that spicy, either. This particular Lanzhou shop is on Hehai Road in Xinbei.
Navigating Chinese food can be difficult at first. There is the whole “picture menu” versus “no picture menu” issue to deal with. But as one learns to read Chinese, things eventually become easier. For instance, mala tang involves no menu at all. There are other food options to consider if you are new to a city.
Lanzhou 兰州 noodle shops are pretty much universal in China and in Changzhou. It’s a form of quick food that is easy to find, partly because it’s very popular with Chinese people. It’s also a type of Halal eating, or what some people call “Chinese Muslim Food.” Simply, Chinese dishes that follows Islamic culinary law. The chief thing, of course, is the religious ban against pork as “unclean.” Lanzhou cuisine also prominently features beef or mutton.
Of the many menu options, Lamian 拉面 is the easiest to find. The noodles involved have been rigorously pulled and stretched. If you see a chef twirling and twirling dough, he or she is likely making this style of noodle. The dish itself is fairly simple: noodles, meat, and broth. It can be a little spicy, but it also depends on the establishment and the cook. Some are spicier than others.
There are two ways to adventure into these noodle shops. First, you can ask a Chinese friend to take you or recommend a place. If you are by yourself, glance into the restaurant and take a head count. If it’s busy, the food is likely well prepared and probably wont give you food poisoning. If the joint seems perpetually empty, then skip it by all means.