A Niang Noodles, Sinan Lu

So you've tried Langzhou hand-pulled noodles, now you need to eat yellow fish noodles, the house specialty of A Niang's Noodle Shop on Sinan Lu. This place is virtually invisible to foreigners, yet is apparently known all over China. A customer once told me its fame is in its longevity - it was one of the few noodle shops to stay open continuously during the tumultuous years of the Cultural Revolution. He thought it had been open since the early 40s. 

Personally I think its fame lies with its simplicity - although they sell other kinds of noodles, everyone comes here to eat huang yu mian - yellow fish noodles. There is some variety seems in the way of side dishes - choose from xian cai - salted vegetables, pickles, or spiced poatatoes with pork. These you can eat these separately or dunk them in your noodles. 

Once you have ordered and paid (20 yuan, about $3.20) find a seat in the packed canteen-style interior. You'll need to hover menacingly at the elbow of someone who is almost finished eating -no lingering here over the last few mouthfuls. As soon as a bottom rises from one of the orange plastic seats, four people rush to take their place. There are no drinks, no napkins, and no second chances. Take your chopsticks from the communal tub on each table. 

Now you need to listen really hard for your number being called.  This is an exercise in intense concentration for me, because if you miss your number some other hungry bugger will likely grab your bowl. It doesn't help that the waitresses all use their own way of number-calling (Number one hundred and ninety! One-nine-zero! A hundred ninety! Number one ninety! In Chinese they sound even more different). Wave your arms enthusiastically when yours is called!

You now have your bowl. Despite the crushing crowds at your table, envelop yourself in a little cloud. Smell the fragrant steam from the tea coloured broth. Admire the plump sweet fillets of fish sitting on top of the glistening fresh noodles. Savour the sweet, briny taste of the pickled greens on the side. Raise a hank of noodles to your mouth and slurp them in noisily. Tip the bowl and drink the soup from the edge. Aaahh.....

A Niang Noodles, 36 Sinan Lu, near Huai Hai Lu in the French Concession.
Open from 7am daily.

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