Types of Chinese Noodles 🍜 A Guide to 11 Varieties

11 Types of Chinese Noodles You Must Try

Most people will probably be familiar with chow mein or noodle soup but what about other types of Chinese noodles?

Types-of-Chinese-Noodles

A staple of the Chinese diet, there are literally countless varieties of different Chinese noodle dishes.

Even the same noodle dish can vary widely from restaurant to restaurant and household to household, with closely guarded recipes and different adjustments according to taste.

Here we’re going to give you a breakdown of some of LTL’s favourite Chinese noodle dishes.

Types of Chinese Noodles – An Introduction

Types of Chinese Noodles – Lanzhou Beef Noodles

Types of Chinese Noodles – Biang Biang Noodles

Types of Chinese Noodles – Fried Noodles

Types of Chinese Noodles – Knife Cut Noodles

Types of Chinese Noodles – Dan Dan Noodles

Types of Chinese Noodles – Cold Skin Noodles

Types of Chinese Noodles – Cold Noodles

Types of Chinese Noodles – Soybean Paste Noodles

Types of Chinese Noodles – Yunnan Rice Noodles

Types of Chinese Noodles – Guilin Rice Noodles

Types of Chinese Noodles – Glass Noodles

Types of Chinese Noodles – An Introduction

The Chinese have been enjoying noodles for around 2,000 years, ever since the Han dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD).

Many experts believe that pasta actually has its origins in noodles and that it was brought to Italy by Marco Polo when he returned from China.

Just like the Italians with pasta there are numerous different types, shapes, flavours, lengths etc. However in terms of what noodles are made from there are three main types of Chinese noodles:

  • Wheat noodles – these can be made with or without egg
  • Rice noodles
  • Starch noodles

Another way Chinese noodles are also categorised is by the way the dough is processed to then make the noodles. There are five main different techniques which can be used.

EnglishChinesePinyinProcess
CutqiēThe noodles are cut from a flat sheet of dough.
Extruded挤压jǐ yāDough is passed through a mechanical press with holes to form strands of noodles.
PeeledxiāoStrips of dough are peeled or sliced off of a block of dough.
PulledThe dough is repeatedly stretched and folded to make a single strand.
KneadedróuThe dough is kneaded or rolled into the desired shape.

So we’ve had a look at the basics of different types of Chinese noodles but what about different noodle dishes?

Types of Chinese Noodles – Lanzhou Beef Noodles

As you might have guessed from the name these famous noodles hail from Lanzhou in Gansu Province.

These noodles are also known as Lanzhou hand-pulled noodles and their name in Chinese is 兰州牛肉拉面 lánzhōu niúròu lāmiàn (also sometimes shortened to 兰州拉面 lánzhōu lāmiàn).

Types-of-Chinese-Noodles

拉面 lāmiàn refers to the hand pulling technique which is used to make the noodles.

It is not only the Lanzhou variety of noodles that use this technique, with other famous Chinese noodles such as biang biang noodles (which we’ll look at next) also being made this way.

These noodles are a speciality of the Hui Muslim ethnic group and can be found all over China. Similar to Japanese ramen, the noodles are served in a clear beef soup or broth normally topped with coriander, spring onions and chilli.

Lanzhou beef noodles really are a great comfort food and one of the best times to enjoy a bowl is during the harsh Beijing winter.

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Types of Chinese Noodles – Biang Biang Noodles

Biang biang noodles are a Shaanxi speciality that are famous all over China, not only for their delicious taste but also because of the character “biang” which is the most complex Chinese character of all!

Types-of-Chinese-Noodles

In fact, it’s so complicated that it can’t be printed! This means that Chinese menus have to either opt for the pinyin biángbiáng面 or they use the alternative Chinese name 油泼扯面 yóu pōchěmiàn instead.

The name “biang biang” comes from the sound which the noodles make as they are being made, an example of Chinese onomatopoeia (象声词 xiàng shēng cí).

Biang biang noodles are quite thick and wide so they are also sometimes referred to as “belt noodles”.

They are commonly topped with spring onions, garlic, bean sprouts, coriander, Sichuan peppercorns, and chili.

Sometimes a few bits of pork are also added to the noodles, so if you’re vegetarian or vegan be sure to double check if there is meat or not!

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If you are a vegetarian or a vegan, you can imagine that sometimes it can be very difficult to find restaurants catering to vegetarians.

Types of Chinese Noodles – Fried Noodles

Almost anyone in The West is going to familiar with chow mein, the popular Chinese takeaway dish which derives it’s name from the Chinese for fried noodles 炒面 chǎomiàn.

However, although this is where the name chow mein comes from, fried noodles in China aren’t quite the same as their Western counterpart.

Types-of-Chinese-Noodles

You might begin to spot a pattern here where most types of Chinese noodles are simply named after the technique used to make or cook them.

As you can guess from the name fried noodle are boiled noodles which are stir-fried with a selection of sliced vegetables and meat.

Fried noodles were then brought to the West by Chinese immigrants in the 1850s and overtime became more Westernised with more meat being added along with a thick sauce.

So if you’re ordering 炒面 chǎomiàn in China be prepared to expect something that’s a little different than your chow mein from the local Chinese takeaway.

Types of Chinese Noodles – Knife-cut Noodles

Like many of the noodle dishes on this list knife-cut noodles (刀削面 dāoxiāomiàn) refers to the way that the noodles are made, in this case being cut from a large piece of dough to make short, thick, rough noodles.

Types-of-Chinese-Noodles

The chefs who make these noodles are truly skilful as they shave off the pieces of noodle directly into a pot of boiling water, taking both perfect accuracy and timing so that none of the noodles overcook.

Apparently top chefs who have mastered the skill can cut 200 noodle strands in 1 minute!

Typically these noodles are served in a broth, but they can also be served in a stir-fry as well.

Although these noodles originate from Shanxi not Shaanxi they are very popular in Xi’an and some of the best ones can be found in Xi’an’s Muslim Quarter.

Types of Chinese Noodles – Dan Dan Noodles

Dan dan noodles (担担面 dàndàn miàn) are a speciality of Sichuan cuisine which of course means, as with many Sichuan dishes, that they’re pretty spicy!

Types-of-Chinese-Noodles

These noodles are long and thin and are topped with chilli oil, fresh chilli, Sichuan peppercorns, minced pork, crushed peanuts and preserved vegetables.

They are a hugely popular snack food in Chengdu and their popularity has also spread to other cities around China. They can be eaten as a main meal rather than just a snack if preferred.

The name of the noodles (担担面 dàndàn miàn) comes from the way vendors used to carry the noodles around on a shoulder pole 担 (dàn).

Street vendors would carry a stove and pot to cook the noodles in on one end of the pole, then bowls, chopsticks and the ingredients on the other end of the pole.

You won’t see dan dan noodles being sold in this way anymore, and will need to pop into a Sichuan restaurant or snack bar to get them instead.

Types of Chinese Noodles – Cold Skin Noodles

Ok so when you first hear the name cold skin noodles (凉皮 liángpí), this dish might not sound like the most appetising thing on the menu, but rest assured these are completely free of any actual skin!

Types-of-Chinese-Noodles

These are another type of Chinese noodles that come from Shaanxi, yes in case you haven’t notice by now both Shaanxi and its neighbour Shanxi are pretty famous for their varieties of delicious noodles.

Liangpi are made from either wheat or rice flower and are flat and wide in shape.

As you’ve probably already guessed from the name they are served cold along with black vinegar, chili oil, garlic, and sliced cucumber.

These noodles are a very popular street snack and you’ll often see street vendors selling them in cities all over China.

They’re great to eat all year round but as they are served cold are particularly refreshing to have during summer in Beijing.

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Types of Chinese Noodles – Cold Noodles

Next on our list we have another cold dish which is simply called cold noodles (凉面 liángmiàn).

Types-of-Chinese-Noodles

This noodle dish hails from Sichuan province, so like the dan dan noodles it has a bit of a kick to it!

Cold noodles are a traditional Chinese snack that you’ll see being served by street vendors, stalls and restaurants all over China.

As well as a delicious snack they also make a great breakfast or quick lunch.

In China there are two main types of cold noodles: one has a soy and vinegar sauce and one type has a sesame sauce made from sesame paste. The sesame version is also often served with shredded chicken and chillies are a must for both versions.

For anyone familiar with Taiwanese food you may know that there is also a Taiwanese version of cold noodles.

This version also has a sesame sauce but doesn’t have any of the signature Sichuan spiciness.

Types of Chinese Noodles – Soybean Paste Noodles

The literal translation of the Chinse name for soybean paste noodles (炸酱面 zhájiàngmiàn) is fried sauce noodles.

These are a Beijing speciality and are available to buy in most Beijing restaurants serving Beijing style food and snacks.

Types-of-Chinese-Noodles

For this dish thick wheat noodles are used and as the name suggests these noodles are topped with a soybean sauce.

The sauce is normally combined with ground beef or pork, though there is also a vegetarian version that uses smoked tofu instead.

Along with the sauce sliced vegetables such as cucumber and carrot are also added.

Around 100 years ago these noodles were introduced to Korea by Shandong immigrants where they became hugely popular. In Korean the dish is called ja jang myun and has become so popular that there is even an instant noodle version of it!

Types of Chinese Noodles – Yunnan Rice Noodles

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There are many different varieties of Yunnan rice noodles (云南米线 yúnnán mǐxiàn) and you’ll find different rice noodle dishes all over Yunnan.

Whether eaten for breakfast, lunch, dinner or for a snack rice noodles are a staple of the Yunnan diet.

Ranging from noodle soups, to cold noodles, to spicy noodles to your typical noodle dish topped with vegetables and meat there are countless different types.

However, the most famous variation is “crossing the bridge noodles” (过桥米线 guò qiáo mǐxiàn), a classic Yunnan dish you’ll find on the menu of pretty much every Yunnan restaurant.

This a noodle soup where you are served the broth and the ingredients separately and then add the ingredients to the broth one by one yourself.

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Types of Chinese Noodles – Guilin Rice Noodles

Following on from Yunnan rice noodles we have Guilin rice noodles (桂林米粉 guìlín mǐfěn) which are also known as rice vermicelli.

Types-of-Chinese-Noodles

Hailing from the beautiful Guilin in Guangxi these are the most famous and popular snack in Guilin.

Typically Guilin rice noodles are eaten for breakfast, but as with most Chinese noodle dishes can be enjoyed for any meal.

These are a must try dish for anyone who visits Guilin and can be found on almost every street of the city.

At the heart of this dish is the special gravy which the noodles are served in. The gravy is slow boiled for several hours and can have up to 20 different ingredients!

Traditionally the noodles are then served with fried peanuts or soybeans, spring onions and thin slices of meat.

Types of Chinese Noodles – Glass Noodles

Types-of-Chinese-Noodles

Not to be confused with Guilin rice noodles, although similar in appearance, we have glass noodles (粉丝 fěnsī) which are also sometimes referred to as cellophane noodles.

The noodles are made from starch (usually mung bean starch) and water, they become transparent when they are cooked, hence the names glass or cellophane noodles.

Glass noodles are commonly served in hot pot, stir-fries soups and cold salad like dishes.

They are also often used as filling in dumplings and pancakes, especially vegetarian versions as a substitute for meat.


So what is your favourite type of Chinese noodles? Tell us in the comments below.

Types of Chinese Noodles – FAQs

How many types of Chinese noodles are there?

There are three main types of Chinese noodles:

Wheat noodles (which can be with or without egg)

Rice noodles

Starch noodles

What are Chinese noodles called?

In Chinese noodles are called 面 miàn.

What are thin clear Chinese noodles called?

Thin clear Chinese noodles are called glass noodles or sometimes they are also called cellophane noodles.

What are the skinny white Chinese noodles called?

The skinny white Chinese noodles are called Guilin rice noodles or are sometimes also called rice vermicelli.

What is chow mein in Chinese?

In Chinese chow mein is 炒面 chǎomiàn which literally means “fried noodles”.

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    Irene Magnosi , Student Advisor

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