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Mission Possible: Making Chinese Noodles at Home

Mission Possible: Making Chinese Noodles at Home

How to make hand-pulled and knife cut noodles at home

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Xueci Cheng

Xueci Cheng

Food Editor at Kitchen Stories

​​From one-pot pastas to homemade hand pulled Chinese noodles, this month is dedicated to exploring all ends of the pasta and noodle spectrum. To stay up to date with Slurp! The Everything Pasta and Noodles Issue, check back here for the latest recipes and articles, and don’t forget to follow us on Instagram for exclusive content.

While how to cook rice unifies regional Chinese cooking (with a rice cooker and the infamous knuckle measure), how to make noodles divides. The abundance of Chinese noodles is a never-ending, but magic, journey to take. Staple wheat flour noodles are widely accessible, packaged dry or freshly made from specialty producers in the markets. Hand-making noodles nonetheless remains a routine practice in many households in northern China.

The process itself is often exhibited in noodle eateries, which becomes a selling point and a part of the dining experience. Yes, the craftsmanship of making art-like Chinese noodles needs years of practice, but making them at home is not as daunting as you might first think. Similar to pasta making, all you need is flour, water, salt, and some patience; yet, there’s no standardized recipe. I started my endeavor during lockdown, by watching a video from my favorite blogger and adjusting the water amount to fit German flour. The first try worked, and albeit a little scraggly in their looks, the noodles had a dense chewy texture I was happy to take as a win.

In our how-to video below, you can learn two different ways of making Chinese handmade wheat noodles.

Homemade Chinese noodles, 2 ways

Homemade Chinese noodles, 2 ways

  • 03:43 min.

Different types of handmade Chinese noodles

When talking about handmade Chinese noodles, there tend to be two main types: hand-rolled and knife-cut noodles (手擀面, 刀切面) or purely hand-pulled noodles (拉面、扯面).

Knife-cut noodles

Knife-cut noodles are beginner-friendly and less of a regional-specific dish and offer a versatile approach for making handmade noodles at home. You make a dough, roll it out very thinly, and cut with a knife into strips. These noodles work for all noodle soups, or warm dry-tossed noodles like Dan Dan Mian and Scallion oil noodles.

Biang Biang Mian

Hand-pulled, or hand-ripped noodles, aka the broad noodles used in Biang Biang Mian, have gained hype in recent years as part of the boom in northwestern Chinese food and restaurants, such as Xi’an Famous food. The word “Biang”, known as the most complicated Chinese character (seriously, look it up!), depicts the sound of hitting the dough on the working surface. These noodles are springy and perfect for fiery and tangy sauce, such as You Po Mian (hot oil sizzled noodles).

Lanzhou La Mian

Another famous type of hand-pulled noodles, Lanzhou-style noodles from the northwestern region Gansu (neighboring the province Shaanxi where Biang Biang Mian originates) and are thin and delicate, usually served with beef and broth. These are more advanced for home cooks, but if you want a challenge, check out Serious Eats’s guide.

Tips for making Chinese noodles at home


Some recipes call for high-gluten flour, but through our testing, we found all-purpose flour works perfectly fine. Professional noodle producers use alkaline water to make the dough more elastic, which can be substituted with dissolving baking soda in hot water. Or, use egg to partially substitute the liquid. However, truly, for beginners, salt is enough to help create an al dente bite, use a ratio of 1 g salt per 100 g flour.

Can I make them by hand? Or do I need special tools?

With or without the tools below, the key is to rest the dough a couple of times, and knead in between restings, which makes our hands a more handy tool.

Stand mixer? Yes, you can use a stand mixer, to save time in combining the dough at the very beginning.

Pasta machine or noodle machine? Yes, if you’re not sure you can achieve a thin dough and cut to equal widths, a pasta machine can be a good helper.

For knife-cut noodles:

The hydration for this doubt should be 40% (that means you have a measured weight of water that is 40% the amount of your flour). Add water gradually and be careful of adding too much. The dough might feel hard and dry at first, but after resting it will become smoother. The dough should not be sticky to your hands, but should be able to be rolled out with some pressure (it won’t be as easy as bread dough)! Dust both sides with starch or flour to prevent sticking before and then again and toss well.

For hand-pulled noodles:

The hydration is at 50% so the finished dough is softer. After the first resting, we divide them into equal pieces and brush with oil and rest for a longer time: At least 2 hrs at room temperature, or even in the fridge for a few more hours. The oil coating and resting step ensure that the noodles won’t break when they stretch and slap against the work surface.

What’s the best way to cook these homemade noodles?

The best is always to cook them right away! Set up a pot of boiling water at your last step of making the fresh noodles. The cooking time is rather short, from 3-5 min. You don’t need to salt the water.

How can I store my homemade noodles?

Hand-pulled noodles are in general not easy to store with their oil-brushed surface, but knife-cut noodles can be stored in the freezer on a tray, for up to a month. They can then be cooked directly without defrosting.

Try your freshly-made noodles in these recipes! You can use them as you like for soups or in fried noodle dishes:

- Biang Biang Mian
- Scallion oil noodles
- Shanghai hot sauce noodles
- Chicken noodle soup
- Jjajangmyeon (Korean black bean noodles)

Have you tried making hand-pulled or hand-cut noodles? Or are you planning to try for the first time? Let us know in the comments!

Published on September 9, 2021

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