If you ever visit Lanzhou in China, you will get to know the area’s trademark specialty food - Lanzhou noodles.
In fact, it is the second search term that pops up if you type in Lanzhou into Google Search. Co-owner Shibo Yu and his two partners came together on a visit to China in search of an opportunity to bring this trademark Lanzhou specialty food to Vancouver, and opened the doors to Sip Bowl La Mian in February.
The Sip Bowl La Mian brand has 340 locations in China, with Yu’s franchised location being the first in North America. Yu speaks of Lanzhou noodles fondly as a childhood memory, and shares that a lot of kids grew up in China with this tasty comfort street food, so it was surprising for him that little is known about this kind of food outside of China.
Though Yu got into business right after he graduated in 2006, Sip Bowl La Mian’s Kerrisdale location is his first restaurant business and it has presented him with a unique set of challenges. He shares that he has learned that not one size fits all with regards to management; his front-end and back-end (kitchen staff) operate differently and he has had to learn the nuances.
In order to become a chef of the hand-pulled Lanzhou noodles technique, the basic training itself takes three years. We watched in awe of the chef quickly transforming a block of dough into pristine, elongated noodles in a matter of seconds. Yu shares that it takes around six months to learn how to hand-pull noodles, but the real work and experience comes from knowing how to perfect the dough.
SIp Bowl La Mian serves both thick and thin hand-pulled noodles. We had the the Sip Bowl Signature Clear Soup Noodle and the Spicy Braised Beef Noodle.
The Sip Bowl Signature Clear Soup Noodle features thin noodles with slices of beef. The fragrant beef broth has a slight peppery taste to it and we can definitely see how it’s a popular street food to warm up in the colder months in Northern China. The broth is made using beef bone, boiled until the bone marrow melts so the base soup is a milky white to concentrate all the essence and flavours.
Though the noodles may look thin, it actually has a ton of elasticity and does not easily soak up the soup, which other thin noodles are prone to do.
The Spicy Braised Beef Noodles are for those who love their spicy food - just take a look at the layer of red indicating the spiciness level. This is served with thick noodles, allowing the noodles to soak up the rich taste of the spicy soup.
The restaurant also serves up tasty sides to complete the meal, such as the Sip Bowl Potato, Seaweed Salad and our favourite - the Green Bean Salad. We inquired as to why the green beans were so flavourful, and discovered that the beans are deep-fried before being marinated with sesame oil. Deep fried anything always tastes better I guess!
SIp Bowl La Mian is the place to go for a bowl of hot, comforting noodles; it also gives you a window into discovering a specialty food of China - we can’t think of a better proposition than to spend a meal time enjoying great food and gaining new cultural insight.
2255 W 41st Ave, Vancouver
Photos by Florence Leung