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拉面 La Mian World

the quest for the perfect noodle

During my stay in China in 1999 I experienced the feel of the Peoples Republic in the once small town Chuan Cha, now a metropolitan suburb, that is rapidly changing to become part of an ocean of urbanity called Shanghai.  After a couple of weeks I decided to move to the heart of that complex itself and found a flat in a new looking apartment building sitting next to the Huang Pu river in Shanghai Pudong.

Similar to my hotel experience the entrance to the apartment building was all marble and gold. However, my apartment was already run down, although probably barely one year old. After three freezing nights (it was March) my first acquisition was a woolen blanket from the shopping centre close by. This massive cube of concrete was at that time considered to be the largest mall in China: the Ba Bai Ban or Nextage. Colossal shopping centres and food courts are nothing out of the ordinary for Shanghai nowadays but in 1999 this was still something not to be found around every corner.

The top floor had a food court and I soon discovered that it also had an excellent La Mian chef. After trying a couple of the other food stalls I returned only to eat at my new La Mian supplier several times per week. All other outlets were way inferior to the outside mall food available in that area. And this area of town was rapidly changing:

In front of my building the street was being turned into a four lane road. New apartment high-rises were under construction across the road in a huge open space. Behind my house a patch of the relatively old remained. Three storey houses connected by narrow lanes which were occupied by a busy all day market. Noise and dirt everywhere. Bicycles crisscrossing the maze. All of this was soon to be replaced by more high-rise buildings and wider roads, or maybe another mall. But for the time being the La Mian hand-made noodle business still survives in modern Shanghai, hopefully for a long time to come.

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