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Jing Li and Chao Chang: Noodles make a delicious lesson in Chinese culture and history

China’s culture around noodles has a long history. In China, noodle dishes are a staple for birthdays and Chinese New Year because they signify a long life. During the 2018 Chinese New Year, Chinese language students at Greenhills led by Chinese teachers Jing Li and Chao Chang went to Noodle Topia to learn about the Chinese culture surrounding noodles. They did this through hand-making noodles, and tasted China’s famous hand-pulled noodles, welcoming the Year of the Dog. The owner of Noodle Topia , on John R north of 12 Mile Road in Madison Heights, told us about his background and experience as an immigrant, then introduced the renowned Lanzhou Lamian noodles to the class. The students used Chinese to ask many questions, excited to use the language they have learned to communicate and learn the culture from a Chinese native.

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This noodle restaurant was able to hire a traditional Lamian noodle chef from Lanzhou to make hand-pulled noodles and knife-cut noodles, both of which are traditional Chinese noodles. We were very fortunate to have this type of expert to teach these techniques to the students. He took them through the process step-by-step, allowing the students to follow along and learn by hand. Not only did the students enjoy this process, but they were also able to experience being part of this long-standing tradition.

After a lot of hard work, all of the students were able to enjoy a bowl of traditional and authentic Lanzhou Lamian noodles. During this field trip, not only did they learn to use the Chinese language to understand the entrepreneurial process of a Chinese immigrant, but they also experienced making and eating the cuisine themselves, immersing themselves deep into the Chinese culture. Because of this, Li Jing laoshi and I believe that they had a wonderful food and culture journey.

—by Jing Li and Chao Chang, Greenhills Chinese language teachers