The Chinese noodle that’s thin as a thread

Sep 15, 2020

Known as jinsimian in Chinese, gold thread noodles are thin as hair and reserved for special occasions.

In China, there is a type of noodle so thin that it can pierce through the eye of a needle.

They’re called gold thread noodles, or jinsimian 金丝面, and they’re a specialty of Sichuan Province in southwestern China, where the dish is reserved for special occasions.

Why are they called gold thread noodles? “Because after kneading the dough, the color is gold and when you roll it out, it looks like gold foil,” explains Yang Yongfu, who’s been making the noodles for over 24 years.

Gold thread noodles are so thin that they can be threaded through the eye of a needle.
Gold thread noodles are so thin that they can be threaded through the eye of a needle. / Photo: Yong Guo

There are only a handful of chefs who have mastered the art of making gold thread noodles. The challenge is cutting the dough into fine, delicate strands.

“The noodles should be thin as paper, delicate, and fine as hair.”

Yang Yongfu, chef

“The noodles should be thin as paper, delicate, and fine as hair,” Yang says.

(Read more: The method that makes 90 noodles in 1 minute)

To achieve that effect, chefs carefully run a heavy knife back and forth across the dough, cutting thin strands along the way. The best chefs spend their entire careers perfecting this technique.

“You have to be really accurate to get the results you want,” Yang says.

He estimates he can cut 9,000 to 12,000 noodle strands from one 400-gram piece of dough.

Yang Yongfu demonstrates how to cut gold thread noodles.
Yang Yongfu demonstrates how to cut gold thread noodles. / Photo: Yong Guo

The dough’s golden color comes from a combination of egg yolk and flour. In Sichuan, duck eggs are preferred because they impart a brighter hue.

Once the noodles are cut, they’re served in a broth made from capons, or castrated chickens.

Also practiced in Spain and France, chicken castration involves removing the testes of a rooster at a young age.

The idea is that the lack of sex hormones makes the poultry more tender and juicy.

“The soup made from it is much more concentrated,” Yang says.

Yang Yongfu says gold thread noodles should be “thin as paper, delicate, and fine as hair.”
Yang Yongfu says gold thread noodles should be “thin as paper, delicate, and fine as hair.” / Photo: Yong Guo

The broth is clear to bring out the color of the noodles. The result is a simple dish, refined by the skill and technique that goes into making delicately thin, chewy noodles.

“These gold thread noodles are such an important part of Chinese and Sichuanese culture,” Yang says. “They’re a cultural relic.”

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Credit

Producer: Clarissa Wei

Videographer: Yong Guo

Editor: Nicholas Ko

Mastering: Victor Peña