A distant cousin of Italian orecchiette, maoerduo is an ear-shaped noodle that’s usually served in a rich bone broth.
In Shanxi Province, just outside Beijing, there is a noodle shaped like cat ears that people have been eating for over 300 years.
Similar to Italian orecchiette, maoerduo is made with wheat and water, though orecchiette is older—invented in the 13th century.
Maoerduo’s earliest mention is in the 18th century. It was allegedly discovered by the Qianlong Emperor during the Qing Dynasty. It’s been a Chinese comfort food ever since.
“When I was young, my mom would make me maoerduo,” says Guo Zhuqin, the owner of Guo Guo Wang, a maoerduo eatery in Shanxi. “They’re delicious and dear to me.”
Maoerduo served with soup is a popular winter dish. During peak season, Guo says she sells around 200 bowls a day.
Traditional maoerduo is handmade, rolled out with chopsticks, but nowadays, most places churn them out with machines.
“We go through a lot of maoerduo everyday,” Guo says. “If we were to make them ourselves. We wouldn’t be quick enough.”
“The machine does most of the hard work,” says Li Chengjun, who runs a shop that supplies maoerduo.
At his factory, flour is mixed with water, and the machine churns out the maoerduo by squeezing the dough through a mold. “On average, I make over 100 pounds of maoerduo a day,” Li says.
Back at the restaurant, the noodles are cooked in a clay pot with a savory bone broth. Toppings including cabbage, potatoes, seaweed, and quail eggs.
“The maoerduo is small,” Guo says, “and the shape of the folds make it easy for them to absorb the broth.”
The result is a noodle dish packed with flavor—and the perfect winter warmer.