Use the chopsticks to lift the whole noodles into your mouth, and only then start to chew. Long life guaranteed.
Certain foods often have symbolic meanings in Chinese culture, some of which could quite easily pass you by as a tourist. Chang shou mian is one of those dishes. Chang shou mian translates as “long life noodles,” and they are a staple carb of Chinese cuisine. In particular, custom dictates that they ought to be eaten on birthdays and during Spring Festival.
Normally, the noodles are made from one piece of dough, and are stretched and pulled into numerous long, thin strands which are taken to symbolise long life and health, not unlike the length of the life line on the palm of your hand. Wheat is used instead of rice, because rice noodles are too delicate to be stretched to any great length. A bowl of Chang shou mian is chewy, hearty and satisfying — you can understand where the superstition came from.
Other traditions abound in Chinese households: eating fish on Chinese New Year’s Day brings good fortune; dumplings ought to be served when someone is leaving town. But Chang shou mian has its own host of minor rituals. Depending on where in China you are, sometimes guests pick noodles from their own bowl and place them in that of the birthday boy or girl. Elsewhere, the custom is to hold the noodles up with your chopsticks and admire their length with the other guest. However, everyone agrees on one thing: never cut a noodle strand — unless you want a shorter life!
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