Rachelle Liu and Kathleen Chen
LAN Noodle: Hand Pulled With Love
A year into the pandemic, we’re all itching to travel and getaway even just for a little bit. Luckily, we can take a trip to Lanzhou, China by immersing ourselves in the culture of LAN Noodle, a noodle shop specializing in bringing hand pulled Lanzhou noodles to Southern California!
LAN Noodle was founded by Esther Yuan, a global scholar turned restaurant owner. Esther was born and raised in China and later earned her Bachelor’s degree in the UK, studying communication and journalism. She put her degree to good use and worked as a journalist in the UK for around two years before coming to Los Angeles to pursue a master’s degree in Public Diplomacy at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. While these studies would not seem to relate to food, Esther shares, “I have always been passionate about culture diplomacy and public to public culture exchange. I am fascinated about how people can be connected to each other from different backgrounds after understanding a little bit of each other’s culture.”
Esther never imagined that this interest in cultural exchange would lead to her opening a restaurant, but everything changed when she met her partner Mac and LAN Noodle’s master chef Chengshan Gao. Through them, Esther learned about the centuries old history and rich culture of hand pulled noodles. She was amazed at how well the culture was preserved and took it upon herself to continue the tradition. Esther says, “I knew I had the tools and energy to help hand pulled noodle culture enter the US. I felt like the culture found me and I had a responsibility to help it. I needed to use my skills to give hand pulled noodle culture a place to stand in the US. Therefore, I founded LAN NOODLE.”
LAN is a truly unique noodle house for a variety of reasons. Esther stayed true to her word about preserving the culture of hand pulled noodles, and every bowl of noodles served at LAN was handmade. This takes great skill, and Esther says that she prioritized preserving the traditional methods of hand pulling noodles. “All of our noodle pullers have to have the skill of pulling all eight shapes of noodles,” she says, “which is the traditional selection of Lanzhou hand pulled noodles.” Technique is very important, but the ingredients also make a key difference. Esther explains that hand pulled noodles require a certain type of wheat flour, and sourcing ingredients locally proved to be a big challenge. They wanted their noodles to have the perfect texture and experimented on all different kinds of flours, mixing them in different ratios to get the right balance. Esther says, “We want the chewiness to be perfect, so we took so much time to experiment with flour.” Esther and the team at LAN are also very particular about the quality of their ingredients, and “use everything fresh: fresh pulled noodles, never frozen beef, fresh beef bone broth simmered for ten hours everyday, and fresh house-made chili oil.”
Like many restaurants, LAN Noodle faced significant hardships due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They were forced to close for two months, but still paid their staff basic salary throughout to sustain them and their families. Since then, they have enforced safety and protective measures for customers and staff, but had to be creative in finding ways to preserve the quality of their fresh noodles like separating their noodles and soup for takeout orders. While the process has been challenging, Esther is motivated by all the support they have received from customers. She says, “We received so many messages both online and in person that [customers] want to keep us in business. It felt so good to have a supportive community.”
Love for culture is still at the heart of what Esther does, and she hopes that LAN Noodle can serve a cultural bridge for more people to know about Chinese culture. She says, “The most rewarding aspect has been the feedback from our customers. I love to see their faces light up while watching hand pulled noodles for the first time. I love to see the empty bowls with not even a drop of soup left in the bowl when I clean the tables. The thank you messages we receive everyday both online and in person saying our noodles have made their day. The questions our customers raise about the culture of hand pulled noodles and its background. I treasure every second of interaction with our customers.” While food is a unifying language, Esther hopes that more Asian culture can be represented in the U.S. She shares, “Food is a great medium as it’s universal and has no language barriers. I hope our noodles can entice interest in the hand pulled noodle culture and further down the road, Chinese culture.”
Visit LAN Noodle!
Address: 411 E Huntington Dr UNIT 102, Arcadia, CA 91006
Order: lannoodle.com, seamless.com, grubhub.com
Address: 1428 S Azusa Ave Suite B, West Covina, CA 91791
Order: lannoodlewestcovina.com, doordash.com, ubereats.com, seamless.com, postmates.com, grubhub.com
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