Shaanxi Aristocrat Cuisine -- Crispy Fried Noodles (Jin Xian You Ta)

Jin Xian You Ta (or Crispy Fried Noodles) is a famous steamed snack with multiple layers of filaments, just like golden thread when lifted and a pine cone when laid down. The snack was recognized among the first batch of “Chinese Famous Snacks” in 1997 for its unique flavor: soft, pleasantly oily, and nutritious.

Jin Xian You Ta, formerly called You Ta, was a kind of steamed bread back in the Tang Dynasty more than 1,400 years ago.The snack is said to be mastered by a cook of Duan Wenchang, a prime minister in the Tang Dynasty, and then spread among the folks. After continuous improvement, the snack has become what it is today, with special care on dough, shreds, and look. It has more layers with an addition of lard (or mutton fat); it looks like a pine cone instead of a pie; and it is no longer baked but steamed.


According to the Records of Pure Marvels (“Qing Yi Lu”), when Emperor Muzong of Tang (795 - 824) was in power, the then Prime Minister Duan Wenchang kept an old maid who was apt at making crispy fried noodles. Over more than four decades, she passed the skill to over 100 servant girls, but only nine were said to master the craft. Folklore in Xi’an also goes that only one people had learned the craft from the old maid, reflecting great difficulty to master the skill.

The snack then became popular among the people. According to historical records, “You Ta” was found in Chang’an (today Xi’an) under the reign of Empress Wu Zetian. The Anecdotes from the Court and Beyond (“Chao Ye Qian Zai”) includes an interesting story about “You Ta”. A high-ranking official Zhang Heng was attracted by a pleasant smell in a street market when retiring from a morning routine. It turned out to be freshly made “You Ta”, steaming and fragrant. Zhang furtively bought one and ate it on his horseback, a behavior against official rules. He was impeached and removed from office. You can imagine how attractive “You Ta” is.