The stories vary; no one can say for sure. The wall of our restaurant had its own version: A scholar preparing for his Imperial examination locked himself away in his room to ensure optimum concentration. His devoted young wife, wanting to bring him a nourishing meal, traveled a great distance – even crossing a bridge – between their home and the exam site.
In order to prevent the food from going cold, she separated all the ingredients, heating up her pot of chicken soup upon arrival and adding the individual items for a meal that warmed her husband’s body and soul. He scored well, they prospered, and “Crossing the Bridge Noodles” or guò qiáo mǐxiàn (过桥米线) was born.
A fresh bowl of guò qiáo mǐ xiànwas the order of the day as soon as we stepped off the plane, ready for our first official meal in Kunming, the Eternal Spring city and capital of China’s Yunnan Province. We walked a couple streets down from our hotel to an open-air eatery occupied by locals and fronted by a large metal grill where customers waited patiently on short stools for fried potatoes or barbecued tofu nuggets.
Sitting down at a low wooden table, we waited in hungry anticipation. Soon we each had in front of us a large plate with vegetables – bean sprouts, spinach, chives, onions – raw chicken and beef slices, a churro-sized length of yóu tiáo 油条 (fried bread), and a quail egg, along with a spicy chili and garlic dipping sauce.
Then out came bowls of freshly steeped chicken broth with a thin layer of natural oil, rich and flavorful, savory and unadulterated.
We dropped meat, eggs, and vegetables into the piping hot broth to cook before adding the cold, chewy vermicelli rice noodles – the perfect accompaniment. Our faces turning red from the steaming bowls, we slurped away, completely and happily engrossed in a delicious gastronomic medley of flavors.
These restaurants should have Crossing the Bridge noodles on their menu (likely listed as the “house special rice noodle soup”):
Yun Chuan Garden
301 N Garfield Ave
Monterey Park, CA 91754
545 W Las Tunas Dr
San Gabriel, CA 91776
1530 S San Gabriel Blvd
San Gabriel, CA 91776
If you could go anywhere to try the local food, where would you go?