Director: Jia Li
China, 2018, 16 min
Crew:Cinematographer/DP: Jia Li - Colorist: Jia Li - Editors: Yiwei Chen, Jia Li - Producers: Christopher St. Cavish, Cool Liang, Jessie Xu, Kristofer Rios - Additional Photography: Joshua Frank
Lanzhou beef noodle soup is as ubiquitous as McDonalds and KFCs in China. A quick bowl slurped down during lunch, served up in a few seconds time; it’s the ultimate Chinese fast food. In Lanzhou, Gansu province in northwestern China, there is an enterprising school for people who want to not only learn how to make handmade noodles but also how to franchise and become entrepreneurs in the all-cash noodle business.
Those who go to noodle school are not gourmands. Some haven’t achieved even a basic education, some are illiterate, and some have failed out of other jobs such as delivery or running goods. They are all here - learning technique and small business practice - some learning faster than others. In technique, repetition, and practice, some even find artistry and grace in noodle-making.
As one of the few hallmarks of Chinese Muslim food, Lanzhou beef noodle soup is surprisingly controversial, as attempts to commercialize and standardize it within an atheistic country can be tricky.
This is a story as simple as a bowl of noodle soup, but also encompasses tradition, religion, and the often overlooked workers in a hyper-competitive changing economy.