Subscribe to San Francisco Magazine

Mod Lux Feeds

Now Playing

The Noodle Virtuoso

At M.Y. China, the head chef also happens to be one of the world's best noodle-pullers.

Noodle pulling...

...works on a geometric progression. 

A chef starts...

...with around five pounds...

...of prepped and floured dough. 

After a lot of twisting...

...stretching...

...folding...

...and flinging... 

...the dough’s gluten chains build up enough... 

...to turn the ball of flour and water into...

...chewy, smooth, and silky noodles.

With every twist and pull...

...the number of strands doubles until they turn into noodles.

Chef Wu starts with a ball of dough...

...and after 14 pulls...

...ends up with 16,384 noodles.

Or, for you mathletes: 2^14.

At M.Y. China, TV celeb Martin Yan’s ambitious new Westfield San Francisco Centre restaurant, the food is there to entertain as much as to be eaten: In the open kitchen, cooks wrangle flame-licked woks, and every so often a noodle puller steps out into the dining room, swinging a ribbon of dough with a skill that could parlay into rhythmic gymnastics—or a Burning Man show.

M.Y. China’s master noodle puller is Yong Dong Wu, but you can call him Tony. Originally hailing from Tian Jian, China, Chef Wu has 31 years of experience under his belt, 33 medals, and the prestigious honor of being the first chef to set a record of pulling 16,000 noodles in two minutes—something he’s happy to demonstrate blindfolded. How do you know a good noodle puller from a bad one? “Instead of strength, it’s about movement,” he says. "Sort of like golf.”

M.Y. China intends to make its restaurant a sort of boot camp for aspiring noodle pullers, among them Tom Edwards, a decidedly un-Chinese California Culinary Academy extern who has been training with Chef Wu. “The first, most difficult part is throwing the noodle up and down without hitting your face,” he says. “It’s all about getting the rhythm down.” Though you’d think this ancient art form would come with a do-not-try-this-at-home warning, apparently not. “My fiancée came back from work the other day,” Edwards says, “and she wanted to know why I’d moved the coffee table out of the living room.”

Originally published in the February 2013 issue of San Francisco Magazine

Have feedback? Email us at letterssf@sanfranmag.com
Follow us on Twitter
@sanfranmag
Follow Sara Deseran
@SaraDeseran