The name of Guanmiao was derived from the local Guandi Miao (Tem-ple of Emperor Guan, and modern day Shansi Gong) constructed by settlers from Jhangjhou. The area used to be a Pingpu people settle-ment renowned for their woven bamboo ware. However, the industry faded away as sources for raw rattan and bamboo dwindled. Most agri-cultural produce include pineapples and bamboo shoots. Signboards reading Guanmiao Pineapples for pineapple vending stands can be seen everywhere during summer. Guanmiao is also called the Home of Taiwanese Pineapples. Pineapples produced in this area are marketed throughout the country. Guanmiao has yet another local specialty - hand-made Guanmiao Mian (noodles). Tainan Guanmiao District has a large number of noodle stores. There are over 50 noodle makers along the lanes and streets of this tiny village. Noodle lovers are definitely fa-miliar with the famous Guanmiao Mian (Guanmiao noodles) which has a history that goes back nearly a hundred years. Back then, people did not have access to electrical appliances or refrigeration to store perishable foods. To preserve foods for longer periods of time, our ancestors came up with pickling or sun drying, creating traditional food such as pickled cucumbers or smoked meat. During Japanese occupation, freshly pre-pared noodles are folded into a triangular shape in order to preserve them.
Guanmiao noodles are special for their unique sun-drying treatment that imparts a wonderful chewy texture to the resulting noodle. The noodle is able to retain its shape and chewiness despite extended cooking. Cook-ing other types of noodles, on the other hand, is more difficult as the cook has to monitor the time of cooking and strength of the fire used. Overcooking the noodles by more than 1 minute would result in a taste-less and overly soft texture. Attentive cooks are able to serve the noo-dles at the right time. Furthermore, when the noodles are not eaten im-mediately and allowed to sit for a while in the soup, they will also soften and lose their consistency. Guanmiao noodles, on the other hand, have none of these shortcomings. This property is what sets Guanmiao noo-dles apart from the others. The reason for such difference is the meth-ods employed in making the noodles. Despite advancements in modern technology and the wide variety of baking ovens, no machine is capable of replacing the unique flavors achieved through sun-drying.
Guanmiao noodles, being sun-dried, is also known as Riguang Mian (solar noodles). As the noodles are folded into a Liou shape (repeatedly folded strings), people have called it Liu Mian as well. Some soda is also added to enhance the flavor, and this gave rise to yet another name of Jian Mian (soda noodles). Due to the tantalizing and chewy texture of the noodles achieved, some restaurants have called it Shuangkou Mian (delicious noodles). Of course, the plethora of names made marketing efforts extremely difficult, so the noodle makers got together and agreed upon the common name of Guanmiao Mian. Developments of tourism and accessible media have helped popularise Guanmiao noodles. Eve-ryone knows that Northeast China is famous for its 3 treasures of gin-seng, mink fur, and Wula Grass (Carex meyeriana). Guanmiao in Tai-wan, on the other hand, will be famous for its pineapples, bamboo shoots, and Guanmiao Mian. This is evident in the fact that more and more consumers in this day and age have expressed their preference for Guanmiao noodles.
There are numerous noodle makers in the Guanmiao area. Each shop has its own formula and technique, leading to various different catego-ries. Noodle-making is still an experience-based art. Ambient tempera-ture and humidity must be taken into account in order to determine the precise ratio of water and flour used, since using the wrong ratio would lead to poor noodle texture. The manufacturing process involves forming and kneading of the dough. The dough is then machine-pressed to pro-duce the noodles. Kneading and forming processes are not very time consuming, taking about an hour to complete. The key process lies in sun-drying. The noodles could be dried in about 2 days during clear sunny days, but this process make take up to 3 days if the skies sud-denly turn cloudy. Some noodle-makers would also employ oven drying instead of sun drying. The resulting texture, however, is noticeably dif-ferent.
According to the noodle-making masters, the secret to the perfect Guanmiao noodle is divine support (ample sun will ensure good texture; cloudy days would lead to poor texture and shorter shelf-life; noodles that have been sun-dried adequately can be stored for 6 months) and the perfect ratio of wheat flour and water- about 4 liang (150 grams) of water for every 12 liang (450 grams) of flour.