Profile: Nigerian girl pulls future out of handmade noodles

Source: Xinhua| 2018-09-01 18:16:12|Editor: Liangyu
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by Xinhua Writers Zhou Xiaotian, Zhang Wenjing and Wang Mingyu

LANZHOU, Sept. 1 (Xinhua) -- Ubadigha Blessing, a Nigerian student studying in northwest China's Gansu Province, can pull a dough ball into noodles as thin as hair in less than 10 seconds.

She has practiced for months making Chinese hand-pulled beef noodles in a professional cooking school in its birthplace, Lanzhou, capital of Gansu.

With a history of more than 200 years, the well-known regional specialty consists of a flavorful broth, shaved beef, radish slices and chewy handmade noodles. While a bowl of hand-pulled beef noodles can be prepared quickly, it may take years to master.

Blessing, 26, studies international Chinese education at Lanzhou University. But she has chosen to spend a considerable amount of time after school and during holidays in the cooking school, to hone her skills and practice pulling noodles more evenly.

"She is diligent and works very hard. Above all, she speaks Chinese very well," said Liang Shunjian, the school principal. Speaking fluent Chinese, she seeks instructions from her master chef whenever she has a question.

Blessing said she plans to introduce this Chinese delicacy overseas and even open a hand-pulled noodle restaurant outside of China.

"Nigerians don't use chopsticks and we rarely eat noodles. But I have many Pakistani classmates who like eating noodles. They suggested I open a restaurant in Pakistan. I think it might be a good idea," she said.

Blessing graduated from college in her country in 2014 and stayed to learn Chinese for another year. She could have worked as a highly-paid translator in her hometown.

"But I don't want to be just as a translator," she said. In 2016, she was provided with a scholarship by the Chinese government and came to study in China.

"The moment I arrived in Lanzhou, I fell in love with Chinese food," she said. "I read from magazines about Chinese cuisine and the history of hand-pulled noodles. I think food is a key to the essence of Chinese culture."

She was excited about a letter of admission from the cooking school in May. Without any hesitation, she contacted the school immediately.

To her surprise, she was offered a three-month free session and a scholarship granted by the principal, who hopes to encourage her to share her love for the delicacy with the rest of the world.

It only took her a month to master the basic cooking skills for hand-pulled noodles.

According to Liang, the school has trained more than 30,000 students from 40 countries and regions, including those from the United States, Canada, and Australia. Many of them have opened hand-pulled noodle restaurants in their own countries after finishing the courses.

Liang also operates a catering company featuring the noodles. "I'm thinking about hiring Blessing as our cultural ambassador to promote our products overseas," Liang said.

"A foreigner who knows about Chinese culture can introduce the cuisine to her friends and family in a way that is easier to be understood."

"If I open a noodle restaurant one day, I am confident it will be more successful than my Chinese peers," said Blessing. "Not only has this experience provided me with valuable practice, it also helped me chart out the road ahead."