There is more to “shui ling jiao” (水菱角) than meets the eye.
Originating from Xiguan, these celebratory rice paste delicacies, also known as caltrop rice noodles, are individually “lai-ed.”
This unique Cantonese verb means to pour water gently to the ground and is required to mold the noodles into their designated shapes and textures.
Chefs hold a small ball of rice paste with chopsticks as they “lai” the noodles into shape, a process repeated approximately 2,200 times each day.
Due to the intense labor needed to “lai” each piece, chefs only sell a quota of 100 bowls of “shui ling jiao” per day, with 22 pieces in each bowl.
In addition, optimized conditions are necessary for caltrop rice noodles to form its thick middle core, thinner edges, and unbreakable tails: hot water bubbles should be the size of shrimp eyes and the water temperature must balance between the two extremes.
When fished out of the water, the rice noodles should solidify and be enjoyed with thick broth, peanuts, and pickled turnips.
Its salty and savory rice aroma has been a customer favorite since the olden days.
The tradition lives on as a signature Chinese street food and is highly sought out by noodle enthusiasts.