What is Luosifen in China?-Snail Rice Noodles
Luosifen is a kind of soup in China that has existed for decades. However, its popularity skyrocketed during the COVID-19 pandemic in the country and across many Western countries. As much as the dish is loved by many, it also has numerous haters due to its unique smell and taste. So, what is Luosifen? What are its ingredients? What does it smell and taste like? How is it prepared? Is it healthy? Keep reading to answer all these queries and get more insight into this dish.
What is Luosifen?
Luosifen is a Chinese noodle soup from Liuzhou, Guangxi, prepared with boiled rice noodles in a soup/broth. This soup has a very distinct and strong smell and taste, and in China, it’s usually served in small, popular hole-in-the-wall restaurants. Luxury restaurants have also embraced this dish. Instant Luosifen noodles versions are just as popular as the freshly prepared soup.
Luosifen is believed to have been invented sometime between the late 1970s and early 1980s although the creator isn’t known. Chinese legends tell of three possible creators of this soup. One legend suggests that the Luosifen soup was discovered accidentally after a restaurant owner served lost tourists snail soup with rice noodles instead of bone soup. The tourists loved the rice noodles and snail soup combo, and the restaurant owner continued making improvements to it.
Another legend goes that the Luosifen soup was accidentally discovered during the end of the Cultural Revolution after a group of people ordered rice noodles with river snails and asked the shopkeeper to add oil, snail soup powder, and water to the mixture. They enjoyed the soup so much that the shop’s owner began to perfect and customize it to suit his customer’s preferences.
The last legend says that a lady decided to prepare herself a bowl of rice noodles with snails. She enjoyed the dish and decided to sell it as “snail noodle soup” to her customers.
From when it was created, Luosifen had always been prepared freshly. However, in 2014, companies started producing pre-packaged Luosifen to save people the hassle of preparing the soup from scratch.
What is Luosifen made of?
Luosifen is made of rice noodles and soup. This soup is typically pork bones and river snails broth that has been prepared for almost ten hours and contains peanuts, dried radishes, fungus, pickled bamboo shoots, and yuba. However, many variations of this soup include more vegetables and shallots. Luosifen is usually accompanied by sausages, tofu, duck feet, or marinated eggs.
Luosifen is further seasoned with dried tangerine peel, black cardamom, white pepper, fennel seeds, cassia bark, licorice root, star anise, cloves, bay leaves, and sand ginger. When served, some like to add chili oil, green peppers, green onions, white vinegar, or other vegetables before consumption.
What does Luosifen smell like?
Luosifen has a stenchy, strong odor; no wonder the “bioweapon” nickname. This smell is thanks to the fermented bamboo shoots. Some say that this soup has a fecal-like, pungent smell. Lovers of the Luosifen soup appreciate the smell of the soup, stating that although it’s pungent, it’s also unique, giving “soul” to the soup. The stench of this soup is said to come from the amino acids released during the bamboo shoot fermentation process.
What does Luosifen taste like?
The taste profile of Luosifen soup is broad and complicated to many. This soup is sour, savory, succulent, stinky, spicy, hot, and mildly sweet. The mild, sweet flavor is thanks to the snails added to the broth, while the sour, hot, and spicy taste is due to the numerous seasonings added. The succulent taste of this soup is from the vegetables and picked bamboo shoots.
Those who enjoy this soup say that these flavors are addictive. Note that depending on how your Luosifem soup was prepared, the flavor might vary slightly, although the taste profile described above is the basic flavor.
How to cook Luosifen
Pre-packed Luosifen is the most popular version of this soup, and it usually comes with eight or more vacuum-sealed packets containing all the ingredients. The only equipment for this recipe is a large cooking pot/wok and measuring cups.
The ingredients you’ll need include;
- Dried rice vermicelli
- Stock made from river snails
- Pickled bamboo shoots
- Tofu skins
- Chili pepper
- 1 liter of water
- Spinach (any vegetable of your choice)
- 1 tablespoon of chili oil
- 1 tablespoon of vinegar
So, to prepare Luosifen soup, follow these directions;
- Boil about a cup of water, add dried vermicelli and let it cook for 8-10 minutes, until soft. Before taking the vermicelli off the heat, add your vegetables for about 30 seconds, drain the water, and place your noodles and veggies in a bowl.
- In a large pot, boil ½ -3/4 liters of water, add the snail stock base, let it cook for about 60 seconds, and then toss the vermicelli and vegetable mixture. Let the mixture cook for about a minute.
- Add vinegar and chili oil.
- Add all the other packaged seasoning ingredients. Let the soup cook for another minute, then serve hot and enjoy.
Does Luosifen have a snail?
The soup base of Luosifen has snail stock. However, Luosifen doesn’t have snail meat. The light, sweet flavors that some taste in this soup is from the river snails used to prepare the broth base. For instant Luosifen noodles, snail broth isn’t included. Instead, the noodles come with snail soup powder or base that is added to water to form the snail stock.
Why Luosifen is important in China
Firstly, Luosifen is important to China because of its unique flavor, taste, and preparation process. Due to its popularity and peculiar nature, it has even been recognized as an intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO. Also, this soup has created massive employment opportunities for the Chinese people. Since its popularization, many factories have opened up, hiring thousands of workers. This dish has, therefore, contributed to the economic development of China.
Is Luosifen healthy?
Looking at the ingredients used in this soup individually, Luosifen soup is considered a healthy dish. The bamboo shoots used in this soup are rich in vitamins, fiber, and copper. The yuba added to the soup is also nutritious as it is rich in minerals and vitamins, high in proteins, and low in carbs. However, the addition of excess oil and spices in this soup can quickly make it unhealthy. Studies have shown that Luosifen is generally high in sodium due to the numerous condiments used.
Luosifen is a popular soup from China, famously known for its unique pungent smell and taste. It’s one of those meals that has its die-hard fans as well as haters, and one has to have it to know where they lie. There are several variations of this soup, but the common factor among all the variations is the sour, spicy, stinky, and succulent taste.