A Study of the Popularity of Liuzhou Snails Rice Noodle

Liuzhou Snails Rice Noodle is a local food that is famous for its peculiar odor, but it is one of the most popular food in China in recent years. Among many bands that produce prepackaged Liuzhou Snails Rice Noodle and are popular on the e-commerce platform, the brand “the King of Snails” has the highest selling; its online sales of Liuzhou Snails Rice Noodle of a single day are about 100,000 packs(Mo). Moreover, it has been exported to the United States and it is always sold out online. My paper aims to demonstrate what Liuzhou Snails Rice Noodle is and the reasons behind its popularity.

It was a cold day last semester, for the first time I realized that Liuzhou Snails Rice Noodle, a Chinese local food, has now left its home from China and had its international influence. At the snow day break, even though there was absolutely no snow, the frigid weather in early February pre vented me and my roommate from getting out. The plan was to lounge in the room, until an intolerable huger interrupted our idleness. After thoroughly rummaged our drawers, we finally found the last pack of Liuzhou Snails Rice Noodle that I brought from China  several months ago. We borrowed a pan from our sophomore advisor, went down to the kitchen and cooked the noodle immediately. It was a delightful meal. We washed the pan thoroughly and returned it to the SA. He took it, had a sniff of the pan, and asked us: “did you just have Snails Rice Noodle?” We were so shocked and confused, “how did you know?” He told us, “I had it before, and was very much impressed by its peculiar odor.” We laughed, and agreed to have Snails Rice Noodle together next time.

The experience made me notice the popularity of Liuzhou Snails Rice Noodle and begin to wonder the reasons behind it. I found that though Liuzhou Snails Rice Noodle doesn’t have a very long history, it can enter into the public is because of its special taste, the production of prepackaged food, the use of internet, the government support and its cultural meanings.

Liuzhou Snails Rice Noodle is delicious. Authentic Snails Rice Noodle uses dried rice noodle made by aged rice. The noodle was dried out of water when it has the shape, so it keeps the freshness of rice and thus the noodle itself is tasty and chewy. What’s more, the noodle is famous for its terrible smell. When we cooked the noodle in the kitchen of the dorm, the whole dorm could smell it. And everyone who walked closed to us and had the noodle before could find that we just had the Snails Rice Noodle. The peculiar smell is came from the pickled bamboo shoot. After pickling, the bamboo shoots have the special and annoying smell. But if you have a bite, you would find it sour and fresh. Moreover, the soup is very special that you could find many taste from it: sour, spicy, salty and sweet. Simply the soup is worth the price of the bowl of noodle.

Traditionally, the noodle is hard to make. Due to the variety of the ingredients and the complexity of the preparation, people usually have Liuzhou Snails Rice Noodle at noodle houses. To cook a bowl of Liuzhou Snails Rice Noodle, the chef need to cook bone soup, soak and wash the snails, fry the beancurd skin, then cook pickle shredded vegetables, bamboo shoot, hot pepper and many other ingredients together and put them into the bone soup. After that, make the soup with snails and pepper for an hour. And finally, mix the noodle, bone soup, snails with soup, vegetables and so on. A bowl of Liuzhou Snails Rice Noodle is made. The troublesome process is what makes the noodle so delicious but also what prevents it from spreading all over China, don’t even talk about all over the world.

Fortunately, thanks to the development of technology, prepackaged products appear in the market in around 2013. Liuzhou businessmen catch the opportunity. They produce prepackaged Liuzhou Snails Rice Noodle and make the quality guarantee period as long as half a year. A pack of prepackaged Liuzhou Snails Rice Noodle has around 9 packs of ingredients, including dried noodle, pickled bamboo shoots and pickled green bean, vinegar, pepper sauce, snails and so on. The various ingredients make the taste of the noodle similar to those cooked in the noodle house. Most importantly, it is very easy to be made at home. It takes about 10 minutes to cook a bowl of prepackaged Snails Rice Noodle; it allows people to enjoy the interest of cooking and it is not so complex that may bother people.

In order to “gain an insider’s or emic perspective”(Crowther) about the Liuzhou Snails Rice Noodle, I employed the method of participant non-observation. I opened one pack of Liuzhou Snails Rice Noodle and cooked it for my mom and myself. Firstly, I boiled a pot of water and cook the dried noodle with it for 5 minutes. Then I picked out the noodle into a bowl, poured out the water. After that, I opened all the other small packs in the package, including pickled bamboo shoots, vinegar, chili sauce, snails soup, peanuts and so on. I put them all into the pot with water and boiled for another 5 minuets, then I put the noodle in and soaked for 2 minutes. Finally, I found it may be not enough for two people, so I added an egg and some vegetables. It’s not a difficult dish, but it’s definitely delicious and taste like authentic Rice Snails Noodle that we used to have in noodle house. Both my mom and I liked it so much. My mom praised my cook though I didn’t do anything skillful and it took me no more than 15 minutes. I was very satisfied with the experience, I enjoyed the process of cooking and was proud that I could cook a delicious meal for my mom. I believe many other people liked the prepackaged Rice Snails Noodle for the same reason.

But producing prepackaged Liuzhou Snails Rice Noodle is far not enough for it to be popular as much. Qingshi Liu, chairman of a brand that produce prepackaged Snails Rice Noodle, said, “many years ago, we went to Chengdu Sugar and Cocktail Fair, no matter the agencies or the customers, everyone asked us where Liuzhou is, what Snails Rice Noodle is. At that time, the popularity of this noodle is zero.” People from places other than Guangxi province didn’t know the noodle and thus wouldn’t buy it and talk about it.

Fortunately, in 2012, the documentary “A Bite of China” saved the noodle from dying down. “A Bite of China” is a documentary series about the pursue of the Chinese people to food and life, using the stories of specific people to show the food ecology of all parts of China. Liuzhou Snails Rice Noodle is part of the documentary. The documentary swept across the whole country, so as the Liuzhou Snails Rice Noodle. Many people in other cities know the noodle from the documentary, and they try it because of curiosity, and fall in love with it because of its taste. More and more people try it and introduce the noodle to their friends and post it on the internet.

Furthermore, the companies that produce prepackaged Snails Rice Noodle caught the fashion of posting and watching short videos and blogs. They cooperated with popular bloggers and youtubers, these online celebrities share their experiences and thought of Liuzhou Snails Rice Noodle with their fans, posting the videos of their reactions when eating the noodle on all kinds of social media(Whytui Marketing). I looked up online for some data: in Bilibili, a Chinese website like Youtube, there are thousands of videos related to the noodle, including videos posted by Chinese, Japanese, American and Korean bloggers. Some of the videos have over 2.5 million hits. In 2017, famous blogger “Zhang Dou and Zhang Hua(张逗张花)” who studied in Emory University also made a video about some American Emory students’ reactions to the noodle, and the video had about 771,000 hits. Liuzhou Snails Rice Noodle is not only popular in China; there are around 12,000 search results of “Snails Rice Noodle” on Youtube. The use of network propaganda successfully catch the heart of people, especially of young people. As the noodle began to be more and more popular, interesting news about the noodle began to show up on the “trending” of Weibo, the Chinese version of twitter, including news like “a Guangxi high school begin to provide Snails Rice Noodle in their cafeteria” and so on, catching people’s attention again and again.

The employment of the e-commerce platform also plays an important part in the popularity of Liuzhou Snails Rice Noodle. The customers of prepackaged Snails Rice noodle are mostly young people as they like interesting food and don’t have a lot cooking skills. Another character about these young people is that they like to buy things online. Many brands of Liuzhou Snails Rice Noodle have online flagship stores in taobao, an e-commerce platform like Amazon. This allows people to buy the noodle easily. Young people are lazy, their curiosity about the noodle may not support them to go out to shop, but if all they need to do is a click, they would happily order it and try it. Not only in China, Liuzhou Snails Rice Noodle are also sold in many American e-commerce platforms, including Amazon and Yamibuy, a website that specifically sell asian food in the United States.

The popularity of a local food cannot be separated from the relevant policy and government support. On August 20, 2018, Liuzhou Snails Rice Noodle gained the trademark of National Geographic indication, protected by “Regulations on the Protection of Geographical indications products” passed by National Administration of quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine. With the protection, the name of “Liuzhou Snails Rice Noodle” cannot be used randomly, so the reputation of the noodle is protected. Moreover, there’s an agency in Liuzhou government that is specifically to support the development of Liuzhou Snails Rice Noodle, the policies includes providing grant-in-aid to inheritors of hand-making the noodle, financially supporting the companies to spread the culture of Liuzhou Snails Rice Noodle and so on (Liuzhou Business Committee). What’s more, in January, 2018, Liuzhou government opened a museum about Liuzhou Snails Rice Noodle, showing the culture and skill of making the noodle, and there’s also a room for visitors to participate (Guo).

Liuzhou Government supports the development of the Snails Rice Noodle is not only because of that it boosts the economic development of Liuzhou, but also that the noodle contains the heart of Liuzhou’s culture.

The story of the birth of Liuzhou Snails Rice Noodle demonstrates the creativity of Liuzhou people. Compared to many other kinds of noodle, Liuzhou Snails Rice Noodle has a short history of about 40 years. It was originated from Liuzhou night market. At the end of late 1970s, after the Great Cultural Revolution, business began to recover, including the Liuzhou night market. It was a tradition that Liuzhou people loves to eat snails and noodle, so some clever businessmen began to provide both cooked snails and noodles in their noodle houses. After movies, some hungry customers occasionally asked the chefs to put some snails and the soup that used to cook snails into their noodles(VC). The combination had magical powers; they found it so delicious! So there it came the Liuzhou Snails Rice Noodle.

Nowadays, Liuzhou Snails Rice Noodle is the signature dish of Liuzhou, Guangxi Province. In 2008, the skill of hand-making Liuzhou Snails Rice Noodle was selected for the second batch of intangible cultural heritage list in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous region and it is gradually applying for national and world-class heritage.
Snails Rice Noodle may sounds weird at first, but eating river snails(
田螺) has a long history in Liuzhou. “About 20,000 years ago, the ‘Liujiang people’, who lived in Bailian Cave, began fishing for snails and learned to use fire. Now the site of Bailian Cave still leaves the remains of the primitive man ‘burning snails’ at that time.” Liuzhou City Bailian Cave Science Museum curator Jiang Jinyuan said. Nowadays, eating snails in night markets is still part of Guangxi people’s life. Night markets are streets that have many kinds of food and people like to eat food, drink and talk on the street sides. And when eating snails, people need to use toothpicks to pick out the meat inside the shells. The process of picking out the meat is the heart of eating snails; if somebody else help you pick out the meat and place them in a bowl, then you lose the interest of eating snails.

There’s a saying: “human beings are shaped by the land around them,” and even the character would be along with the local food to send out unique local characteristics. Both the fried snails and Snails Rice Noodle are hot and spicy, they symbolize Liuzhou people’s characteristics. Liuzhou people are outgoing,  straightforward and don’t care about trifles; they enjoy the atmosphere in night markets where everyone is happy and talking loudly, though the place may be simple and a bit dirty.

Liuzhou Snails Rice Noodle, a distinctive food originated from Liuzhou night market, is gradually walking out from its hometown and spreading its influences internationally. The Snails Rice Noodle doesn’t get its popularity for no reason. This significant progress should be attribute to several different causes, including its own deliciousness, peculiar odor, the development of prepackaging technology, increasing network propaganda, and the support of the government. The most important factor, however, is intangible. Liuzhou Snails Rice Noodle has come a long way since created; it is the profound cultural connotation that made it a great success. The Snails Rice Noodle is a fruit of habit and thought of the society in Liuzhou, and is a representation of the reinvigorated food culture of China. It serves as a bridge between Chinese and various other cultures. Liuzhou Snails Rice Noodle is only a small part of the splendid Chinese civilization. There are more to be explored.



Work cited

Crowther, Gillian. Eating Culture: An Anthropological Guide to Food. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2013. Print.

Guo, Kaiqian. 广西柳州螺蛳粉:非遗美味做成全球产业. 2018 https://baike.baidu.com/reference/1455359/47d9APf3Be1ODWB7cqBdAa7pB06x6eI9YT-toTF7-zx6F92rQsdV5V4GL2jmtn7YeGBnViCkHGDnExdjXsaAVroUiF998QWEdrBDexqg3aOwlcq16NFsMmKQaDIv5KXXcVsoRXvGrok

Liuzhou Business Committee. 关于公布柳州螺蛳粉产业若干扶持政策联系方式的通知. 2018  http://www.liuzhou.gov.cn/xwzx/notice/201807/t20180730_1137600.html

Mo, Zhiye. 互联网+”时代柳州螺蛳粉网络营销传播研究. Diss. 2018. http://xueshu.baidu.com/usercenter/paper/show?paperid=1r1w0m30h27e0vw00f3402s0k5050780&site=xueshu_se

VC. 又爱又恨的螺蛳粉. 2019 https://baike.baidu.com/vbaike/又爱又恨的螺蛳粉/26403

Whytui Marketing. 螺蛳粉走红品牌大揭秘. 2019 https://www.whytui.com/news/pinpai/8809.html

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