A tasty way to suc­cess

Small county's bread­win­ners rise to oc­ca­sions

Global Times - Weekend - - FRONT PAGE - Xin­hua

The stoves be­low 100 grid­dle plates roared into ac­tion, and 100 bak­ers waited ea­gerly for the start­ing gong.

“Rolling pins ready?! Spat­u­las ready?! One, two, three, go!”

The chefs were in Xiangfen, a small county in North China’s coal-rich Shanxi Prov­ince, for the county’s first ever con­test to find the best baker of shaob­ing, a tra­di­tional Chi­nese flat­bread.

Shaob­ing was first brought to Xiangfen some­time after 770 BC, and, while avail­able al­most all over the coun­try, it is a par­tic­u­larly pop­u­lar snack in North China.

After more than two hours, 200 cooks had been whit­tled down to just one and Qiao Yongjun from Yonggu Town was named the win­ner. He sells shaob­ing in the pro­vin­cial cap­i­tal Taiyuan.

Since the 1990s, 20,000 peo­ple have left Xiangfen to find work in China’s cities. It is es­ti­mated that they earn 500 mil­lion yuan ($73 mil­lion) an­nu­ally.

While many of the coun­try’s mi­grant work­ers look for em­ploy­ment as con­struc­tion or fac­tory work­ers, a large num­ber of peo­ple from Xiangfen have cho­sen to make their dough by hawk­ing this tra­di­tional snack.

Al­though Yuan Wu­gen, 43, lost the com­pe­ti­tion, om­pe­ti­tion, by any mea­sure, he is a win­ner in­ner in the shaob­ing busi­ness.

Born into a poor ru­ral fam­ily, he got his is first job at a restau­rant when he was just ust 14 and by the time he was 20, he had ad his own restau­rant in Bei­jing that spe­cial­ized pe­cial­ized in shaob­ing. He is now the head ead of a lu­cra­tive cater­ing g en­ter­prise.p

One man’s suc­cess can in­spire many more.

“When I was at the sta­tion in Lin­fen and I asked for a train ticket to Bei­jing, the ticket of­fi­cer im­me­di­ately knew that I was a baker from Xiangfen,” said Yu Dongx­i­ang, 45.

After get­ting mar­ried in 1999, Yu found him­self in debt, so he went to Bei­jing and rented a tiny store, not much more than a hole in the wall, to sell shaob­ing.

“I earned more than 20,000 yuan in the first year, which meant I could pay off my debt,” said Yu, who now owns a restau­rant in Bei­jing and a beau­ti­ful court­yard house in Xiangfen.

Shaob­ing pi­o­neers like Yu have re­ported earn­ings up­ward of 300,000 yuan a year, some of the more as­tute sell­ers are earn­ing mil­lions of yuan.

Trade­mark busi­ness

In or­der to make the most out of its lo­cal snacks and del­i­ca­cies, Xiangfen re­cently reg­is­tered a trade­mark. All of its food sou­venirs will now be sold un­der the brand “Jinx­i­angsu,” which is a com­bi­na­tion of the names of the prov­ince and county and the word de­li­cious, ac­cord­ing to deputy county chief Du Xu­tang.

The pur­pose of the con­test was to pro­mote Xiangfen shaob­ing and of­fer bak­ers an op­por­tu­nity to share and per­fect their skills.

“We want every res­i­dent of Xiangfen, espe­cially the young, to know that this tra­di­tional snack has the po­ten­tial to gen­er­ate a good in­come,” Du said.

Many small cities and towns are ex­plor­ing food tourism.

Lanzhou in north­west China’s Gansu Prov­ince is known for beef-soup lamian (hand-pulled noo­dles).

There were more than 30,000 beef noo­dle out­lets in China last year, which gen­er­ated 50 bil­lion yuan in rev­enue.

In Li­uzhou, South China’s Guangxi Zhuang Au­ton­o­mous Re­gion, sales of lu­osifen, a rice noo­dle dish that uses river snails, gen­er­ated 1.5 bil­lion yuan last year.

The prof­itabil­ity of shaob­ing has not gone un­no­ticed by Xiangfen’s younger gen­er­a­tion, who are hap­pily don­ning aprons and tak­ing over their par­ent’s busi­nesses.

“Mak­ing shaob­ing may be hard work, but I am mo­ti­vated know­ing that this food is be­ing turned into cash, cars and a house,” said Yang Huit­ing, 31, who has sold shaob­ing in Bei­jing for 15 years and re­cently took over a restau­rant from her fa­ther.

Yang re­turned to Xiangfen for the Spring Fes­ti­val but she will re­turn to Bei­jing in the com­ing days. “Selling snacks is about more than just the money, it it’s s about keep­ing our tra­di­tions

alive,” she said.

Photo: IC

Shaob­ing

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