A Burmese worker walks past longevity noodles drying in the sun at the Tiantiamhenghuat noodle factory in Thailand.

Photographer: Brent Lewin/Bloomberg

A Burmese worker walks past longevity noodles drying in the sun at the Tiantiamhenghuat noodle factory in Thailand.

Photographer: Brent Lewin/Bloomberg

The Dazzling Art of Hand-Pulled Noodles in Thailand

In the courtyard of a factory in Thailand, a family maintains the centuries-old practice of pulling a lump of dough into thousands of thin golden strands of mee sua. Photographs by Brent Lewin/Bloomberg

The Tiantiamhenghuat factory, about 50 miles west of Bangkok, employs mostly Burmese workers to make longevity noodles, a premium brand popular on special occasions such as Chinese New Year.

Employees at the plant empty sacks of wheat flour into mixing bowls and add a dye that gives the noodles their distinctive yellow color.

After thorough kneading, the rolled-out dough is cut. It will eventually be stretched long and thin enough to make hundreds of packets of noodles. 

 

Owner Sukit Jenverawat's father learned the art about 70 years ago from Chinese settlers and his family has been making noodles this way since 1960.

 

The bright yellow color is popular in Thailand and is associated with wealth by ethnic Chinese families.

A worker winds the stretched dough around wooden sticks. 

The sticks of noodles are inserted into racks. Once the racks are filled, employees will pull the bottom sticks down to lengthen the strands.

The dough is now beginning to look like long strands of spaghetti, but will still be pulled even further. They don't break thanks to the perfect proportion of water, flour and kneading.

Fully-stretched noodles begin to dry on racks in the sun in the factory courtyard. 

Workers run chopstick-like sticks between the strands to ensure they don't stick.

They are called "longevity noodles" because the Chinese believe the long strands symbolize a long life.

Staff fold the semi-dried noodles before placing them into sterilization tanks.

The noodles are dried, folded and packed. The factory's owner suggests blanching and stir-frying with chives, spring onions and bean sprouts. "Some people add meat," he says. "I personally prefer a vegetarian version."