China businessman bowls over Sweden with hometown beef ramen noodles, earns US$140,000 a month

An entrepreneur from China has set up a thriving business in Sweden selling traditional Lanzhou beef ramen from his hometown on the mainland.

Zhou Yan, 31, from Gansu province in north-central China, opened the Ox Lan Beef Noodle eatery in the country’s capital, Stockholm, on March 25 and quickly attracted local customers.

He is now earning one million yuan (US$140,000) a month.

The restaurant is so popular that Zhou had to add extra outdoor seating to accommodate the overflow.

“On peak days, we sell more than 300 bowls of noodles, which is the maximum a noodle chef can make,” said Zhou.

Lanzhou noodles, known for their unique hand-pulled technique, have outshone local Japanese ramen shops, which typically use pre-made noodles, according to Zhou.

Swedish locals and online influencers are impressed by the skills of chefs at the eatery. Photo: Douyin

Fresh handmade noodles are prepared in front of customers by skilled noodle chefs, who repeatedly roll, pull, and twist the dough into thick and thin strands, resulting in a texture that is more chewable than the machine-made versions.

Many local influencers visit the restaurant with their cameras to film the chefs practising their skills

Originating from Lanzhou, a city along the Yellow River and a historical stop on the ancient Silk Road, the noodle-making process dates back to the Tang dynasty (618-907).

A proper bowl features top-quality beef and hand-pulled noodles and is expected to meet five standards. A clear broth, white radishes, bright red chilli oil, jade green coriander, and smooth yellow noodles.

Zhou, originally a pop music major who graduated in 2015, found it challenging to succeed in the music industry.

Dramatically deviating from his original career path, he spent two years preparing for the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) exam before pursuing a Master’s degree in Management in Britain.

“Studying music was about chasing a dream, but I needed to make a living in reality,” Zhou said.

After earning his degree in 2019, Zhou launched a start-up in the wellness industry in Shanghai, which swiftly generated annual profits of more than two million yuan (US$280,000).

Using the capital, he decided to venture overseas.

In October last year, seeing the success of Japanese ramen restaurants in Sweden, Zhou invested about three million yuan (US$420,000) to introduce his hometown’s traditional noodles to Sweden.

Since its March opening, the restaurant has been bustling, which speaks volumes about Zhou’s business acumen.

He is doing so well that he returned to China at the end of May to recruit three additional noodle chefs, and plans to open more branches.

A bowl of Zhou’s noodles sells for 159 Swedish krona (US$15).

Customers queue up outside Zhou’s restaurant in the country’s capital, Stockholm. Photo: Douyin

In China’s first-tier cities, a bowl of Lanzhou beef noodles costs about 10 yuan (US$1.4), and even less in Lanzhou itself.

“Just as Western fast food has spread throughout China’s streets, I want to promote traditional Chinese food like Lanzhou noodles worldwide,” Zhou said.

“If Lanzhou noodles were introduced to Italy, maybe they could compete with Italian pasta,” one online observer in China said.

“For those wanting to start a business, selling traditional Chinese food abroad is definitely profitable,” said another.

“I suggest opening a hotpot restaurant,” a third person said.



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