Home Cookin'
    
Avatar
There is sometimes the implicit belief among Chowists that if one can find a food purveyor that is sufficiently tiny, the food must be good: the more ramshackle the better. We leave our judgments at the door - if there is even a door. Two quite different noodle adventures reveals the errors of this claim. Just because a food preparing can't speak English doesn't mean that they have talent at the stove.

Hammer and I made our way to Kuai An Hand Pull Noodle Restaurant (28 Forsyth Street, East Chinatown, Manhattan) - a Fujian-owned Lanzhou hand-pulled noodle house that specializes in hand-pulled noodle soup. We should have worried at the lickety-split speed of the preparation. The young man preparing the noodles didn't spend much time pulling and the noodles were served in a snap. Given the praise for this tiny establishment, I can't believe that this is the first-string staff, but eating the noodles was like grazing on flour. The duck and tripe were fine, but soup was thin and the noodles nearly inedible, especially for trenchers like Hammer and me. The potato balls were swimming in a watery, funky soup that had accents of durian or dirty socks. The steamed little juice bun were no better than average. The best dish of the evening was "pain noodles with seseme peanuts sauce" - a nice plate of noodles with a little nutty heat. Perhaps we arrived at the wrong time on the wrong day, but what was most memorable was the speed with which we rolled our eyes. :roll: Most of the food was left in the bowls with no request to pack it up.

Steamed Little Juice Buns
Image

Potato Balls
Image

Duck and Tripe Hand Pull Noodle Soup
Image

Pain Noodles with Sesame Peanuts Sauce
Image

In contrast I revised Yunnan Flavor Snack (774 49th Street, near 8th Avenue in Sunset Park, Brooklyn), the only Yunnan restaurant - or teeny tiny storefront - in this big, busy city (and none in Chicago). I had visited Yunnan in January and missed the chewy rice noodles. YFS is run by a couple, very hospitable. My Chinese is nearly non-existent and the husband's only in the process of growing, but we did have a partial conversation about my visit and the wonderful mushrooms from the region (YFS doesn't serve mushrooms). I ordered a Rice Noodle Soup with Pork and cold spicy Rice Noodles with Ground Beef and Peanuts. Both were very fine, pleasantly chewy renditions of what I had been served in Kunming (where the couple is from). Granted this food didn't compare to the elaborate cuisine at the best Yunnan restaurants, but the visit was fun, the food tasty and well-made, and the two large portions (really double - or triple - portions) were $4.25 each.

Rice Noodle Soup with Pork
Image

Cold Rice Noodles with Ground Beef and Peanuts
Image

Menu
Image

For those who abhore the crowds in Manhattan's Chinatown or begrudge the distance to Flushing (and the semi-crowds), Sunset Park in Brooklyn - New York's third Chinatown - might be a better choice for a visit (there is a fourth, smaller Chinatown in Elmhurst in Queens). Eighth Avenue in Sunset Park is much more sedate, and most of the restaurants haven't been described on line. There are gems out there for the intrepid.

Just because the restaurant is tiny, just because the cook cannot communicate, just because the price is impossibly low does not mean that dining will be sublime, although it just might be. The sublime is our hope but not our promise.
Last edited by GAF on April 28th 2010, 2:08pm, edited 1 time in total.
_______________________________________

Toast, as every breakfaster knows, isn't really about the quality of the bread or how it's sliced or even the toaster. For man cannot live by toast alone. It's all about the butter. -- Adam Gopnik
Avatar
GAF: Thanks for the continuing Manhattan documentation, especially Chinatown where things change fast and by the time the word is out on a place, the word is out. Good to know about what to seek out or avoid. Your reports have been a great help over the years.

In Chicago, you might enjoy GNR Spring World, which is largely a Yunannese place, run by people from that province, as well as Katy's if you haven't been.
Avatar
Yes, Spring World has a Yunnan menu (with plenty of mushrooms), along with a Sichuan menu. I was surprised at the amount of seafood on the Yunnan menu, since Yunnan is landlocked (we did have a lot of good carp and other lake fish, but very little shrimp or crab), but of course we shouldn't assume that a cuisine depends on local products. When I return to Chicago perhaps I will schedule a Yunnan-focused dinner at SW.

Spring World serves "Across the Bridge" Noodle Soup which is a Yunnan classic. (It is ultimately a noodle soup - just fine - but not as amazing in comparison to other dishes, but it is a very traditional Yunnan dish).

Here is the story from www.chinaculture.org:

Having originated in Mengzi County of Southwest China's Yunnan Province, the Rice Noodles Crossing the Bridge dish boasts a history of more than 100 years. With continuous renovation by chefs specializing in Yunnan Cuisine , the dish has enjoyed growing fame both at home and abroad, and every visitor to Yunnan should definitely try the famous snack besides taking in the breathtaking natural scenery.

There is a beautiful legend concerning the birth of the rice noodles. Legend has it that South Lake in Mengzi County once boasted extremely beautiful scenery, where a great many literary scholars would work hard to become an official. One of them was a Xiucai (person who passed the imperial examination at the county level in the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties) surnamed Yang.

Yang often went to read books at the pavilion located in the middle of the lake. Although his wife would always take him something to eat, Yang was always so deep into his studies that he often forgot to eat. By the time he would remember, the food had already become cold, and thus his health deteriorated.

One day, much concerned about her husband, the wife killed a hen, and cooked it in a pottery pot. Then, she took the chicken and soup to her husband. After a while, she came back to clean up. However, what she saw was the food left untouched by her husband who was intently concentrating on his book.

With a sigh, she decided to heat it for her husband to eat later, but to her surprise, the pot was still warm when she touched it. Uncovering the pot, she found a layer of chicken oil floating atop the soup, which, together with the pottery container, helped preserve the heat. From then on, she cooked in this way to keep the food warm, and her husband was always able to eat warm food.

Later, many people cooked rice noodles in the wife's innovative way, and found it really delicious and fresh. Since Yang had to cross a bridge to reach the pavilion in the middle of the lake, the rice noodles cooked in this way was named "Guoqiao Mixian " (literally "Rice Noodles Crossing the Bridge").

The rice noodle dish contains three parts: the soup, any kind of sliced meat, and rice noodles and fresh vegetables.
_______________________________________

Toast, as every breakfaster knows, isn't really about the quality of the bread or how it's sliced or even the toaster. For man cannot live by toast alone. It's all about the butter. -- Adam Gopnik
Avatar

Site Admin
GAF wrote:Spring World serves "Across the Bridge" Noodle Soup which is a Yunnan classic. (It is ultimately a noodle soup - just fine - but not as amazing in comparison to other dishes, but it is a very traditional Yunnan dish).


Here's a picture of Spring World's "Across the Bridge" Soup

Image
_______________________________________

Steve Z.

"Why should I eat a carrot when I can eat pizza?" - Dan Janssen
Avatar
Many thanks for the report(s), fascinating story and picture.
I needs me a bridge to NY or Springworld - maybe both.
Avatar
Before heading back to Chicago, I had lunch at Great N.Y. Noodletown, the wonderful Cantonese noodle restaurant on the Bowery at Bayard (28-1/2 Bowery, 212-349-0923). I doubt that we have a Cantonese restaurant to compete in Chicago. The meal was anchored with a Congee with Fish Balls and Lettuce. This is the essence of comfort food: a silky and smooth rice porridge - served with non-GWiv chili oil (but still not so bad!). We also ordered a perfect Roast Pork and Noodles in Soup: liquid with all of the spicy complexity of Pho, served with slightly chewy thin noodles.

Image

We also added an order Salt Baked Shrimp. I expected this to be a version of Salt-and-Pepper Shrimp, but no. Instead it was straight-forward sweet shrimp with a slightly salty aftertaste. It was glorious in its straight-up simplicity.

Image
_______________________________________

Toast, as every breakfaster knows, isn't really about the quality of the bread or how it's sliced or even the toaster. For man cannot live by toast alone. It's all about the butter. -- Adam Gopnik
Avatar
Count me in as a big fan of Noodletown. The salt baked shrimp are great. They usually have a few soft shell crab preparations at this time of year that are outstanding. I always order the roast duck with flowering chives (largely because I'm a sucker for flowering chives).

David Chang adapted the Noodletown ginger scallion sauce for this recipe:
http://www.inuyaki.com/archives/2465 . Something very similar to this is on the menu at Noodletown.

Some XLB at Joe's Shanghai and a few dishes at Noodletown make a great meal.
Avatar
Since GAF mentions Yunnan mushroom dishes here, I want to alert all who are interested in the topic to Beth Kracklauer's article in the August/September issue of Saveur. It's a very interesting trip to Kunming in which the author is accompanied by a mycologist from Kunming University. I often bypass Saveur these days, since they seem to have gone middlebrow with their covers, perhaps in order to compete with the other food magazines. Too bad that the cover of this issue (anchored by a boring picture of a plate of chicken with pesto!) held no clues to the Yunnan mushroom article, but instead, "a guide to mushrooms and how to cook them."
I doubt many of us need that sort of advice, or any further pesto ideas, thank you! Whew! Rant finished.
_______________________________________

Man : I can't understand how a poet like you can eat that stuff.
T. S. Eliot: Ah, but you're not a poet.
Avatar
Spotted in TONY, there are some new options in NYC for the Yunnan-inclined:

Yunnan Kitchen
79 Clinton St (between Delancey and Rivington Sts)
212-253-2527

Lotus Blue
110 Reade St (between Church St and West Broadway)
212-267-3777


(I have been to neither.)
LTH Forum Holiday Party

Online Information

Users browsing this forum: c7umpm, Dlongs, electric mullet, jnm123 and 9 guests