Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Slurp du jour: Wonton Mein at ABC Bakery Restaurant

aABC Restaurant in heart of San Francisco's Chinatown is anything but. (American Born Chinese, that is.) From the bins of Cantonese-style pastries at the front to the apparent reluctance of the servers to bring you your check when you have to leave, it's as Hong Kong as it gets. (Not to even mention the macaroni soups.) It's also the place that a couple of graduate student friends from Guangzhou swear reminds them most of home. Therefore, when old China hand and Professor Emeritus at Zhongshan University, Lonnie Hodge, along with his ex-student Li Huiqing (at Berkeley on a fellowship) brought growling stomachs along on our Chinatown crawl, it was a logical place to stop.

I opted for the cha siu wonton mein (a.k.a. 叉烧云吞面, cha shao yun tun mian in Mandarin), a classic combination of southern style wontons and fine egg noodles in a bouillion-like broth topped, in my case, with thin slices of fatty Cantonese-style barbecued pork. I'm still learning to like the thin HK-style noodles (I've likened eating them to chewing on someone's hair) and slowly succeeding, I think. These had plenty of chew to them, which somewhat redeemed them from their meager circumferences. The wontons were the star, enormous and packed full of fresh-tasting, snappy shrimp and vegetal accompaniments. The scale of these wontons is more evident in the photo to the right of the "lo mein" version of the same dish, enjoyed by Ms. Li. We accompanied our wheaten noodles with a plate of chang fen, wide rice noodles topped with a sticky, peanutty syrup which was tasty but a bit sweet to my taste.

Would I return? I will, and I have. ABC has been a go-to place for me for wonton mein for a few years now.

Where slurped: ABC Bakery Restaurant, 650 Jackson St., San Francisco

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Noodling New York: Why a Duck?

It was Thanksgiving in New York, and I was flying solo. As I more often than not do when I'm having dinner alone there, I hopped on the 7 Train and headed for the Golden Mall in Flushing. I wasn't jonesing for turkey, as my visit had triggered a pre-emptive family Thanksgiving dinner upstate, replete with turkey, ten days before, and just two days earlier I had enjoyed a fried turkey leg, a one-off created by Eddie Huang at the late lamented Xiao Ye. Nonetheless. But why a duck? Some unreconstructed traditionalist in me cried fowl, and what better time to check out the duck la mian I'd been ogling on the menu of the Lanzhou Handmade Noodle stall?

Lanzhou Noodle's duck noodles came with the house's reliably springy fresh hand-pulled noodles in a rich, slightly sweetish broth. It was perhaps a touch too sweet for my tastes, but this sweetness was easily attenuated with a dollop of la you. The soup was topped with a generous portion of duck, as can bees seen in the photo above. The duck, quite obviously, was made off-premises, roast duck logistics being what they are. It was less aromatic and more ducky in flavor than the typical Cantonese roast duck, at least those I am familiar with in San Francisco. Overall, the duck noodles are one of the best options on Lanzhou Handmade Noodles' menu. At just a buck or so more than the standard beef la mian, they stand out as one of the best bargains as well.

Where slurped: Lanzhou Handmade Noodles, 41-28 Main St., Flushing NY

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Noodling New York: Hakata "Kuro" Ramen at Hide-Chan

On my recent New York trip, noodles at Hide-Chan Ramen were at the top of my list. Not that I'm a big ramen chaser (as I've made clear in the past), but Serious Eats NY had just named it the best ramen in New York, even ahead of the vaunted Ippudo, and I wondered what all the fuss was about. SE may have something there; I don't know if it was the noodle quality overall, or the style I ordered, but it was one of the most satisfying bowls of ramen I have ever had. On Serious Eats' recommendatiion, I went with the Hakata Kuro Ramen. "Kuro" apparently means black, and the blackness comes from charred garlic or, as the Hide-Chan menu describes it, "original 'ma-yu' roasted garlic oil." The noodles in my bowl were perfectly springy, and the toppings adequate, if not generous. But it was the addition of the blackened garlic oil that made the ramen exceptional. The garlic oil slick evident in the above photo turned the whole bowl an inky black color when stirred; more than that, it added a dimension of flavor to what otherwise might have just another salty, muddy broth.

Where slurped: Hide-Chan Ramen, 248 E 52nd St, New York