For the few readers of my blog, it’s quite obvious that I am obsessed with all things noodle. I enjoy ramen mostly because of the broth and other ingredients. I also like chewy (qq) noodles regardless if they are thick or thin. However, if I could only eat one type of noodle for the rest of my life, I’d have to pick thick and chewy. Some people ask me why I like noodles and how they think noodles are so tasteless. That’s the beauty of it! Noodles soak up the broth/flavor of whatever it’s in. I think I also enjoy the texture of it as well.
I can’t remember the first time I had knife shaved noodles (dao xiao mian – 刀削麵), but I know I love them. They aren’t that common in NYC. I only know of a handful of places that serve it in Chinatown and Flushing. These noodles are quite simple. The chef takes a large piece of dough and then uses a very sharp and wide knife to “shave” noodles into a boiling pot of water. Then they put the cooked noodles in soup or stir-fry it. I prefer mine in soup of course!
HLTR (she used to blog here) and I first discovered this Lan Zhou Handmade Noodle (蘭州拉麵）almost three years ago. We were amazed at how cheap the food was. I believe our first meal cost us about $12 and this included an order of dumplings (8 for $2). Even though this hole in the wall (think of a food stall in China) was located in very East Chinatown where no tourists would dare to visit, we made it out there a few times a year. After a few visits, I asked the chef if they do the knife shaved noodles. To my surprise he said yes! I was very happy and ordered these noodles with my beef noodle soup. At the same time, I came another time and requested these noodles and they said no. Going forward, I always call the restaurant ahead to confirm they are indeed making knife shaved noodles before I trek all the way to the eastern side of Chinatown where only the F train runs. Now that this place is quite popular with the foodies, they have put up an English menu to make it easier to order. During our first visit, the menu was handwritten in Simplified Chinese so even I had some issues comprehending. I always order the beef noodle soup, but my friends have been adventurous and order other items. Being the beef noodle soup connoisseur that I am, I rate their beef noodle soup at a B+. Their noodles are outstanding naturally and their broth is very rich. However, their beef could be a little more tender, but what do you expect for $5 a bowl? I’m not expecting perfection. A couple of weekends ago, I brought JC to this humble restaurant. I was a bit worried she would disapprove since we spent our previous meals at Momofuku Noodle Bar and Alice’s Tea Cup, but she was brave and JC ordered a mix of tripe and tendon for her beef noodle soup. Wow! I was really impressed.
I definitely recommend ordering the pan-fried dumplings. They are 8 for $2. What an amazing deal. They are nice and crispy and you dip them into the black vinegar. If I haven’t made it clear, this restaurant is NOT known for service. You place your order with either the chef or the lone waitress. You get your own utensils/napkins/drinks. In fact, I don’t think they even gave us plates to eat the dumplings on. You just have to fend for yourself! The good news is that they don’t charge tax and you get to eat for cheap. Also, you don’t need to worry about not having enough noodles. They definitely give enough in each bowl. At the same time, if you’ve never had hand-pulled noodles, I highly recommend you try it. You can watch the chef make them in the restaurant. I do want to warn you that he slaps the dough quite hard, so do not be scared!
If you ever are by East Broadway or the Manhattan Bridge (maybe catching a Chinatown bus) and are craving for some soup noodles, you should make a quick stop at Lan Zhou Handmade Noodle. You’ll be surprised just how tasty the food is.