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Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Annals of Chinese

The Attack of the Chinese Noodles

Asian noodles are big in New York. Everyone eats them and the food press covers them like a horse covers a goat, which is to say I have no idea what that simile even means.  Anyhow, back to the noodles.  As I was saying, they're written about a lot.  Japanese ramen and soba for sure, but also the hand-pulled variety from China, which is where my current interests lie.

Why I am obsessed with Chinese food, and currently noodles, I know not.  Perhaps one day when I am old, and the morning, afternoon and evening of my adventures has passed and I am preparing for bed, perhaps then I shall have time to quickly come to some conclusions on the matter before I must sleep. For now, I am simply content to catalog my quests.

Last Friday I got a new seat for Traveler and put on some spiffy blue handlebar tape.  We rode to Chinatown along the river, Traveler obviously taking great delight in his new attire, and myself barely able to contain shrieks of joy.  Our destination was Spicy Village, the new incarnation of the much heralded He Nan Flavor.

This establishment, as Robert Sietsema of the Village Voice is quick to point out, is one of the only New York restaurants that serves He Nan cuisine.  I cannot say much about He Nan cuisine in general, although at Spicy Village the menu veers heavily towards noodle dishes.  However, I would be remiss if I didn't mention one exception, the infamous "big tray of chicken," which immediately draws comparison to the bubbling red chili oil stews of Sichuan.  I had this large tray of poultry last winter and enjoyed it verily; currently, as my mind has turned into one modest-sized noodle, I went for the noodle dishes, apparently because I like eating things that are similar to my brain.

To return to the matter at hand, I locked up Traveler and stepped inside Spicy Village, which was rather busy, mostly with Chinese people.  I ordered black bean sauce hui mei, a dry noodle with ground pork and bok choy.  The noodles were supple, and although it was a dry noodle there was an ample amount of liquid that remained once the solid contents had been consumed.  Of course, I slurped it up like a mad man.  A pleasing noodle dish.

Tonight, several days after my initial visit, I returned.  It was much less busy (which I suppose makes sense given it's a Tuesday), and the patrons who were present were white and of the hipster variety.  It is always quite awkward to enter a hole-in-the-wall place that's supposed to be "authentic," only to find it's filled with Caucasians who think they're in the know.

I ordered spicy beef brisket hu mei, which was the noodles topped with rather fatty cuts of meat, bok choy, and cilantro.  Again, there was ample broth.  Fine and homey noodles.  Noodles worth dying for?  Probably not, but humble and satisfying.

I rode home and as I turned westward after a northern climb, I saw the milky blue sky mixed with wispy clouds that bled pink from the setting sun.  Many more adventures to go before I sleep.

Spicy Village
Forsyth Street, Chinatown

The young lady  is taking a picture - how ridiculous of her

Lots of white people

Spicy brisket hui mei

Black bean sauce hui mei

Traveler looking rather sharp