Now that I have established that I eat and am open to exploring Chinese food, I will now inundate you with noodle and dumpling posts. They are some of the most affordable and Rhianna-friendly items of the cuisine, not to mention easy for ordering when dining alone. You may have noticed that my diet is heavy on the carbohydrates, so they are likely to make repeat performances here.
I hope I did not make it sound as though Flushing was the be all and end all for cheap Chinese eating in New York. Manhattan’s Chinatown is legendary, and while it may feel like more of an adventure to spend almost an hour on the subway to eat noodles in Queens, I am not opposed to cutting that time by more than half to eat something just as fun.
My always increasing list of restaurants I want to visit included a couple of places in Chinatown known for their handmade noodles and cheap prices. Lam Zhou Hand Made Noodle was the first one I tried. It is a cramped little restaurant located in the quieter part of Chinatown that is more lower Lower East Side. There is a large bilingual menu on the wall, but no real descriptions. To avoid being the Conspicuous White Person asking too many questions, I knew what I wanted based on my research: the only non-soup noodle dish, the dry noodles with minced pork sauce. I am quite choosy when it comes to broth-based soups, so my toes are not ready to dip into this section of the menu. I also got an order of pork and chive dumplings, boiled, not fried, because Lam Zhou is reputed to have beautifully thin dumpling skins.
To place my order, I walked past the few communal tables to speak to a woman sat before a giant pile of pork filling, skins, and uncooked dumplings. At a table across the two-foot kitchen entrance from her stands a man stretching and pulling dough for noodles. This is an open kitchen.
The noodles come out within minutes and are covered in what others have described as a Chinese-style Bolognese. It is ground pork and minced onions in a brown cornstarch-y sauce. Not at all complex, the sauce is simply meaty and savoury, not rich or spicy. The bok choy adds more texture than flavour, but the green is welcome. Sriracha or chili paste is a must for some depth.
But I have not come for the sauce. The noodles beneath are why I ran that morning. Thick and long and chewy, yet also surprisingly soft. There is such joy in picking up a tangle of noodles with your chopsticks, raising them high to try and release the clingy ones, and then swooping them down into your mouth for a hearty chew, the chopsticks then serving to protect your chin from the oily tails. The THWACK THWACK THWACK of the noodle dough being hit against that table behind me became the rhythm of my chewing until I got to the bottom of the bowl.
Oh, those dumplings. Eight was too many, but who cares if some go to waste when they cost less than a subway fare. The skins were delicate, silky, and yielding. I agree that getting them fried would risk breakage. And, oh, that filling. Hot sauce and vinegar are nice for dipping, but they can easily distract from the delicious dose of chives. The filling is packed loose enough so that you can take a bite without a meatball falling out and leaving an empty shell flaccidly hanging on to the chopsticks—the woman who took my order is clearly a master. But like any dumpling, they should be eaten hot and fresh, as silk can quickly turn to rubber from the breeze that comes through the open door.