Yong’s Hand Pulled Noodles
Dumplings have moved out of the Dominion Road food wars spotlight, and have been replaced with the race for best noodle. More specifically handmade noodles. Whether they are hand-pulled or hand-cleavered, some old favourites include Shao Lin Kung Fu Noodles and Xi’an Food Bar. But there are some new kids on the block, and I had the pleasure of meeting Yong’s Hand Pulled Noodles last week.
I’m trying to remember what used to be where Yong’s Hand Pulled Noodles now lies, but can’t. It’s obvious that Yong’s is new, the fit out oddly pleasant, in an Ikea-meets-Korean-country-cottage kind of way. There are some large wooden-slat tables which you could fit a family around, and I say family because most Chinese restaurants do not encourage dining with strangers at communal tables. The only problem is those slats have a tendency to let things drip through onto the slacks of the people sitting at said tables; I would imagine beef noodles in spicy sauce wouldn’t hold the same appeal if you had to continue wearing it on your pants well after dinner had finished. So they’ve covered the tables in clear polyvinyl, so as not to lose the effect of the timber.
It’s called Yong’s Hand Pulled Noodles, so it seems only fitting that one should order from the noodle side of the menu. There are a few of them, but not so many as to overwhelm your powers of decisiveness. Pictorial aids are provided to ease the process. I was especially taken by the offer of a small bowl of noodles, a tea boiled egg, a cold dish and a drink of my choice, all for $15.80. A hand-pulled noodle Happy Meal, if you will; my meal of choice was the Lanzhou hand pulled noodles with beef mince and soybean paste ($8.80/9.80 on own).
In a chilled display cabinet by the counter is where you can select a cold dish of your fancy; overwhelmed by the choices including a platter of woodear mushrooms and smashed cucumber salad, I turned to the cordial host for advice. He pointed in the direction of the slobbery chicken, which also goes by other names including saliva chicken and mouth watering chicken. This poached chicken was so moist it was almost unearthly, and they had nailed the balance of flavour, heat and Szechuan pepper spice. But they don’t use chicken breast, so be prepared to navigate a few bones.
Next to arrive were the noodles. My flatmate’s chow mein ($11.80/12.80) was a little greasy and basic for my taste; then again it is also the most anglicised item on the menu. I was much more taken with my Lanzhou noodles, the beef lean and finely ground with a moreish umami flavour. The hand-pulled noodles were very light and springy and contrasted well with the texture of chopped peanuts strewn through the sauce. This dish comes light on the heat factor so it is safe for the chilli-averse, but can be easily remedied with the generous pot of smoky chilli oil that graces each table.
Keen to try even more menu items, I returned with my boyfriend on another night and ordered the hot and spicy braised pork ribs noodle soup ($11.80/12.80) and kangpo chicken ($16.80) with rice ($2). We ordered a larger serving of the kangpo chicken designed for sharing, which was very generous indeed; the same sadly could not be said of the braised pork ribs which were a measly pair.
Calling the ribs ‘braised’ required a stretch of the imagination, a better description would be ‘boiled’ and topped with a sauce that I suspect is just the ubiquitous table chilli oil. The noodle broth was at least tasty with a warm aniseed flavour; sipping it felt almost medicinal on this rainy Friday night. The kangpo chicken was an interesting variation on a Chinese classic, Yong’s version sweet and sticky with lots of smoky but not hot chilli and little pops of Szechuan pepper here and there. The small nuggets of chicken meat are tender and dish is loaded with peanuts.
There is a lot of like about Yong’s Hand Pulled Noodles, but there are a few misses as well. Ordering here at times may feel a bit like gambling, but as I’ve found the pay off seems worth the risk.