Aggressively pulled noodles

26 03 2013
Lan_Zhou_La_Mian - 23_eNTeNG

Chef Wong Seng Wei’s assistant chef and eNTeNG, Lan Zhou La Mian, 19 Smith Street, Chinatown, Singapore

KNEAD.  ROLL.  Rub.  Dust.  Grab.  Twist.  Pull.  Stretch.  Fold.  Dust.  Grab.  Twist.  Pull.  Stretch.  Cut.  Cook.

This is the art of the hand-pulled noodles in sixteen words.

And here in Singapore, I have never seen this in better display than at Lan Zhou La Mian at 19 Smith Street.

The name of this unassuming restaurant gives it away.  Lan Zhou is the style used to work the dough – which is, “aggressively”.  Chef Wong Seng Wei, who has always been at the shop every time I have been there – or all the times Kuya Michele, Michele, and I had been there – slams the noodle dough against his work table with the intensity of someone taking out all his anger on the world.  (“Pick up a hobby.  Learn a sport.  Release your aggression.  Or, you can make noodles.”)

La Mian, for its part, literally translates to pulled noodles.  So Lan Zhou La Mian means aggressively pulled noodles.  There you go.  Though dear reader, I still advise you not to take your Chinese–to–English lessons from me.  Hahaha!

I’ve been coming back to this place quite often.  There was a time I would be eating here every single day of the week.  Eventually, I brought with me my Italian friends, and on one occasion my really close American friend Mama Trisha.  To Kuya Michele and (the third) Michele, it was a big hit.  Soon enough, like me, they were already on first name basis, so to speak, with the staff and the chefs.  (Zhou Bin, I should take you here!  You be the judge!)

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That’s Kuya Michele on one of our trips to Lan Zhou La Mian.

 

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The “third” Michele also loved this place. And the noodles. And the dumplings.

In my case, the very moment I enter the place and secure a spot, all I would give the wait staff is a smile and a nod.  And that means my usuals would be hitting the table in mere minutes – pickled fruits and vegetables (“achar” / no pineapple for me, please), eight steamed dumplings (xiao long bao), hot and sour noodle soup jia mian (huge serving!), and, freshly made lime juice.  There was only one time when I made a different choice for my noodle dish.  On my very first time at the place, I asked for the minced pork with black bean sauce noodles, with a serving of the hot and sour soup on the side.

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“Achar” or simply pickled fruits and vegetables. They know not to put any pineapple in mine. Haha!

 

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Everything about my bowl of hot and sour noodle soup is a whole lot of extra – the noodles, the noodles, the chili oil.

 

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My bowl of happiness, here bathed in the glow of the mid-day sun and bathed in – whatelse?! – chili oil!

 

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The noodles are always perfectly pulled and perfectly cooked. I love that they are springy, with a little give to them.

 

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Notice how the hotness and spiciness is kicked up a notch by ground black pepper?

 

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I can finish all these eight steamed dumplings all by myself! Hahaha! But in the presence of company, I’m willing to share.

 

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Sometimes I “deconstruct” the dumpling by eating the wrapper first, then the filling. I usually have it with lots of the sliced young ginger soaked in black vinegar.

 

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Everytime you have xiao long bao, I recommend that you have at least one eaten entirely on its own, no dipping sauce, no ginger, no nothing. Just be wary of the steaming hot broth inside each pouch!

 

Lan_Zhou_La_Mian - 20_Steamed_Dumplings

See what I mean about the ginger?

 

Lan_Zhou_La_Mian - 09_Minced_Meat_Noodles

The minced pork with black bean sauce noodles… which I’ve had only once. I’m willing to have it again.

I walked away from that first experience bugged by the thought of how the coarse texture of the springy noodles would be perfect to soak up the spiciness and tartness of the hot and sour soup, much like how I like it in the Philippines.  So I asked for it on my second time at the place and have since never looked back – I mean, never looked through the menu.

Eventually, change will come.  But I’m still happy with my usuals.

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The restaurant’s unassuming facade.

 

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Everything’s on a beat-up laminated card…

 

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…which they’ve replaced by Chinese New Year.

 

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Happy tummy

Copyright © 2013 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved

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