Now, while October is not officially the month of all grains, it probably should be: not only is today National Noodle Day, celebrating the Asian tradition of long, unleavened strands of starch making for a delicious component to a meal, but in a few weeks we get National Pasta Day, which celebrates the Italian tradition of the same food. October has carbs galore! So get your belly ready for a ton of yummy, starchy noodles and pasta for this month, because everyone cheats a little on the Atkins diet, and what better time to do it than National Noodle Day?
Noodles as a food item predates the use of pasta by hundreds of years: the oldest known examples of noodles were found near the Yellow River in China, and they date to over 4,000 years ago! That’s a long time the Chinese and other Asian culinary cultures have been using noodles. They’re a simple concept: unleavened dough is rolled flat, cut into shapes (usually long, thin strips), and cooked in boiling water to make them soft and pliable. They can then be mixed with meat, vegetables, sauce, or anything else that strikes your fancy. Noodles don’t have to be made of semolina flour, like most pastas: they can be made from wheat, like the Japanese udon; rice, which is popular in Vietnamese cooking; or even potato starch, which makes super thin, almost translucent “cellophane” noodles. Western cultures have taken to eating noodles and pasta with sauces, but Asian cultures also use them as the starch in a broth soup, filling noodle soups like ramen and pho with meats, spices, veggies, and even stranger things–like fried oysters, hard-boiled eggs, and even spam!–to make a hearty meal. And then of course we can’t forget all the great noodles in Asian-American dishes like lo mein, chow mein, dandan, and chow fun. They’re not just what you find in the freeze-dried bricks of Top Ramen you remember from college!
Nowadays, the majority of our noodle consumption is mass-produced, pre-cooked dried noodles that we only have to rehydrate by dropping into boiling water for a few minutes. But the traditional, and best, way to enjoy noodles of any kind is eating them right after they’re made, fresh, and pulled by hand. And one of the best places in the entire city to get fresh, hand-pulled noodles is in the heart of Manhattan’s Chinatown, at Tasty Hand-Pulled Noodles. (I love how so many Asian restaurants spell out exactly what you want to eat right in the title of the place, LOL.) The tiny, winding side street of Doyers Street–also home to many of the Chinese barber shops in the area, including “Mei Dick” barber shop, lol–hides this secret treasure, that has been bringing in foodies and celebrity chefs and the curious diner alike ever since it opened. The kitchen is open and in full view of the diners, so you can watch as the expert chefs hand-pull your hand-pulled noodles right when you order them–a mark of freshness and honesty in Chinese cuisine you rarely see in Chinatown. Most of their dishes are broth-based soups, filled to the brim with noodles and the meat of your choice–like beef tendon, pork, and tripe, to name a few–and they’re full of flavor, the chefs not skimping on fresh cilantro and scallions, and the soft, fresh-as-a-baby’s-butt noodles complementing the typically tough meats. This place has become so popular in such a short time, that the Food Network celebrity chef you love to hate–Guy Fieri–raves about this place up and down the street on his television shows, and can routinely be found slurping on hand-pulled noodles inside. The atmosphere of the restaurant is nonexistent, but when you come to a hole-in-the-wall restaurant looking for delicious food for cheap–and at $6.50 for the most expensive noodle plate, I’d say it’s pretty darn cheap!–you don’t notice the decor on the walls or lack of ambience. You’ll be too busy eating.
Tasty Hand-Pulled Noodles
1 Doyers St (between Bowery & Chatham Sq)
“In and of itself, the opening of another hand-pulled-noodle joint isn’t exactly major news. But this humble little spot has several things going for it: an open kitchen, where the young noodle-slinger is on full, athletic view as he bangs, twirls, and separates the dough into discrete strands; an extremely friendly staff who proffer apologies when your order doesn’t materialize in the standard three minutes; and table garnishes, like fresh cilantro and pungent chile oil, that transform the soup. The noodles are springy and tender, the broth meaty but not heavy in the least.”–New York Magazine
“The thickest setting of noodles at Tasty Hand-Pulled Noodles ($4-6, depending on toppings) are chewy but not at all doughy. A toothsome pleasure. The toppings are nicely prepared: tender meats and tendons, runny fried eggs, and fresh-tasting seafood.”–Serious Eats
“The sizeable ceramic bowls are prepared to-order, and include variations like novice-friendly pork chop and more adventurous offerings like tripe and beef tendon. While the menu also includes rice and dry noodle dishes, you should probably take a cue from the neighborhood regulars and stick with the noodle soup.”–MetroMix
“The noodles are made to order, and as I sat and waited, I could see through the open door to the kitchen, the 19-year old kid making these noodles. It was an amazing show. This young chap rolling, twisting, and throwing dough into the air with determined concentration; a true art form. As I waited though, who walks in, but my friend and Food Network Star Anne Burrell, and with her Guy Fieri, another Food Network Star! This of course assured me that I know my shit and know my restaurants! I sad hi to Anne, as she and Guy sat down for a beer to watch this kid make the noodles.”–NYC Foodie
“I brought my dad along, who is also a lover of cheap Asian lunch spots and he gave a thumbs up to his $6 bowl of soup, which was brimming with ox tail, beef tendon, beef, and tripe. Oh and it’s topped off with a fried egg. In my ongoing effort to experience all that chinatown has to offer I did taste the tripe, which I found to be chewy and not all that great. But the broth was excellent.”–Midtown Lunch
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“Perfect, chewy noodles in a hearty beef broth for $5.50, end of story! Grab a seat by the kitchen and you can even watch the guy make it fresh for you. The noodles are great on their own but i like adding the chili sesame oil for an extra kick. My only suggestion would be to add hard boiled egg and tons of cilantro… YUM! I would eat nothing else.”–Mary H.
“This place is so good that my visiting Chinese mom asked me to take her here on back-to-back nights, all the way from the UWS. Between the seven kinds of noodles (divided into hand-pulled and knife-shaved categories), the soup vs. stir-fried offerings and the many, many different meat and topping varieties, I kind of want to eat my way through the menu trying every combination. As a bonus, their veggie dishes are generous and SO cheap. Again, they got the Chinese Mom stamp of approval for their simple but delicious broccoli with garlic, and their cold cucumbers.”–Rebecca S.
Make sure you check out the updated NYC Food Holidays Map to find this most recent holiday!