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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Yan Can Cut It with Knife Cut Noodles at M.Y. China

My quest for noodles in the rain today took me a few notches (and four floors) up from my last slurp in the Westfield San Francico Centre, this time to Martin Yan's M.Y. China once again. One trip to M.Y. China wiser, I had myself seated at the counter nearest the noodle crew in order to watch the fun. My mission was to check out the knife cut noodles.  As the only knife-cut noodle offering on the menu ("Beijing Knife Cut Noodles with Bean Sprouts, Pressed Tofu, and Warm Hoisin Vinaigrette") is vegetarian, I supplemented it with an order of something called "Pan Fried Savory Pork Bao."

M.Y. China's knife cut noodles (also known as dao xiao mian) are served as a ban mian (tossed noodle) dish, with a sauce and toppings served decoratively atop the noodles, but meant to be stirred in just before eating. The toppings here included diced pressed tofu, bean sprouts, shredded carrots, and greens,  The sauce was, as described on the menu, "warm hoisin vinaigrette."   My noodles arrived after what seemed an inordinate amount of time (the hand-pulled noodles appear to be the biggest sellers), giving me time to first devour my three pork baos (more on them later). When I finally got to them, the noodles were perfect, wide strips that were at once silky in texture and just slightly al dente, and the toppings fresh and crispy. There was a surprisingly meager amount of the dry tofu, (given the prominence of its mention on the menu) but it seemed comfortable in its role as a garnish rather than as a main ingredient.  Where the dish came up short, in my opinion. was with the sauce.  It's entirely a personal thing, but I am not a fan of hai xian (hoisin sauce). Though described as a "hoisin vinaigrette" on the menu, it came on like hoisin gangbusters, and as an overly sweet version at that. What could have been a marvelous dish with a more subtle "hoisin" touch or (better yet) with a spicy, peanutty sate touch, ended up with a cloyingly sweet aftertaste. Next time I'll go  for the Dan Dan noodles, in hopes they will blow away the memory of that sweetness!

As for the pork bao, I selected them out of curiosity, given the inscrutability of the English-only menu.  What would "Pan Fried Savory Pork Bao" turn out to be?  Given that xiao long bao, cha shao bao and potstickers were already accounted for by other items on the menu, would they turn out to be sheng jian bao (as I hoped against hope)? I asked the server, but she had no clue as to what I was talking about. When their mysteries were unveiled to me, the baozi did appear to be both steamed and pan-browned, but were nothing like sheng jian bao; they were more like the ubitiquous larger rou bao of Shanghai ot the gou bu li of Tianjin: steamed and spongy with a knot of savory ground pork but no "juice" inside. )I've never seen rou bao or gou bu li pan-browned, however, as these were.) The pork baos were a tasty enough stomach filler, but nowhere near as enticing as the "juicy" dumplings on M.Y. China's menu. 

Where slurped: M.Y. China, Westfield San Francisco Centre, 865 Market Street, 4th Floor "Under the Dome."

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