Friday, February 1, 2013

Ringing Up a New Noodle Experience With Xinjiang Ding Ding Chao Mian

After posting the video of noodle-pulling hijinks at M.Y. China this morning, I found myself craving some fresh handmade noodles and headed for -- not M.Y. China, but the more proletarian fare of Shandong Deluxe on Taraval Street. I had in my mind to try out a noodle dish rarely -- if ever -- seen in these parts, clumsily identified in English as "Fried Crushed Noodles" but more elegantly and musically rendered in Chinese as 新疆丁丁炒麵, Xinjiang Ding Ding Chao Mian. 

Xinjiang Ding Ding Chao Mian is like no other chao mian (or chow mein, if you will) out there. It consists of hand-pulled noodles "the thickness of chopsticks" according to this recipe I found online. The noodles are then chopped at approximate 1/4 inch intervals and stir-fried with lamb, tomato, garlic shoots, red and green peppers and celery, all chopped equally finely, in a ginger-garlic sauce. 

As with other noodle dishes at Shandong Deluxe, the Xinjiang Ding Ding Chao Mian is served in gargantuan proportions; the chopped up noodles also make eating it with chopsticks tedious, and I eventually resorted to use of a Chinese soup spoon to fill my gut (which was accomplished with about half my order). Overall, the Silk Route pedigree of this dish seemed to come into play here, as I felt I was eating a middle eastern or Mediterranean pasta dish more than a Chinese noodle dish. Tasty and satisfying as the dish was, I felt cheated by not getting the pleasure that comes from lifting and slurping long noodles.

One reason I wasn't able to finish my entire noodle dish (not to worry, I took home enough for a pasta "side" for my dinner) was that I had been sweet-talked by my server into trying an order of house-made xiao long bao.  At $4.95 for 6, it was easy to succumb to this temptation, and I felt rewarded by it  While not the most elegantly wrapped xiao long bao I have ever had, they were true to form in texture and flavor, a worthy xiao long bao "fix" (of which I am occasionally in need).

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the chef-owner of Shandong Deluxe spent some years cooking in Xinjiang,  whence his penchant for the Xianjiang dishes sprinkled across Shandong Deluxe's menu. They've grabbed my attention on account or their rarity, but I suspect further riches await me when I actually get to the Shandong specialties at Shandong Deluxe.

Where slurped: Shandong Deluxe, 1042 Taraval Street, San Francisco.

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