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Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Right Where I left Off -- Eel Noodle Soup at Gourmet Noodle House


I finally stopped feeling sorry for myself, cast off incipient agoraphobia, Lyfted myself up and hobbled to the Richmond for my first solo slurp since my pratfall.  I could have  drawn on the bucket list of new venues I'd begun compiling for my return to action, but opted for almost certain reward from a Shanghai classic, eel noodles, which had been added to Gourmet Noodle House since my last visit.

The eels in question are not the familiar fillet-friendly unagi of Japanese cusine, nor the fat eels my father and I used to throw back into the St. Lawrence when we caught them, until an Estonian granny in our neighborhood started begging for them for pickling. The eels that only Shanghainese seem to love are snake-like freshwater eels so slender that recipes call for shredding, rather than filleting. They are very fishy, or "eely" in flavor, and as such work well in noodle soups as well as with "tossed" noodles (ban mian), though Shanghainese perversely like to serve this eel in a pond of white pepper-laden oil as a standalone dish.

Gourmet Noodle House wisely serves Shanghai river eel in full noodle soup mode, where the diluted eeliness of the shreds/fillets elegantly inform the richness of a well developed broth.  As with GNH's other soups I've ordered, the house-made noodles were perfectly cooked,  and the soup served piping hot, especially appreciated by us Instagrammers who like the time to pose our subjects before diving in. Dive in I did, and wasn't disappointed.

I accompanied my eel noodles with an order of ma lan tou, the traditional Shanghai cold dish of minced dry tofu and the chopped stems and leaves of the flowering herb kalimeris indica (sometimes called Indian Aster, False Aster, or Boltonia). It's a favorite salad of mine, and the tart and salty taste made a good counterpoint to the slightly piscine broth of my eel noodles.  Eating the fine-grained mixture is a bit of a chore with  chopsticks, and Gourmet Noodle House wisely provides a small spoon to dip into the ma lan tou salad with.

I mentioned to one of the proprietors that my wife's niece, recently visiting from Shanghai, told me that her favorite dish at her local Gourmet Noodle House branch was the yellowfish wonton soup, a dish that hasn't made its way to San Francisco yet. She indicated that it might well find its way here, since they are slowly adding items from the Mainland chain's menu (as was the case with my eel noodles). That's definitely a dish I'll be ready for.

Where slurped: Gourmet Noodle House, 3751 Geary Boulevard, San Francisco.