|Knock Knock, who's there? Knocked Fish Noodle Soup.|
As I write this, I know of only two restaurants in the U.S. serving the cuisine of Wenzhou, China. Golden Corner Noodles in Flushing, Queens, New York, and Wenzhou Fish, Noodles & More in San Jose's Japantown. By the time you read this, most likely, one of the two will be gone; alas, it will be the one in San Francisco's neighbor to the South.
Wenzhou is a Chinese city in Zhejiang Province, which is immediately south of Shanghai. Located in a coastal enclave, it was historically isolated from the rest of China, and thus developed a distinct sea-food based culinary culture, as well as a dialect of the Wu language that is unintelligible to even its nearest neighbors. Wenzhou's significance in the context of Chinese food, a well as the rarity of its cuisine in the Chinese diaspora are well documented by an article by Jacqueline M. Newman in Flavor and Fortune.
Wenzhou Fish, Noodles and More* was opened in late 2016 by the husband and wife team of Max Soloviev and Carol Chen after sinking $2 million into renovating a historic building in San Jose's Japantown. I filed this intelligence in my memory banks for possible future action then forgot about it, understandable because downtown San Jose is a place I had visited perhaps twice in the 50+ years I have lived in San Francisco. Visiting the restaurant became a matter of some urgency, though, when news came through a couple of months ago that the restaurant would be closing at the end of the year. I am carless (and not even a driver), so when my daughter arrived in town for a Christmas visit we rented a car and trekked to San Jose (combining the restaurant visit with a visit to the San Jose Museum of Art, which had an exhibit she wanted to see.
At Wenzhou Fish, Noodles and More, I ordered two iconic Wenzhou dishes, "Wenzhou Silky Knocked Fish Noodle Soup" (温州敲鱼面) and a "Wenzhou Style Stuffed Pita With Dried Vegetables & Ground Pork" (梅菜干麦饼) to share with my daughter who, being somewhat averse to wheatens, ordered a more conventional fried rice dish for herself. The "Knocked Fish" is so-called because a "dough" of fish flesh scraped from the skin combined with a little potato starch is knocked into a thin, flat mass with a wooden dowel, lightly pan fried, rolled up and cut into into translucent ribbons with bits of fish visible. This slow-loading (but worth waiting for) video shows a woman in Wenzhou making the "knocked" fish noodles.
While we were dining, co-owner Carol Chen was conversing with a woman at the next table in the Wenzhou dialect. I can normally pick up on Shanghainese and other Wu dialects almost instantly, but even straining to listen to the conversation, could not recognize a single word in the Wenzhouhua.
|Co-owner Carol Chen|
Will opportunity knock more than once for knocked fish noodles in the Bay Area?
Where slurped: Wenzhou Fish, Noodles and More, 625 North 6th St,, San Jose
*I suspect the comma is an unintended intruder; most Chinese restaurants have fish and noodles, but very few have fish noodles.