What do you do when your boyfriend forgets your bike at the office and then leaves for a company outing in the Hamptons? Well, first you bitch and moan, because, god damn it, it’s a nice day and you wanted to ride your bike! But then you get over it and rollerblade to Sheng Wang for some freshly hand-pulled noodles.
When you first get to Eldrige Street looking for Sheng Wang, you may initially be confused because it only says Sheng Wang in English at the very end of a awning mostly in Chinese. And if you aren’t Chinese, this will probably intimidate you. Two years ago, after the Sietsema article in the Village Voice about Sheng Wang came out, I decided to go try it out. However, after seeing the awning and the short, but dark steps, down into the subterranean restaurant, I decided to skip it, and went elsewhere. At the time, the fact the name of the restaurant in English was added seemingly as an after-thought, made me feel that they wouldn’t be very welcoming. This time I wanted noodles, and I didn’t care if I wasn’t welcome.
As you can guess, when I rollerbladed inside (they didn’t mind I didn’t take off my rollerblades, which was nice), I was confronted with more Chinese on the walls. I asked for a English menu at the front, and after some time rummaging behind the counter, the young host/waiter handed me a menu. Sometimes I really think I should learn Chinese, considering all the Chinese restaurants I go to. I don’t know what I was thinking taking French in high school. After looking at the menu, I decided on the Lanzhou Hand-Pulled Noodles with Fujianese Dumplings.
Hand-pulled noodles are called lamian in Chinese. Tapping the all-encompassing knowledge of Wikipedia, I learned ramyun and ramen are the Korean and Japanese pronunciation (respectively) of the Chinese characters lamian (拉麵). Isn’t Wikipedia genius? I watched the noodle master (not the official term) making the noodles while I waited. His style was similar to the noodle masters at Super Taste across the street but more extensive in his technique of twirling, twisting, and pulling. He was also more gentle than the people at Lam Zhou, where they loudly bring down the stretched dough onto the table at regular intervals with a room-reverberating whack.
The noodles looked promising when they were brought to my table. The large plastic bowl was brimming with noodles, broth, dumplings, baby bok choy, and pickled snow cabbage. The noodles were cooked exquisitely and had a nice clean chew which I love, similar to Super Taste. I hate overcooked and sticky noodles. The meat broth was nice and subtle, and had a tanginess from the pickled snow cabbage. As usual, I added some hot sauce and chili oil for extra depth.
The Fujianese dumplings had an interesting wrapper, similar to the fish dumplings at Bo Ky, in that they were very dimply. The skin was also very translucent. I read online that Fujianese dumplings are usually made with “swallow skins,” a thin dumpling wrapper made from noodle batter in a wok. I also read some swallow skins are made with powdered pork from the hind leg meat of pigs. If these were, it wasn’t flavorful enough to be discernible, but I liked their light and airy texture. The pork filling itself had a particular taste to them I couldn’t figure out. To me, it tasted very similar to the chicken dumplings I bought at the Sun Dou Dumpling Shop on Grand Street. Like them, they were a bit sour and had a slight freezer burn taste. I read online that the dumplings at Sheng Wang are previously frozen, so that might explain the taste. I liked the dumplings enough to finish them, but I don’t think I’ll get them again. Next time I’ll get the Fujianese fish balls which are filled with ground pork. Yummmmm, because two meats are better than one!
When I was done, I paid my four dollars and change, and rolled out the door satisfied by a bowl of delicious hand-pulled noodles. With thoughts of perfectly cooked noodles lingering in my mind, the rest of the day I didn’t even think about my bike.
27 Eldridge St. (nr. Canal St.)
New York, NY 10002