I’ve been going to Henan Flavor, the Manhattan outpost to Henan Feng Wei in Flushing, since they opened earlier this year. Why haven’t I written about it? Well, I like the place so much I’ve been doing lots of “research.” Months and months of research. So far (because more research is inevitable), these are my favorites…
Last month, when I dropped in during lunch, the chef proudly showed me and my friend their mention in New York Magazine: the Cheap Eats 2011 edition. The restaurant was noted in the magazine for their Big Tray of Chicken ($12), and he suggested if we hadn’t had it yet, we should give it a try. “White people really like it,” he told my friend in Mandarin. We did, and although neither of us are white, we both really liked it. The Big Tray of Chicken is literally a big pot of moist chicken and soft potatoes in a spicy, smokey sauce. The spice comes from red peppers, chili oil, and cool Sichuan peppercorns, and the smokiness from cumin. It’s not extremely spicy, but the heat builds while you’re eating it, so don’t worry if the initial bite isn’t too hot. (Such things worry us Koreans.)
You can eat the chicken by itself, but it’s best to order additional carbs so none of the sauce goes to waste. There’s rice, but a better option are the restaurant’s chewy hand-ripped noodles. If you’ve had hand-pulled noodles before, these are similar but are wider, thicker, and less smooth. To me, the noodles taste just like sujebi (수제비, Korean hand-torn pasta) in long noodle form. There’s no room in the pot to do much mixing, but make sure the noodles and sauce make contact. The rough surface area assists in maximum flavor soppage. Each order of noodles cost an additional dollar.
If you happen be dining solo or are with friends who don’t like to share, but still want spicy noodles with chicken, order the Spicy Chicken Hui Mei ($5). It doesn’t have the same cumin intensity as the Big Tray of Chicken or the sauced-soaked potatoes, but the spice is there, along with a giant pile of those wonderful noodles.
If noodles aren’t your thing, they also have huge sandwich-like pancakes, almost nutty in taste, stuffed with cilantro and your protein of choice: egg, beef or pork. I always get the Pork Pancake ($2), which upon ordering a ready-made pancake is cut length-wise, stuffed with minced pork flavored with hoisin, and then pressed in a panini press so the exterior gets crisp. It’s good as-is but tastes better with chili oil. What doesn’t?
Henan Flavor also serves noodle soups and dumplings, but I’m not yet a fan of either. The soups tend to be a little bland, and on the one occasion I had the Soup Dumplings ($7), the little buns — although tasty — were devoid of any soup. Stick to the spicy noodles and pancakes for now. My research continues….
68B Forsyth St (b/n Grand & Hester St; map)
New York, NY 10002