A Night at Sheng Wang for Hand Pulled Noodles and Improperly Named Broth Buns
Hand pulled noodle shops have fast become one of my favorite places to go to. Not any one particular hand pulled noodle shop—although Lam Zhou is my most frequented spot—but all of them. Or at least, the dive-iest ones. Because they're magical places where mounds of dough are transformed into bowls of noodles and pork dumplings are plentiful and you can have it all for questionably low prices that make you wonder how these shops make any money.
Two Saturdays ago after attending ROFLcon with Diana, we met up with Kathy, Greg, and Jessica at Sheng Wang to expand our hand pulled noodle repertoires. Aside from hand pulled wheat noodles they also offer bean thread noodles and rice noodles for the gluten intolerant crowd or anyone else who doesn't want the stuff being freshly stretched just feet away from them.
There's a little window that looks into the semi-enclosed kitchen so you can watch the birth of your noodles from the chef's skilled hands. I annoyingly oohed and aahed as Greg shot a video, thus ruining his audio (sorry, Greg) with random, incomprehensible noises—because my oohs and aahs sound less like that, and more like eeuhha and mweuhhehe. I make cartoon-like sound effects without even trying. And that's probably not a good thing
My beef hand-pull noodles came with fat slices of beef, a smattering of bok choy leaves, and a Fuzhou-style fish ball. For an extra $0.50, I added a crispy fried egg. It's hard to knock on a huge bowl of noodles and extraneous goodies that only costs $4.50, but my first impression was that the soup didn't taste as flavorful as Lam Zhou's, a problem that was partially ameliorated by a few long squirts of sriracha for tingly goodness. The beef was a bit chewier than I would've liked, unfortunately scoring below Lam Zhou in level of tenderness. The rest was fine as far as I could tell, noodles being of the regular soft, mildly chewy, not springy sort.
For your food porn-loving enjoyment, Fujianese-style dumpling hand-pull noodle soup ($4) ordered by Kathy and Jessica...
Oxtail hand-pull noodle soup ($4.50) ordered by Diana...
And fried hand-pull noodles ($3) ordered by Greg. While the prospect of "fried" initially sounded like the most intriguing choice on the menu, it ended up being the most boring. Visions of long, deep fried noodles (well, that was my vision...the same vision that fills most of my daydreams) were shattered at the sight of the soup-less, meat-less, noodle mound that wasn't deep fried, but pan fried. Ooooops. I need to stop thinking that "fried" equates to "dunking into giant vat of bubbling oil."
Of course, we also shared a bunch of dishes. The sproingy fish balls (large, $3) had double the meat goodness—bite through the thick, outer layer of mashed fish matter and you reach the juicy, porky center.
Steamed pork dumplings (12 for $3) were also meat-packed and juicy, packed into a thin wheat wrapper.
We finished with what is named broth bun ($3) on the menu but is actually sweet, glutinous rice dumplings filled with sweet goo and coarsely chopped nuts, bobbing in a tub of clear liquid that inexplicably (or not so much; feel free to explain it to me) tastes like bubble gum. Every bit was unexpected—the resilience of the chewy, semi-translucent skin, the abundant nut matter (what kind of nut, I wasn't sure; I'd usually say peanut but it either didn't taste like peanut or my taste buds weren't working), the perfume of...bubble gum. Oh, and that it didn't at all resemble what I would call buns of broth. But it's still good, and now you know what to expect so that when the tub of brownish globs is plopped on your table you don't think, "What the...hell did I order?" Which was my first thought.
I'd go back for the fish balls and dumplings, but I'd rather go to Lam Zhou for noodle soup. I just wish Lam Zhou—or any restaurant for that matter—also offered fried eggs as an extra; adding a fried egg with the potential to unleash a rivulet of yolky goodness to anything tends to make it taste better. Update (2/2): Lam Zhou will give you a fried egg if you ask! Thanks to bionicgrrrl for the tip.
More sweet rice dumplings
The sweet rice dumplings from Lam Zhou are similar, but mostly a different beast from Sheng Wang's version. They're the more typical half-moon dumpling shape instead of spherical blobs, the skin is much softer (if anyone could tell me how the different doughs are made, that would be swell), and the peanuty filling is just a bit more finely chopped, contains more sugar granules, and features a wider range of artificial colors. What is the artificially colored stuff? I...don't...know.