Zhengzhou Hand-pulled Noodles (郑州烩面)

“In Zhengzhou, they keep the noodles hot in big pots of water all day…hand-pulled noodles. They are cooked just before serving.” I was sitting at a cafeteria table in the food court at New World Mall, and had consulted my neighbor about the characters in the restaurant’s name. “Zhengzhou is a city,” he had said uncertainly…“and these are a kind of noodle.” Then he had consulted his wife, sitting next to him, who happened to be from Zhengzhou.

Zhengzhou lies between Xi’an and and Jinan on the Yellow River. China’s mythical founding father, the Yellow Emperor, is said to have established his rule here some five millennia ago. The Xia and Shang dynasties are also said to have ruled here (in the third and second millennia BC). The city rivals Baghdad, Memphis, and Athens for ancient culture.

It may not be surprising that the cuisines of Xi’an and Zhengzhou share some things in common, such as a fondness for hand-pulled noodles. Of course, both Xi’an and Zhengzhou are northern cities, and so the diets there have historically included a lot of millet and wheat, and not much rice. But there was likely a great deal of cultural continuity between the cities too. The capital moved from Zhengzhou to Xi’an and then back to a city neighboring Zhengzhou during the Zhou dynasty. Today, it is a short train ride from Zhengzhou to Xi’an.

In any case, the process my neighbor’s wife was describing is a kind of braising. In Zhengzhou, they partially cook the noodles at low temperature and then, just before serving, cook them quickly at high temperature. The result has a chewy texture very like that of pasta. In the dish I had ordered, hand-pulled noodle with lamb soup, the hand-pulled noodles—thick and long ribbons—mingled with glass noodles, wood ear fungus, sliced dry tofu, cabbage, and bits of roast lamb. It was delightful.

On a separate trip to Zhengzhou Hand-pulled Noodles, I ordered “old duck soup.” This was mainly a mixture of glass noodles, sliced dry tofu, cabbage, tofu, and duck offal. One of the main items in this dish is duck blood cakes, which are dark-red patties of cooked duck’s blood. I mistook these for liver at first, but the flavor is milder and smoother. The other offal included heart, liver, and stomach. There was also a nice clump of gold needle mushrooms.

The old duck soup had the superior flavor, with the subtle warmth of spices and rich seasonings that seemed to include ginger. The braised hand-pulled noodles are, however, excellent, and their texture alone makes them worth trying. For adventurous eaters, the menu also features duck blood soup (which I assume contains raw blood).

For dessert, I walked over to E Noodle Village, which has a few sweets. I ordered sweet black sesame dumplings. This consisted of a mildly sweet liquid in which floated lychees, sesame dumplings the same size and shape as the lychees, and sesame seeds. This is a restrained, perhaps even Spartan treat. Next time I think I will try tapioca balls at the Taiwanese stall nearby.

Zhengzhou Hand-pulled Noodles @
New World Mall
136-20 Roosevelt Avenue
Flushing, New York 11354

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