Szechuan Noodle Bowl is one of those enduring little places that I love in the International District. When Green Leaf (one of my recent Top 5 Asian Restaurant picks) would be too crowded, I always knew I could go next door for some decent noodles. Sure, it’s one of those typical Chinese joints with light that’s too bright and strange animal prints acting as artwork, but you’re here for the food, not the ambiance.
The women work hard here; they mesmerize me with their speed and diligence in making dumplings. They prepare pork and Napa, pork and chive, and vegetable and tofu. Ten of them will run you $5.75–same if you want them in hot and spicy sauce. (You can also get wontons in that hot and spicy sauce for a dollar less.) Or go grilled with eight pot stickers that are pretty filling.
On this day, my dining companion and I were noodling for noodles. She had the den den mein, which is the first dish I’ve had there that’s disappointing. It tasted simply like noodles in sesame or peanut sauce–no pork, no green onions or other vegetables, and barely any spice (despite being asterisked as hot and spicy). We discussed this with our server, who explained that this was their version, and that some people don’t like spice…so we should just add it on our own. Strange.
(Den den mein, or dan dan noodles, is one of my quick-and-easy meals at home. I typically make the Fuchsia Dunlop’s version–with pickled vegetables–from the excellent Land of Plenty cookbook, but sometimes I twist a bit toward the more elaborate version in The Shun Lee Cookbook by Michael Tong.)
But I really enjoyed my Szechuan beef tendon noodle with soup. The broth is rich (good anise flavor!), the noodles just right, and good bite from the chili. And the tendon was terrific–soft and succulent. I’ve had good luck with all the beef soups at Szechuan Noodle Bowl. ($5.75 is the magic number for most of the noodles, too.) Add a $2.00 side of pickled vegetables, peanuts, or pig ears (listen up: they’re good, with great texture) and you’ve got a welcomed cheap eats meal that’s cheap, fast, and warming–especially on a cold fall or winter day.
Cross-posted at Examiner.
See some updated thoughts about Szechuan Noodle Bowl here.