Friday, April 20, 2012
Somewhere along the line, someone not very bright decided that the default American cold-remedy slash comfort-food would be chicken noodle soup. Growing up, I never understood what the appeal was. It's bland brackish boiled water that has miserable chunks of chicken 'breast' and an insignificant number of noodle strands floating around in it. Also crunchy, out-of-place, carrots. Fuck those things. I just didn't understand why kids were so impressed with this nonsense, or how exactly is it supposed to make me feel better? Utter horse shit yo. For years and years, I've considered chicken noodle soup to be the demented stepchild of the soup family. Sure, I will concede that it tastes marginally better than boiled water with a handful of salt thrown in, but why would anyone want to have ass-clown soup when there are more sensually flavored options at hand (Minestrone, Italian Wedding, Borscht, or even Tomato)!? Fuck if I know. Maybe we've all been brainwashed by that douche named Campbell, always telling me what's best. My point is, up until a few months ago, I hated chicken noodle soup in every incarnation... that is until I ran across Taste of Henan's (河南風味) interpretation.
Ahh, good ol' China. Never letting my rectum getting respite from the searing sensations of capsicum. Not unlike many other dishes found in the far East - when Chinese people have chicken noodle soup, they make it spicy as shit. If you're going to cure a cold with a bowl of soup, you're not going to do it with the weak-ass flavors of poultry alone. Of course not! Chinese-troll logic dictates that if your immune system is getting the bajeezus kicked out of it by viruses and germs, the only reasonable thing to do is to make your mouth hurt so good that you forget that you actually feel like shit. This actually works, fact. Plus, by the time the assortment of spices has passed from your taste buds through your intestines... let's just say you'll swear your anus has taste buds too. Is this a good thing? I guess that's up to you. I'll simply respond with a "no comment," but yes, I have been back multiple times.
I know what you're thinking "great, great, so my entire body will feel engorged with passionate flames of unsettling pleasure, but does it even taste good?" Let's say you were a humongous pussy and asked for the kitchen to make it milder in order to "taste the chicken." The chicken itself is more tender than a pre-pubescent boy who's just discovered masturbation. Yes, there's the occasional bone (haha PUN), but the meat is miraculously springy yet almost falling off the bone delicate. Texturally, it's a culinary marvel. From a taste standpoint? Yes, the heat is definitely masking some of the flavor, but the odd combination of cumin and five-spice is something that's not normally what you'd expect from Chinese restaurants - and goddamn does it work. Throw in some shredded noodles made in-house - that are about as springy as a retarded slinky - and you get a synergy of flavors and textural complexity (and carbs!) that I don't think you could replicate anywhere else in Chinatown. To put things bluntly, this dish (and the big bowl of chicken, which tastes similar) tastes absolutely dope.
Oh, look - it's lamb soup. I'll be honest, I fucking hate eating lamb. One, have you seen what they look like? Yeah, don't you feel like a dick now for eating baby Lambchop? Two, it has this weird gaminess that I can't shake. Roasted lamb, somewhat acceptable, but lamb in soup retains that flavor and just sits around soaking it up. If lamb is your thing, go ahead and try it, but I'll pass going forward. Also, if you're any sort of non-whitewashed Chinese, you'll know what I'm talking about when I mention Chinese medicine. It's usually pitch black, has some random shiz floating in it, and it looks like someone took a dump in a bowl and stirred hot water into it. It tastes similar. The lamb dish here doesn't taste like that, but there's random hints of ginseng, jujubes, and random other Chinese herbs that reminds me of the tree bark water I used to get forced to drink. That shit is gross. I don't like to be reminded of it.
Good thing I had pork pancake to wash that biz-nasty out of my mouth. Asian pancakes hold a special place in the pantheon of inevitable heart disease for me. They're usually just carb-laden discs of sensuality and mouth molestation. This is true of scallion pancakes, pajeon, regular pancakes, hoe-cakes, whatever. Henan Flavor has this baked pancake that isn't all that special by itself (it's really just like an Asian pita), but then they take slow-cooked, marinated pork (or beef) and violate the inner crevices with more meat than belongs in a pocket of dough. Just to make sure I have to change my pants, then they have some spooning action between the meat and some cilantro. Nice. They finish off the combo by pressing down with more force than the pits of Mordor, delivering a neat little pocket of porcine deliciousness for the non-Jew on the go. All for something stupid cheap like $2. Think about that for a moment and let it simmer. If you sold your car, you could get thousands of them. Wouldn't you rather have thousands of these fuckers more than your lame-ass car? Yeah. Of course you would
tl;dr - American chicken noodle sucks. Asians make a better version that will light your soul and your asshole on fire. I'm not a fan of their lamb noodle soup because it reminds me of eating tree bark water, but I am a fan of their pork filled pancake things. You should mortgage your house and buy thousands. Naturally.
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NoLita, New York City 10002