Peel noodles with lamb in soup even boasts a stray mushroom or two.
Five years ago, Counter Culture announced that a new Chinese noodle had hit town. At Sheng Wang on Eldridge Street, in a downstairs location attached to a fish-ball factory, something called peel noodles were served for the first time in the city.
You can style it as either “kuai le” or “kuaile” — it still means “happy” in Mandarin.
These noodles were shaved with a knife from a cylinder of dough, resulting in planarian-size swatches that can be served in soups or, even better, in stir-fries with egg and baby bok choy. They were a faint alternative on a menu devoted mainly to Lanzhou hand-pulled noodles, which were currently causing a sensation in Chinatown. The number of establishments serving this type of hand-pulled wheat noodle has grown to nearly a dozen in the intervening years, while peel noodles (sometimes known as knife noodles) have remained relatively obscure.
Now a new Lanzhou noodle place has opened on a dead-end block of Forsyth just south of Canal. The place is called Kuaile La Mian Hand Pulled Noodle, with “kuai le” meaning “happy” in Mandarin. The place is the usual cramped precinct associated with dumpling stalls, with perhaps four or five tables, and a staff with an uncertain command of English.
This place, too, serves peel noodles, though the noodles more resemble thick fettuccine in this manifestation. A companion and I tried both the hand-pulled noodles and the peel noodles, and found both of better-than-average quality. The dumplings are also dope, and bargain-priced at a dozen for $3 (steamed only).
Your condiments stand at the ready in clearly marked containers.
Steamed pork-and-chive dumplings are a great deal.
We got “Lamb Peel Noodle Soup” ($5, not on the printed menu), which featured bone-in cuts of meat and rubbery skin in a rich dark broth with lots of noodles in the depths. A few baby bok choy worked their way through the morass like bright green submarines.
Even better was the “House Special Hand Pull Noodles” ($6), made with made-to-order noodles of average circumference and soft disposition. This spectacular farrago included duck, cow tripe, pig tripe, a fried egg, bok choy, and beef. And there might have been a few things in there we couldn’t identify. Really, an amazing quantity of food for the price. And in a dining room a cut above the usual.
Though my heart belongs to Sheng Wang, this place provides a credible substitute. Open seven days, 9:30 a.m. till 8 p.m., making it a perfect spot for dumpling brunch.
Kuai Le Hand Pull Noodles Restaurant
28 Forsyth Street
The tour de force “house special” noodles.
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