The magnificent “big tray chicken” — same as it ever was.
It was in early June that a group of friends and I staged a wake for He Nan Flavor, a modest noodle-centric restaurant on the Lower East side that provided Manhattan’s only glimpse of food from Henan – a landlocked region wedged between Shanxi, Shaanxi, and Shandong to the northwest of Shanghai, placing it on northern China’s south side.
You’re right to be skeptical, but yes it is the same place. Though the noodle-making station is now hidden away in the rear kitchen rather than in the front window. Don’t be alarmed.
Well it wasn’t really a wake, because the patient was still alive. Yet there it was, a scrawled sign on the wall in Chinese and English foretelling the imminent demise of the restaurant.
We dug in like bandits that night, demolishing among five of us the legendary “big tray of chicken,” calling for serving after serving of the broad hand-pulled noodles made right on the premises (“hui mei”) to sop in the sauce. The appeal of that “tray” (really a wok) lay not just in the chile-oil-laced excesses of the sauce, but in the mega quantities of roly-poly Sichuan peppercorns. My friends and I took turns munching on heaps dredged up from the bottom of the wok, quickly taking drinks of water to accentuate the effect. It tasted like we were drinking mercury.
Hmmm, this is reassuring…
The spicy brisket hui mei (dry version)
Well, I was walking by the Forsyth Street premises – just across the street from Sara D. Roosevelt Park – when I saw a light on and ran for the door. Sure enough, the place has reopened with a new moniker: Spicy Village. It has apparently been open since July 14, according to another sign on the wall.
The menu is slightly expanded, with more variety-meat-and-noodle dry and wet combinations. The seaweed salad now appears on a lettuce leaf. Now that’s culinary progress.
The noodles are every bit as good as they were before; the crew running the place the same as always; and the big tray of chicken bigger and hotter than ever.
68 Forsyth Street
“Pancake with beef”
Some of the meatiest pork dumplings on the LES
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