Recently came back from my native Hong Kong and had some wonderful wonton noodles there. Want to hunt down good renditions of this humble dish in NY. Here is a report from the first 2 places I tried.
First stop NY Noodle Town (28.5 Bowery), which has been often recommended by hounds and other reviews. 'Fresh prawn' wonton noodle was the very first item on their extensive menu, so that looked promising. It came quickly in a big bowl with 5 largish wonton floating on top. First impression, everything was extremely yellow - food coloring? The noodles were too thick and had very little texture and elasticity, and smelled/tasted strongly of lye water (Lye water is used in the dough to give the noodles the right texture, and must be boiled and rinsed properly to remove its taste before serving. Red vinegar is a traditional condiment partly to neutralize any remaining alkalinity.). The broth was yellowed by the noodles and wonton wrappers, and was a watery undrinkable slop. The wontons themselves had thick wrappers, so thick the filling did not show through at all. The parts where the wrappers folded were undercooked and doughy. Filling was made of pieces of medium-size prawns, no pork, no dried plaice. The prawns were actually OK in texture, crispy and bouncy, but the overall taste is too singular, too much MSG. I don't mind porkless wontons, but I like the added complexity from dried plaice. Prawns were not deveined. BTW, I was served a cup of low grade unidentifiable tea which I mostly left untouched, as with most of the noodles and broth.
Next to Sweet-n-Tart (20 Mott) at the basement. Came in a shallow glass bowl, which meant the 5 wontons (smaller, better-sized than NYNT) sat above the broth, and got dried in the journey down (up?) the dumbwaiter from the kitchen. I dunked the wontons under and started on the noodles frist. (Traditionally wonton noodles are served with the wontons hidden underneath the noodles. Now I know why.) Noodles pretty good. Thin, quite bouncy and elastic. The broth was another watery thing with very little complexity and body. The wontons were decent with thin soft wrappers and the pinkness of the prawn showing through. The filling had pieces of medium prawns and minced pork, seasoned with dried plaice. The pork could be a bit less firm and fluffier, bouncier, but it was OK. Also personally I prefer the balance to shift to a bit less pork. But overall tasty wontons with good texture. As a bonus, I was served pu-erh tea in a cast-iron pot, no charge.
So, Sweet-n-Tart was the clear winner in round 1. The search continues. Based on earlier chow discussions, my hit list includes:
- New Chai Chow
- Big Wong
- New Wonton Garden
Please suggest your favorite places! Thanks!
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