Fuqing Lanzhou Noodles offers the perfect antidote for winter’s cold snap
In some parts of Asia, it’s considered good luck to ring in the new year with a bowl of long noodles, which are said to signify longevity. It seems better to me to mark the changing of the year with handmade Lanzhou noodles, signifying a luscious, chewy and substantial year ahead.
In that case, Fuqing Lanzhou Noodles on 97 Street can oblige. The humble soup and barbecue joint in a little house that was the launching pad for some of Edmonton’s pioneering Central American restaurants (Acajutla, Mamenche) is so-named for the owners and for Lanzhou, a city in northern China, said to be home to a thousand handmade noodle restaurants. It’s to the good that they’ve spared some of their noodle-makers to launch a satellite operation in our fair town.
The place is modest but both clean and unscuffed, with just enough room for a half dozen or so room-spanning communal tables and a display case. The menu is a checklist of 35 items comprising noodle dishes, barbecue skewers, dumplings and cold sides. I noted cuts of meat you don’t see on every menu, from pork and ox tripe to pig’s feet and ears to chicken gizzards and gristle, but thought those best postponed for a subsequent visit (if ever). Turned out they were sold out of a few of those items already.
Luckily, there were still plenty of noodles and dumplings to be had, and that’s what we were mainly concerned with. I thought we’d ease myself into the Lanzhou groove with beef and beef bone soup ($12), and a side of cucumber and garlic ($4.50). “You don’t like barbecue?” my friendly server ventured. “Which is the best one?” She marked me down for a lamb skewer ($2). She also upsold us on some dumplings ($11), which turned out to be an excellent suggestion. The rest of the menu is likewise modestly priced.
The side plates came out first, a generous pile of fresh cucumber chunks garnished with cilantro, and a small skewer of lamb. Surprisingly the cucumber was dominated by toasted sesame oil, with the garlic gently asserting itself in the aftertaste. Refreshing! The marinated lamb was sprinkled with toasted cumin seeds and chilies, which lent a spicy kick.
I could have eaten many more skewers but by then we had steamed pork and cabbage dumplings—14 of them—which gave us a foretaste of the noodle-making expertise we’d soon behold. The nicely seasoned ground pork and shredded cabbage were enclosed in perfectly wrought dough wrappers, neither sticky nor stiff but toothsomely al dente. They were a bit slippery, but we managed to maneuver them into little trays of Chinese black vinegar with inept chopsticks, then into our greedy faces.
Before long the soup arrived, and it was everything one could have hoped in the midst of a brutal cold snap. A deep bowl of rich bone broth topped with copious thick slices of beef, bright green bok choy and slices of daikon radish held a generous skein of the housemade noodles, the pride of Lanzhou.
Superficially similar to ramen noodles in their structural integrity, they were slightly plumper and had a texture akin to spaetzle, though they remained firm and chewy to the last strand in the hot liquid. The broth was less aromatically dazzling than ramen or pho broth, but was velvety on the palate and benefited from the addition of black vinegar—which has balsamic and Worcestershire notes without tasting entirely like either—and a dash of chili oil. I eagerly polished off the works, but co-diner packed a considerable doggy bag.
I don’t know if Fuqing’s noodles will bring me any luck in 2018, but I sure scored a warming, satisfying antidote to the fully shitty holiday cold snap. And as I settled the tab, my server passed me a handwritten coupon entitling me to 25 percent off my next visit, which made me feel lucky indeed. Ramen and pho lovers take note—there’s a new noodle soup in town to gird you against the cold snaps to come.
Fuqing Lanzhou Noodles
10824 97 St.