Happy year of the rooster, everyone. Eating noodles at lunar new year is good luck, or so I’ve been told by the Internet, so if you haven’t eaten any noodles in 2017, best get on it—you might want to store up some luck for the freaky new world order that lies ahead.
Normally I would discharge my lunar new year luck-collecting obligations with a bowl of Vietnamese noodles. But then, one day, as I was driving down 107 Avenue, I noticed Edmonton had its very own noodle and dumpling bazaar. What better place to noodle in the year of the rooster? Presumably the selection available at a bazaar would beggar the imagination.
At the very least, a noodle joint that self identifies as a bazaar must have something quirky going for it, and from the moment you walk onto Wheat Garden’s formally residential premises, you’re pretty much soaking in it. Brightly lit, with a few adornments appropriate to a 1980s-vintge living room—a knick-knacked modular shelving unit-cum-foyer, for example—underscored by appealingly bleak-sounding Asian funk and post-rock, presided over by an abashed but efficient server, it delivers on its promise of offering noodles (or sizzling rice platters from the same ingredient set) and steamed dumplings. What might surprise you is that Wheat Garden bills itself as halal, so there is no pork on the menu. Their claim that they are the first halal restaurant in Edmonton is, however, incorrect (see: Masala Wok, Baha Cabana).
The selection is less startling in scope than a bazaar would suggest, but enough to give a group something to choose from. You can order any noodle dish with the noodle of your choice—thin, wide, flat, etc. So there’s that. We split three noodle dishes which, with the dumplings, worked out more or less perfectly for four people. To make it easy for you, they include all four of their dumpling varieties on an all-in-one platter ($13.99 for 18 dumplings). Unless they are out of some variety, then you’ll get three, which is what we got.
The dumplings were colour-coded with red, yellow, and red fringes—some with ground beef and cabbage, some with ground chicken, some ground lamb (the shrimp variety on the menu was not represented). Four hungry people with chopsticks trying to snare and dip plump, frictionless dumplings in chili oil and vinegar likely verged on slapstick and resulted in the loss of at least one under the table. I expected the products of a dumpling bazaar to be more spectacular, but these were merely good. I found the ground chicken a bit mealy, but the ground beef with cabbage and a stiff ginger snap was textbook.
For the three noodle dishes, we did well in terms of mixing it up. The thin noodles inhabited the soupy zha jiang main ($10.99)—ground beef, carrots, daikon, and bean sprouts in a soy bean-paste broth—and made it seem a bit spaghetti-like, what with the ground beef. It was fine, but the least popular of the dishes we tried.
A spicier dish with skeins of flat noodles around bok choy and edamame in chicken broth ($12.49) was the more popular beef noodle variant. But the unanimous favourite was the wide noodles with juicy chunks of spicy chicken on the bone ($12.49) and a surprising array of textures and flavours—molten diced tomato, cumin-imbued potato chunks, fermented black-bean pungency, and chili heat. The wide noodles were shellacked with the spicy sauce and wrapped themselves around all the other ingredients agreeably.
Once all was said and done, my three co-diners and I managed to eat the lot and were satisfied, especially when the final bill came to $15 a piece. If not a must-try experience, Wheat Garden has provided a pleasant and interesting niche dining experience for Edmonton foodies looking to tick the ‘halal noodle house’ box on their list.