On other tables in Hong Kong-style Chinese restaurants I often see this kind of noodle dish, where they’re fried until they’re all stuck together and then covered with a cornstarch sauce, so it ends up goopy and gummy. If the people ordering it were Americans, I’d figure it was some gross Chinese-American thing (especially when served in a pie plate), but it’s usually Chinese customers speaking Chinese. Can someone explain the appeal? Something you have to grow up eating?
It’s like the love for egg foo young. Fried food covered with gravy. Personally, I think pan-fried noodles are a brilliant example of old-school Chinese-American cooking.
It’s probably because you’ve never had a real, authentic version.
Pan-fried noodles are a Guangzhou specialty and when executed properly can be quite revelatory.
Up in your neck of the woods, Koi Palace does a fantastic iteration of this dish, with crispy noodles that are light and not the least bit greasy and topped with prawns, lightly blanched vegetables, enoki and wood ear mushrooms, fish maw and a very succulent pumpkin squash sauce.
This is nothing like the bastardized versions served up at what @chandavkl calls “fake” Canto places or HK-style bistros.
That makes sense. Is that #701, pan-fried noodle with seafood?
Interestingly 50 years ago my Toishanese grandfather made a similar noodle pancake out of the thicker fresh Cantonese noodle of the day. Except I’d grab the entire pancake before he added the meat, sauce and vegetables and eat the noodle pancake plain by itself.
Grandpa learned to cook a century ago at the Beverly Hills Hotel back when it was in the middle of nowhere and was a resort hotel for vacationing easterners and was largely staffed by Chinese laborers.
No. It’s on their dinner menu, not dim sum.
“Jumbo prawn, veggie, saute in pumpkin sauce over crispy vermicelli”?
Could be. But I don’t really know the English name of the dish on the menu.
I grew up seeing this on menus at most of the Chinese joints we went to in both L.A. and the OC. It was always referred to as “Bird’s Nest” crispy noodles because the fried noodles resembled a bird’s nest. When I was little, it was often part of the wedding banquet menu…as I got older it disappeared in deference to other menu options. I haven’t had this I years, but I remember it being good because of the textural contrast of the soggy and crispy noodles slathered in the gravy.
Yes, except I don’t know about the pumpkin sauce part. Oriental Garden in Manhattan makes an excellent version. It’s one of my favorite dishes. Like pizza, even when it’s bad, it’s still pretty good. Also like pizza, you definitely do not need to grow up eating it in order to like it. I’ve never seen it served in a pie plate, though.
Agree. Love pan fried noodles, even when bordering on awful.
I believe that’s the one. Although the one I had may have had a slightly different description.
To me, this is like Carne Asada Fries or Chilii Cheese Nachos. Even when bad, it’s still not so awful that you would turn down a mouthful if offered.
Break it up and mix it with the sauce. Some of it ends up being crispy, some of it moist. Yes, the sauce is pretty thick usually. Try the golden chives and pork version - you might find it interesting, as it showcases what many like about this kind of pan-fried noodle: texture contrast. There are yellow chives, beansprouts, slivers of pork, and julienned shiitake mushrooms, all with a similar length. In one bite you get varying degrees of chew - crunch from the noodles, slight crunch from the beansprouts and chives, bouncy chew from the shiitake, and the pork somewhere in between. Personally, I like it as one of the ending savory dishes of a cantonese seafood meal. Lobster e-fu mein is another alternative to end with (but not pan-fried), but it can be slightly cumbersome with the lobster shells.
Yes, it’s often served in a white or clear pie plate.
In my experience, “bird’s nest” crispy noodles can also refer to the potato/taro basket of noodles with seafood and/or vegetables, which is different than the “Hong Kong pan-fried” (egg) noodles. The “bird’s nest” is more of a shell, but it has a similar concept. The gravy is white/clear, however. Great with big pieces of seafood like scallops, squid, and shrimp, and maybe some contrasting crunchy vegetables like celery, snap peas, and white or black wood ear mushrooms.
with potato noodles
with taro noodles
That’s also my golden standard (pan fried noodles with pork strips, mushrooms, yellow chives, bean sprouts)
Unfortunately there are too many bad renditions out there. One would be lucky to get something decent at a Hong Kong cafe or a more casual Cantonese restaurant.
In Hong Kong the more common versions are the ones with the wok stir fried mixture laid on top of a bed of crispy noodles, which in Cantonese translates to “noodle cake”, since they are typically round and fit perfectly on a round plate.
However in the 60s and 70s there was a variant of serving this to Shanghainese expat businessmen who work/live in Hong Kong. The round collection of noodles are pan fried until golden brown on both sides (“double sided yellow” 兩 面 黃 in Cantonese) and served separately from the sauce which is a bit more thickened (but not Chinese American cornstarchville) consisting of the bean sprouts, mushrooms, yellow chives, and pork strips. That way the VIP diner can customize the ratio of sauce to noodle. Last but not least, the requisite Shangainese red vinegar to add on the side to add a little acidity and depth (and to cut the grease just a little).
I guess one would have to special request in Cantonese something like to above at the likes of a high end banquet seafood restaurant, assuming they are willing to handle the request.
The mushroom + bean sprout + pork strip + yellow chives combination if done right is super magical. There should also be the right amount of sauce (or cornstarch for that matter), and a flavor balance between all components where they complement each other. I personally like to add a touch of a really good chili sauce or some white pepper to kick it up.
Yes, the bird’s nest crispy noodles is more of an ornament/decoration and appears more in some regional Chinese banquet dishes, and in some banquet style Vietnamese/Vietnamese Chinese restaurants. The noodles tend to be thicker as well, even for their non nest shaped round collection of noodles. There’s also the Japanese Chinese version of crispy noodles (more Nagasaki style), but relies more on cornstarch, but strangely it tastes far better than the Chinese American shortcut places. Below is a picture of what they called Nagasaki Sara Udon with crispy noodles (katamen).
a nice kick to break it up at the end, just before (complimentary, hopefully) dessert like coconut taro tapioca or green bean soup with that slight medicinal / dried tangerine peel taste. Some pan-fried noodles or even just a touch of broth from mustard greens w/ garlic (and sometimes short neck clams) on top of rice to settle the stomach.
Grand Harbor in Rosemead does a lovely version the pork pan fried crispy noodle (photo lifted from yelp)