Guangxi house specialties.

Last night’s solo food excursion was to be low-key – needed to eat, go home, get clothes, and return uptown to my girlfriend’s apartment for pie and baseball.  So it was probably a good thing that I chose to go to Original Guilin Noodle, located at 118 Madison Street, though it didn’t appear that way at first.  

Madison Street, if you haven’t been there, is for many blocks the border between small-building Chinatown/LES and the projects on the East River that you can see from the Manhattan Bridge.  Things are fairly low-key down there, which is probably why the hole in the wall whose menu declared “Original Guilin Noodle” had a sign outside that said something like “Sun Lin Restaurant.”  Sietsema hadn’t mentioned the dual nomenclature in his Best of 2005 list, from where this restaurant came, so I’m glad I didn’t give up too easily and try to find a backup eatery.

The reason for Sietsema’s mention of this place is that it features the most obscure Chinese regional cuisine yet to reach New York – the food of Guangxi, a region near the Vietnam border.  It’s really intriguing to me that there are so many (up to 8, depending on whom you ask) different styles of Chinese cooking – can you imagine a culinary trip to China, touring the country and eating in the best restaurants in every region?  I’m getting hungry just thinking about it.  I’m going to try and do something similar within the NYC border, in lieu of a Chinese jaunt any time soon.

Once in and seated at one of three tables in this fairly dilapidated place, I was handed a takeout menu, and I started to inspect the Sietsema-recommended house specialties.  The owner/waiter/chef opened the menu to the mail page which featured an array of American Chinese dishes that I was certainly not interested in, so I pointed back to the house specialties and asked if they were available (I always wonder, walking into an empty restaurant, whether they’re closed or on limited menu).  The owner was seemingly surprised, and indicated that they were indeed available.  I selected the first entrée on the list, listed as “Alomatic Beef with Wild Pepper.”  I assume that was a misspelled version of “aromatic,” but I’m still not sure why that was an apt title for the dish.

What arrived at my table roughly six minutes later (I watched the man cook, which was fun) was a fantastic stir fry of beef, cauliflower, at least two kinds of fresh peppers (one was red and green, not sure if that was the primary source of spice – it looked like there were some smaller, spicier ones), something that seemed almost like a cucumber but was crunchier, tiny onions, mushrooms that looked like they were out of a cartoon, snow peas, and a black bean sauce.  It was accompanied by a bowl of white rice perhaps a bit on the dry side, but very serviceable.  The ensemble was spicy, but not in the way that Sichuan cooking is spicy – the spice was totally contained in the peppers and their seeds.  

As I got up to leave after inhaling the beef and every last bit of pepper and weird mushroom, the proprietor looked very pleased that I had obviously enjoyed his handiwork.  “You should try my soup,” he said.  “Next time, I will, definitely.”  “When’s next time…tomorrow?”  “Maybe.”  And I was serious – even if it’s not tonight, it will be soon, because I can’t wait to have that guy cooking up a storm for me.


Filed under NYC

2 responses to “Guangxi house specialties.

  1. I found them; they’re called straw mushrooms.

  2. Anonymous

    Ok…Oktober 28th ghaaa

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