By Tana Kosiyabong
I have been freelancing near West Broadway and Cambie streets for two weeks now. Up until last month, I had rarely spent time in this neighborhood even though it is just across the Cambie Bridge from downtown Vancouver. This freelance gig gives me a great opportunity to explore this unfamiliar territory.
Boy, was I glad to find out that the area is full of culinary adventures, especially the South side of the West Broadway five hundred block. It houses at least ten restaurants including a montreal-style sandwich shop, a pizza joint, a couple of handmade Northern Chinese noodle shops, an East Indian, a couple of Japanese, a Vietnamese/Cambodian, a Mexican, and a health-conscious fusion restaurants. Before my contract ends, I intend to try each and every one of them at least once.
On the first day of discovery, I had walked up and down the block trying to make up my mind. Eventually I decided to go with Sha-lin Noodle house because it looked like an older establishment. Sha-lin’s direct competitor, Peaceful Restaurant is located only a few restaurants away. Both of them serve Northern Chinese Cuisine and handmade noodles. I love this kind of rivalry. And I will definitely check Peaceful Restaurant out in one of my future missions.
Fortunately, when I stepped into Sha-lin Noodle House, there was an empty table right by the window. So I quickly grabbed it before someone else did. As a food blogger, I always play a game called window seats (similar to the musical chairs except no music) whenever I’m on a mission. Equipped with only a low-end camera and no other decent artificial light sources, window seats are my best friends. Without natural light, my food photos would look as crappy as the camera.
According to the menu, Sha-Lin serves five kinds of noodles: dragging, cutting, pushing, rolling and round noodles. I have no idea what most of the noodles are except for the dragging and cutting noodles which I had tried from the Legendary Noodles on Denman St.
Since Sha-lin has extensive selections of noodle soups on the menu, I figured I should give it a try. So I ordered pork and vegetables with pushing noodle soup ($6.95) which I would love to know what it is.
After the order, however, I saw Zha Jiang noodles on a few tables around me. It looked so yummy that I had a change of heart. So I called a waitress and asked if it was too late to switch my order to Zha Jian noodles (also $6.95). After she checked with the kitchen, she told me I could do so. Then I asked her which kind of noodles is best for the dish. “The cutting one,” she replied. Perhaps it was just her personal preference, but I went with it.
According to Wikipedia, Zha Jiang mian (炸酱面, literally means fried sauce noodles) is a Northern Chinese dish made with thick wheat noodles topped with ground pork stir-fried with Zha jiang (炸酱, salty fermented soybean paste). Zha Jiang Mian is comparable to spaghetti bolognese in Italian cuisine. It’s also a prototype which a Korean dish, Jajangmyeon (also spelled jjajangmyeon; 자장면; 짜장면) derived from.
While I was waiting, I could watch through a kitchen window how a chef held up a big piece of dough on his left hand and swiftly carved it into flat noodles with a knife on his right hand. His lightning speed knife action could have made him the next Bruce Lee if he found his way into a kung fu flick.
Less than five minutes later Zha Jiang Mian was served. The dark brown pork sauce contrasted beautifully with the julienned cucumber as if I was looking at a painting in a high-end gallery. Once I stirred them together, the glazed noodles looked so scrumptious my mouth started watering. The cutting noodles were soft yet chewy. Although the menu said that the dish was made with black bean sauce (normally refers to sauce made with Chinese fermented black bean (douchi–豆豉)), it tasted more like soybean sauce to me. The crunchy cucumber added contrast texture and refreshing taste to the otherwise one dimensional sauce.
After finished the meal, I was satisfied with both my stomach and my eyes. I can’t wait to try the other noodle varieties Sha-Lin has to offer on the next visits.
Sha-Lin Zha Jiang Mian: ©©©1/2
Sha-Lin Noodle House is located at 548 W. Broadway Street, Vancouver, BC, Canada. (T) 604.873.1816
Remaining Budget: $121.25
Budget Spent: -$6.95 (not included HST)
Budget Available: $114.30
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