Elmhurst, NY 11373
Henan, a province situated in the North China plain and mostly south of the Yellow River (thus it’s name 河南, as in south of the river), has been considered the cradle of Chinese civilization. It’s home to both the ancient Xia and Shang dynasties, and Luoyang, in the western part of the province, is considered one of the 4 ancient capitals of China.
Despite all this, until a week ago I never really had Henan cuisine. As a person with Cantonese ancestry, in far southern China, much of my life has been dominated by the cuisine of Southern China (which was sinicized later in history). Although geographic boundaries tend to be contentious, much of the Chinese cuisine I’ve eaten would not really be classified as Northern Chinese. All of this makes sense in context of the Chinese diaspora in the United States where I have had fair more contact with the cuisines of the people that have moved here, including Cantonese, Fujianese, Taiwanese, Sichuanese, and the foods of Malay and Vietnamese of Chinese descent.
Thankfully, with a good friend’s move to the Elmhurst neighborhood of Queens in New York City, I had the perfect opportunity to taste the cuisine of Henan and much of the North China Plain.
We entered Uncle Zhou a little after noon and were one of just a handful of customers. We picked a seat closer to the window and the door and promptly looked at the number of options available. After about 10 minutes of looking at the menu and not totally sure of what we wanted, we finally decided on three items:
- Lanzhou’s Beef Hand Drawn Noodle – The lamian (hand pulled noodles) were perfectly al dente and the variations of thickness of the noodles from its hand pulled texture gave a very fresh quality to the dish. The beef was a bit tougher than I expected and the broth a little deeper, almost like the broth of Tiawanese style niu rou mian, but it was all in all a great dish.
- Lamb Dumpling – The lamb filling was pleasantly light and felt a lot like tasting a pork and chives dumpling filling. The wrappers were thicker than I liked, coming from a Cantonese tradition that has very thin and delicate dumpling skins, but definitely good. It had a good chew and absorbed the sweet soy sauce very well.
- Beef Knife Shaved Noodle – The noodles were definitely softer in texture than the hand drawn noodle, but still pretty good. They were thin and ribbony, as I would expect. The beef was more tender than that in the hand drawn noodle and the broth was lighter too. However, they were also fairly similar and we may have wished to order another dish as the flavors definitely ran very similar to each other.
The service was fairly great as well with gracious refills of water. Although the waiter was a little pushier in the beginning, it was excellent service once we ordered. Also, the bill was excellent. I believe we paid $14 totally in the end, which is quite a bargain for such great food.
I still have a bias for Southern style cuisine, and Cantonese in particular. However Uncle Zhou’s showed me how delicious the cuisine of Central and Northern China can be. I definitely look forward to more food from Northern and Western China to come, including a hopeful stop or two to taste Xinjiang or Dongbei cuisines the next time I’m in New York or LA.