Hand-Drawn Noodles, Anyone?

Nan Zhou Hand Drawn Noodle House and Spice C

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Nan Zhou Hand Drawn Noodle House/ M. Ye

My friend says she goes to Chinatown whenever she needs a “taste of home.” Steaming hand-drawn noodles, stir-fried vegetables, roast pork buns, hot pot . . . Chinatown has it all. How glad I am that Philadelphia is a city with a Chinatown! Fresh noodles are not common in our everyday cuisine. They are difficult to acquire and even more difficult to make.

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Gai Lan at Spice C/ H. Novak

Nan Zhou Hand Drawn Noodle House and Spice C are two Chinese noodle joints located in the heart of Chinatown. I would not be surprised if they are rivals. No doubt they each have a faithful following. Both restaurants offer two ways of preparing their noodles: shaved or hand-pulled. (The knife-shaved noodles are slightly shorter and thicker.) Spice C has a brighter interior than Nan Zhou Hand Drawn Noodle House, while the latter is slightly bigger than Spice C and can accommodate groups of six at a single table. I would argue that Nan Zhou Hand Drawn Noodle House is the more established of the two; it is a legend in Philadelphia. And yet, Spice C is carving its own place in the noodle-loving community. Spice C certainly aims to appeal to a younger demographic—selling shirts that proclaim “love is getting fat together! So let’s eat more . . . Spice C.”

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Spice C/ H. Novak

One of the most appealing aspects of Spice C is that you can view the goings-on in the kitchen through large windows. Watch your noodles being artfully swung around in the air or shaved with a gigantic cleaver into a pot of boiling broth!

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Noodle Master in action 1/ H. Novak

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Noodle Master in action 2/ H. Novak

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Noodle Master in action 3/ H. Novak

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Noodle Master in action 4/ H. Novak

I have a weakness for tender juicy cooked beef noodles. Nothing compares to the sacred combination of perfectly chewy noodle in its savory broth filled with the flavors of beef and cilantro and vinegar and fragrant Chinese spices. Having tried the beef noodles at both, I can confidently state that the offerings at both restaurants are equally scrumptious, though Nan Zhou is more generous with the sheer amount of noodles . . . or perhaps it was the mood of the cook that day.

Bon appétit! Give both a try!

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