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Suburban restaurant takes noodles seriously

January 26, 2009 9:49:33 AM PST
Monday is the Chinese New Year. The "Year of the Ox" will be marked by parades and symbolic food, including noodles.Food plays a major role during the New Year's celebrations. Some dishes are revered for the way they sound. Others, for the way they look. Traditionally, long noodles represented long life, and it was considered bad luck to cut them.

ABC7's Hungry Hound found a Schaumburg restaurant where the noodles are considered sacred since they're made on the premises everyday.

It's an ancient tradition, rarely seen outside of China. The homemade noodle "show" occurs every Friday and Saturday night at the wildly popular Yu's Mandarin in Schaumburg. It's more symbolic than practical, but it does showcase the fact all of the noodles there are made on the premises.

"All Chinese restaurants serve noodles. But here, particularly, we make our homemade noodles to every single dishes, so fresh, homemade noodles is our best seller here," said Xuan Hong, the owner of Yu's Mandarin.

They begin with two kinds of flour, plus baking soda, egg whites and salt. Water is then slowly added, while the dough hook turns, incorporating it into the dough. After a few minutes, solid dough is cut into manageable hunks, kneaded a bit, then methodically fed into a dough machine, which flattens, thins out and stretches pieces.

"Those guys are working crazy, just doing the handmade noodles, but now, they found that the machines really help them because we sell hundreds of those noodles everyday; there's no way we can keep hand-making noodles," said Hong.

The long slabs of dough are then fed into the cutter, which turns them into long, thin strands. Transferred over to a hot wok filled with water, they're boiled briefly, just until cooked, and are then instantly cooled in cold water.

The noodles are immediately whisked over to the hot line, where cooks have two options: they can either wok-fry an assortment of chiles, vegetables, seafood and pork -- plating it over the noodles -- or they'll dip into a deep, dark, northern Chinese sauce and ladle that over the steaming mound.

"It's called Ja Jeng Mien, and there's soybean paste, there's pork and onion and zucchini in there," Hong said.

Either way, customers seem to appreciate them - even if they're not handmade - they know they're homemade. And it's a point of pride with the owners, who haven't changed the procedure much over the past 25 years.

"We feel we have to keep those traditional Chinese food in a lot of dishes," added Hong.

Another good source for homemade noodles is in Westmont at the tiny "Katy's Dumplings" on Cass Avenue. They're used in both stir-frys and soups. They've got a different texture than the ones at Yu's.

Incidentally, the big parade in Chinatown steps off at 1 p.m. on February 1.

Yu's Mandarin

200 E. Golf Rd., Schaumburg
847-882-5340
www.yusrestaurant.com

Katy's Dumplings
665 N. Cass Ave., Westmont
630-323-9393


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