Serious Eats: New York
Slurped: The Rice Noodles at Yun Nan Flavour Snack
I had a good feeling about these noodles. The first telling sign was the shop's simplicity. One woman stood behind a small glass counter, behind which was an enormous pot of boiling water and one wok. On the floor was a lone bucket filled with rice noodles. They were rough and slightly crooked, like neatly hewn tree branches. The noodles had been dried already, though they are made in-house.
These rice noodles are the mainstay of Yun Nan Flavour Snack in Brooklyn's Chinatown. Their menu is a pared-down affair. For some reason, items one through six are left blank, so the menu actually begins with number seven, their cold-dressed rice noodles. The rest of the menu comprises mostly those same rice noodles in various soups.
Though dried rice noodles are a staple in my pantry, I've had few occasions to understand the chewiness which is the hallmark of the Yunnanese rice noodles. Growing up, I'd hear stories about this kind of noodle from my mother, who spent twelve years of her life in Yunnan, first in the rice paddies of southern Yunnan, then in Kumning, its capitol. She grew misty-eyed talking about the particular elasticity of those rice noodles, how they were so chewy and slick and good.
It is, I'll admit, a difference of degree rather than kind. At first they may seem no better than the store-bought version, but the texture of Yun Nan Flavour Snack's is different: springy, with a chewiness that fights backs and resists your bite. If you have a texture fixation, as I do, as so many Chinese do, then you will probably like these.
Even if not, you will like the sauce that dresses the cold rice noodles ($4.25). Chili oil and vinegar are used with an appropriately heavy hand; soy sauce and sugar round out the flavors. Ground pork clings to each strand and to top it off, roasted peanuts. This is a really nice dish, folks. If I lived close by, this would be a go-to quick lunch for me. (Though I am lucky enough to live by the original Patsy's, and home of the 1.75 slice, so no complaints here.)
Soup noodles (all $4.25) hit the spot on a rainy Saturday afternoon. The broths tend to be light in body, nothing special, but overall they're quite soothing and just flavorful enough to be good. (This can be said, I feel, of a lot of Chinatown soup broths.)
As for the toppings, you can't go wrong with pork intestines, pork cracklings, and tender stewed beef. The intestines are simmered and thinly sliced (maybe deep-fried, too, to make them puffy). They were really quite good, and I feel it incumbent upon me to mention that Robyn gobbled up slice after slice of intestines. So it wasn't just me. (Because as some of you may know, I am besotted with all things offal, so I don't blame you if you don't trust my judgment on this count.)
Oh yes, I would pay another visit to this unassuming little store, no doubt about that. Be warned that there is very little seating—just a few stools placed by the window and against the walls. And after eating, I would walk again along the busy thoroughfare which is 8th avenue, and look and buy some of the food and the wares being sold on the streets. 8th avenue feels adventurous and unsettled in a way that Chinatown Manhattan and Flushing don't, perhaps because both those areas more older and more settled. Whereas in Brooklyn Chinatown, little storefronts that spill out onto the sidewalk are the norm.
One more thing before I let you go. I got the most amazing deals on my walk! There was a man on one block selling two dozen or so persimmons in a box for four dollars. They were ripe, and by no means past their prime. For four dollars! That's outlandishly cheap, or so I thought, until I walked further and passed another man selling the same size box for three dollars! Three dollars! Naturally, impulsively, I bought the second box too.....and now I have close to fifty persimmons sitting on my desk as I write this.
It's a good thing that my persimmon intake during the fall and winter is something like five a day.
Yun Nan Flavour Snack
774 49th Street, Brooklyn, NY 11220 (map)