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拉面 La Mian World

the quest for the perfect noodle

Ok, Hong Kong is not the ultimate city for hunting la mian shops in the first place. It is all about Dim Sum, funny chicken feet, shark fins and god knows what. Of course all the Chinese cuisines will find their niche in the metropolis with restaurants claiming to serve the most spicy Sichuan outside Sichuan, the most royal Beijingnese outside Beijing, the healthiest Shanxi outside Shanxi and so on. Logically there is nothing wrong to anticipate that there must be the longest Lanzhou la mian pulled outside of Lanzhou hidden somewhere in Hong Kong.

I was travelling on Thai Airways to Hong Kong in 2009. By coincidence their in-flight magazine Sawasdee featured an article about Hong Kong that mentioned a small restaurant in Central called Hometown Dumplings which apart from serving all varieties of fried, boiled and steamed dumplings also featured a la main chef pulling the dough. I had to give it a try and sweated up my way to the mid levels in Central Hong Kong.

I ordered the noodles and the chef went to work for what seemed to be an endless time. Slowly and more slowly he worked the dough and pulled it – uberslowly. Some doubts were already arising regarding his skill when the soup bowl full of fresh la mian finally arrived at my table. The taste was good but the noodles were not very evenly stretched with all kinds of thicknesses and thus some were softer than others. I was a bit disappointed, though the dumplings were kind of ok.

Now three years on and after the start of la mian world I came back to Hong Kong. I had to give it another try. The Restaurant had moved. From a ground floor space to a bigger first floor one with more tables for the fans of their Shandong kitchen. One thing is for sure: The place wins my “most incredible interior” award. I almost burst out laughing seeing the flowery décor of the chairs and table mats. Hilarious! When I visited, the staff was very busy watching the news on television and it took some time to take my only order for one bowl of beef noodle soup. The beef, though, mostly consisted of wobbly fat and not so much meat. Never mind, I was interested in the noodles which were unfortunately not prepared in front of my eyes. So it looked as if they don’t feature the la mian chef any more or they hid him in the kitchen. However, I don’t think the noodles were prepared fresh on the spot. Well, as for the verdict I would say I do not need to go a third time again.

Having arrived a little early at Hong Kong airport the next morning I settled for a wonton and shanghai noodle soup at Tian Xia Dumplings in the Terminal 2 food court for breakfast. A quite enjoyable treat, although it did not entirely neutralise the last Qingdao from the night before.

Hometown Dumpling, 1/F, Soho Workstation, 110-118 Caine Road, Mid-Levels, Hong Kong

Tian Xia Dumplings, Sky Plaza, Terminal 2 , Hong Kong International Airport, Chek Lap Kok, Hong Kong

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