Saturday, January 15, 2011

Dragon Lady Lo-Mein, The Sequel: Extra Secret Revealed!

Dragon Lady Lo-Mein made with fresh noodles.  The dried noodle recipe is good, but the fresh noodle version is great -- a little lighter, and more flavorful.

Happy new year!  Thank you for all your nice comments and emails on the Dragon Lady Lo-Mein.  So glad you like it!  Now that you have the basic recipe down, I have one more secret to divulge.  To make this dish taste extra special, try making them with fresh noodles, not dried.  The original version calls for dried because I try to post recipes that use ingredients you can find easily (ie:  “in the Asian food aisle of your local supermarket”).  But if I think it’s worth the effort, I will occasionally incorporate an “ancient Chinese secret” that requires you to go off the beaten path to find.  So time to get out of your bubble, go beyond the ‘hood, and head to the International District, to seek out:  “the noodle jail.”

I buy my fresh Chinese noodles at Tsue Chong Co., 810 South King Street (206-623-0801) in Seattle’s International District, aka “Chinatown”.  This is the same place where you can order
the fortune cookies with the custom-fortunes (see Feb. 12, 2010 posting).  I’m sure “Tsue Chong” must be someone’s name, but to me, it means:  “the noodle jail.” The store is dingy and non-descript, accented with some charming steel bars on the windows.  (Now that’s a sign of some tasty noodles.  Someone must have broken in once and stole a truckload of noodles!)  Let’s just call it “shabby and not so chic.”  The inside is about as charming as a newspaper shack, with battered and sparsely stocked shelves, and an unfinished concrete floor.  But what you don’t see, is the full-scale production of noodles, fortune cookie and won-ton wrappers in the factory behind the small, dingy counter.  This is where all the “Rose Brand” noodle products are made and distributed.

Since you’re obviously not paying a mark-up for ambiance or fancy packaging here, the prices are incredibly reasonable.  A 2 lb. package of fresh noodles costs under $2.  They come vacuum sealed, so they freeze very well.  So if you venture down there, stock up.  Every so often, one of us will call around the family with a noodle search:  “Do you have any noodles in your freezer?  I want to make lo-mein.”  Inevitably, someone will have an extra package in the freezer and will reluctantly cough it up.

While you’re there, consider picking up some Rose Brand won-ton wrappers (they freeze well, too), dried noodles and fortune cookies.  The prices are lower than anywhere else, especially Uwajimaya.  You can also buy a 5 lb. bag of fortune cookie rejects for a nominal price.  These are the fortune cookies that escaped the assembly line and never got folded, so they look like flat crispy pancakes.  (My dad used to bring huge bags of these home when we were kids.  I would eat stacks of them while vegging out in front of the tv after school.)

I plan to take a couple of my girlfriends on a little field trip to Tsue Chong in the next couple weeks.  We’re going to have dim sum at the Jade Garden for lunch, then stock up on Dragon Lady fixin’s from the noodle jail and from my other favorite spot, the Hop Thanh supermarket.  Let me know if you want to come!

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