Chicken with red peppers & peanuts $8.95; Fried lamb with cumin $8.95; Fried pork dumplings $9.95; Steamed pork dumplings $6.95; Seafood dragging noodles $9.55; Fried cutting noodles made with beef & broccoli $8.95; Special health teas $2.50
Shaolin Noodle House
656 W Broadway, Vancouver, BC V5Z 1G1
By Candice Macalino,
Special to The Post
Shaolin Noodle House is named after the Shaolin Temple in Northern China where manager, Kevin Zheng hails from. Shaolin is known for its kung fu and handcrafted noodles, both requiring hours of training, patience and agility to master the crafts.
As an apprenticing chef, Kevin studied Northern China's distinct flavours and soon began managing 200 chefs when he became head chef. His passion for cooking authentic dishes from home compelled him to open Shaolin Noodle House in Vancouver over 17 years ago. To do more for the whole Chinese restaurant industry, Kevin now serves as vice-chairman of Chinese Restaurant Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to unifying and promoting the development of the Chinese restaurant industry.
Conveniently located on West Broadway, Shaolin is close to public transit with access to free parking at the rear of the restaurant. We took the Canada Line Skytrain and got off the Broadway-City Hall station. The restaurant's decorative white awning and festive red lanterns were easily spotted along a row of retail stores.
When we entered Shaolin for dinner, we were immediately ushered to an available table. With a seating capacity of 80 people, the space is bright, clean and tastefully furnished with wooden tables and traditional Chinese decor.
As we began to read the extensive menu boasting over 200 dishes, it's reassuring to know Shaolin doesn't use monosodium glutamate (MSG) to boost flavours in their cooking. Famous for their handcrafted noodles, made fresh to order, manager Kevin explains they specialize in 4 types of noodles: dragging, cutting, pushing and rolling.
Dragging are pulled, twisted, stretched from a small ball of dough into long, thin noodles. Cutting are short, thicker noodles shaved off from a ball of dough using a sharp knife then placed directly into boiling water. Pushing are cut noodles using a two-handed cleaver from a ball of dough. Rolling is dough that has been rolled thin then cut into noodle strips.
To see how the noodles are made, stop by the kitchen window by the front entrance where you can watch the head chef, Tony, expertly stretch, twist and cut dough into white strands of noodles in seconds! Tony's quick performance made it look too easy but Kevin assured me that the chef has been practicing the art of handmade noodles for over 10 years.
Knowing it was our first visit, Kevin recommended their 6 most popular, traditional Northern Chinese dishes. We started with the diced chicken with red peppers and peanuts. Zheng proudly claims this traditional Northern Chinese dish tastes authentic because of the specific timing required during the cooking process.
This dish packs a spicy punch and I like how the crunch from the peanuts balances out the tender chicken and veggies.
A surprisingly delightful dish was the fried lamb with cumin. Its flavour profile feels influenced by Indian and Middle Eastern spices with the strong notes of cumin coating the strips of lamb. The bed of fresh green onions and cilantro helped to brighten all the seasonings as they danced on our taste buds.
Zheng noted they're also known for their fried and steamed handmade dumplings. The fried pork dumplings are enormous and arrived in the shape of the pan they were cooked in. Their crispy crust gives a light crunch and inside is soft, doughy and filled with perfectly seasoned pork.
I personally love the steamed pork dumplings and highly recommend they go on your "must-order" list. They're like soft white purses filled with juicy meaty treasures and a steal at $6.95 for 12 pieces.
We ended with the stars of the show, the seafood dragging noodles and the fried cutting noodles made with beef and broccoli. Loaded with fresh al dente dragging noodles, the soup was heaping with plump jumbo prawns, scallops, carrots, bok choy and Shiitake mushrooms, comfort food at its best!
The fried cutting noodles was one of my favourite dishes, the beef was tender while the the thick noodles had a meaty texture and full of flavour from absorbing the savoury special house sauce.
We finished our meals with two special health teas, a refreshing concoction of herbs, dried fruits and spices swimming in delicate Chinaware.
Shaolin's dedication to tasty traditional dishes, quick and friendly service with affordable prices keep the restaurant crowded with patrons of various ethnicities and age groups, proving authentic Northern Chinese flavours have a wide appeal. For all of this, Shaolin Noodle House has been awarded as one of the Top 100 Chinese Restaurants in the category of Overall Excellence in 2012.