The rice noodle (mixian) is clear, long, and always al dente. In Yunnan, a popular region for rice noodles, these slippery beauties are served with a traditional soup known as Guoqiao, which is served with chicken, pig’s kidney, liver, fish, and pickled pork. These flavors meld to create a deeply rich flavorful broth, the best part being that everyone gets to assemble their own dish — right at the table! So naturally, each restaurant in Yunnan has a different recipe.
Ramen can be found in almost every neighborhood of Manhattan but there aren’t too many places serving authentic Yunnanese cuisine, specifically Yunnan-style rice noodles. We caught up with chef, owner of South of The Clouds restaurant in Greenwich Village, who is bringing the beauty of the rice noodle and the flavors of Yunnan to the mouths of Manhattanites. As we sat their slurping up the many expressions of rice noodle dishes, I noticed I didn’t have that same heavy feeling that a bowl of ramen tends to leave you with — the noodles are light and easy to eat.
“The Yunnanese are famous for their slow lifestyle. They wouldn’t step out because they are too proud of their hometown.” Geng remembers. After feeling nostalgic for alternate flavors from his hometown, Geng returned home and slowly ate his way through the villages of Yunnan (almost four bowls of rice noodles a day) in order to bring the very best of his culture to the rest of the world. Geng used to work with his father at his restaurant in Brooklyn, but this year decided to take the leap out on his own. His restaurant is sure to be solid player in the Manhattan noodle game and hopefully bring some well-deserved attention to this often-overlooked regional cuisine.
After tasting some of the delightfully spiced flavors out of Geng’s kitchen, along with the lightness the noodles provide, I have to say I am a convert, and as far as I’m concerned, ramen is a distant, fading ex. Geng even uses a crucial sauce called Zhaotong, shipped all the way from Yunnan for the Zhajiang, (which is a dish of fermented bean sauce with minced pork that is still lingering in my memory almost 48 hours later. If you’re looking for more authentic Chinese restaurants near you here are the best Chinese restaurants in every state.
Natalie Lobel is a Recipe Editor at The Daily Meal who enjoys navigating the food space with a compass and a wooden spoon. You can follow her food adventures and diet experiments on her Instagram @natlobel.
In the video below Brian Sheehan previews our list of Classic Chinese New Year's Food Traditions for a Lucky Start.