Friday, May 6, 2011

My Last Meal - Lucky Noodle King

If I'm going to have to curtail my diet for the next couple of months, I'd like to go out with a memory of my Last Delicious Meal.

The weekend before I got sick, we went to Lucky Noodle King in the town of San Gabriel, California, which is east of Los Angeles and the heart of the Chinese immigrant community of today.

We went following the advice of Jonathan Gold, Pulizter prize winning food critic at the L.A. Weekly, and as a followup to our earlier trip to Chuan Yu Noodle Shop, which has since closed.

Lucky Noodle King located in a strip mall on E. Valley Boulevard. Stand on any corner in this unassuming neighborhood, throw a rock and you'll hit one of the best Chinese regional cuisine restaurants in the United States. Lucky Noodle King specializes in the food of Sichuan province in southwestern China.

Sichuan cuisine features strong flavors, the use of garlic, ginger and chiles. The Sichuan peppercorn, Zanthoxylum piperitum, is a widely used seasoning. The outer pod of the fruit is dried and ground, and has a unique quality - not exactly hot, not exactly pungent, it actually produces a numbing or buzzing sensation on the tongue. It has been described as similar to the effect of carbonation in the mouth - or touching your tongue to an electrical current.

An acquired taste, to be sure!

Sichuan food also uses techniques like pickling, salting, and drying.

At Lucky Noodle King, we ordered Chongqing Chicken, which was diced cubes of chicken meat fried in oil with garlic, scallions, and an amazing amount of dried red chiles.

Despite the chiles, the chicken was tasty and crisp, and not too spicy hot - if you chose heat, you could easily pop a chile in, but you could also avoid it if you wished. I detected a flowery buzz in whatever dusted the chicken - perhaps Sichuan peppercorn.

Then we ordered Dan Dan Mien, which had been such a revelation at Chuan Yu Noodle Shop. It's simple street food. Noodles in broth with a spicy sauce made of sesame or peanut paste, spiced with chile oil and Sichuan peppercorns, and garnished with chopped roasted peanuts and scallions.

We also ordered House-smoked bacon with green garlic. I wasn't sure what to expect with this, but here it was, shards of cured pork, smothered in the green tops and white shaved bulbs of fresh garlic. It was salty, complex tasting - and delicious. Think of a side of this bacon with your morning scrambled!
As a refeshment and palate cleanser, a plate of pickled cucumbers. Chunks of small persian-style cucumbers, steeped in salt and rinsed, they were crunchy and refreshing and delicious.

So - for a few weeks or months, I say farewell to this kind of fare. If I'm good and if all goes well, my doctor says I may be able to eat this kind of food again someday.

I don't know what motivates you. I tend to be somewhat lazy, myself. But all I can tell you is - if it's going to take hard work and dedication to be able to eat at Lucky Noodle King again as my reward - it's the right way to motivate me. I am ruled by my stomach, for both good and ill!

If you had to give up certain foods for your health, what would you miss the most?


ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

Sichuan cuisine features strong flavors, the use of garlic, ginger and chiles.

I remember when I was little, going to a Chinese restaurant meant bland.

Then sometime before I got to college, SIchuan hit. Oh how I like it! Those pictures look so awesome.

Good luck with getting better, Aunt Snow...that is powerful motivation you have there.

P.S. I'd miss not being able to use hot spices, and probably I'd miss red wine even more.

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

Oh, one more thing:

...or touching your tongue to an electrical current.

Who amongst us does not do this?

Karen (formerly kcinnova) said...

Some of that is too spicy for me, but the House-smoked bacon with green garlic sounds wonderful.
I just returned from Costco and it's too late to cook, so I heated up an individual serving of Yakisoba.
I think I would miss just about everything, but especially dairy products like milk, cheese, yogurt, and ice cream. And nuts. I'm practically living off home-roasted almonds these days.

Sean Colgin said...

Wow. I have GOT to go to this place! Maybe we can all go together when your digestive system can handle it again!

Anonymous said...

Been through what you are going to go through - what do I miss the most? Strawberries and Pay Day candy bars! Good luck