A favorite noodle destination of mine for over a decade, Sheng Wang in Chinatown has undergone a name change to Hong Man — an evolution of the hand-pulled noodle shop to include the original’s extensive soup menu, with the addition of Fujianese classics and seafood.
I loved the old place for the variation in noodles available in twenty or more soups, but especially the peel noodles: Pale wheat noodles made by taking a cylinder of dough, and rotating it while shaving noodles into boiling water, as if whittling wood. The results were soft and slippery and planarian-shaped, good for absorbing and transmitting any soup or sauce. The best use was often in a stir fry, a vegetarian dish with baby bok choi and scrambled egg.
Other Sheng Wang regulars liked the hand-pulled Lanzhou noodles in soup with spicy minced beef, a hallmark of the hand-pulled noodle craze in full swing a few years ago. The old Sheng Wang menu also offered pork-stuffed dumplings — steamed or fried, eight to an order — for $3: One plateful was a full meal.
On the first visit, I was able to recreate my favorite order, by first pointing at the dish in one section called “vegetable and egg fried hand-pulled noodle” (H36), and then pointing to the peeled noodles at the top of page. (Alas, I don’t speak Chinese.) By doing the double point I was able to get peel noodles with egg and bok choy. The dish is now $4.75, which is still a fantastic bargain.
Under the Appetizers & Soups section, I ordered “dumpling (meat) soup,” which is the current designation of steamed dumplings. Oblong and fluted on top, and stuffed with ground pork and garlic chives, they were as good as ever, but paradoxically soupless. Later, I tried the fried version. Eight to an order, they still set me back only $3.
Other guests must have had similar problems ordering old favorites, because on a second visit, the hostess passed out the old Sheng Wang menu in addition to the new one. On that second visit I forged ahead ordering the new stuff. First up was lichi pork ($4.75), a Fujianese favorite that marinates meat tidbits in rice wine lees, resulting in a bright red color. (Hence the name lichi, which is figurative, since there are no lichis in the dish.)
I also checked out a lamb stew ($6.50) which came with a mind-boggling choice of eight noodles, or none at all. Other stews included rabbit, duck, oxtail, and pork bone — by which the menu designated the metal bowl of marrow bones in broth that was a hit especially among Chinese diners at the earlier incarnation of the restaurant.
A little careful ordering at Hong Man, and you can get the same hand-pulled or peel noodle dishes you enjoyed at Sheng Wang. The dumplings remain cheap and fantastic, and the new Fujianese additions — razor clam with egg, pork intestines with Fuzhou sauce, and oyster with bean curd soup among them — beg to be explored.