Buckle up kids, it’s hidden gem time! Lanzhou noodles just popped up on market street one day, unassuming and with no fanfare. But it caught our eye and we were curious, especially after seeing an old Chinese gentleman hand pulling noodles in the window. This had the promise of super (souper) authentic Chinese noodles and our mouths were watering.
Lanzhou is as basic and relaxed as it comes but it still has a huge amount of charm, made all the more heartwarming by the friendly Chinese staff. There is no website, no Twitter, no hype or marketing fluff – hence the lack of links in this write up. They’re cash only and have only five items on the menu: beef noodle soup, braised beef noodle soup, spicy chicken noodle soup, big chicken plate soup and egg and tomato noodle soup.
By the time I had run out to the cash point and back a giant, steaming bowl of noodle soup was already on the table, ladled together from its slow cooked pots and garnished in a flash.
The food is simple and down to earth but absolutely packed with flavour. Packed. To the rafters. We all know the secret to truly great noodle soup is the quality of the broth, and they nailed it. Clearly having slow cooked for hours and hours, the flavours were complex with many layers of spice, aroma and intense richness. I ordered the spicy chicken and Stu had the braised beef and both were so different from each other, designed for the meat and so tasty.
The beef broth was deep and heady with a fantastic meaty flavour and some freshness from the coriander and green onion. The beef was as tender as you like, some fat but that added to the intense beef flavour. We both had a soy stained egg which was a lovely addition. There was a good amount of beef too, we were stuffed when we left.
Spicy chicken, it turns out, really does mean spicy! No wimps allowed here, luckily I adore a bit of heat and appreciated the deep chilli flavour and aromatic quality of the chicken broth. There were pink peppercorns which just added an insane pop of spice, zing and oriental flavour. The chicken was all on the bone so some gnawing required, but it’s the authentic way and the bones add intensity to the soup. I added a glug of rice wine vinegar from the table because I like it sour, you can also add some chilli oil/paste too. A special mention goes to a few floating potatoes which were just amazing, they had smoked up all that flavour from the soup and they were just like little bombs of deliciousness. All hail the potato.
Now. We need to talk about these noodles. Holy crap, we’ve never had noodles like it (or any pasta for that matter). They are freshly made from scratch and hand pulled, and ancient Chinese method that takes skill. They were just perfect sitting in that delicious, slow-cooked stock. Still with a slight chew, they were soft, moreish and incredibly long! We had to ask for a fork of shame, our awful chopstick skills were slowing us down. Utterly delicious and so much slurping with moans of delight (just don’t wear white).
All of this amazingness came to just £7 each and you get a free soft drink – that is some value. We’ve basically fallen in love with this place a bit and we are already craving another visit. Give lanzhou beef noodles a go if you really like authentic Chinese and want something a bit different, relaxed and all about lip smacking flavour. See you there!