Friday, May 05, 2006

★★ Maple Garden - Bellevue

Maple Garden is a Chinese restaurant in Bellevue that serves a few varieties of Chinese style ramen. Our favorite dish here is an interesting noodle soup called 大滷麵 (da-lu mian). Da-lu noodles are originally from Sandong province in the north-eastern part of China. What's unique about da-lu noodles is its soup that has been thickened by starch to keep the heat in the noodles, something that comes in handy during the cold winter months in Sandong province.

The Soup - starts out as 清湯 (flavorful clear chicken/pork broth), then they put in a variety of vegetables, seafood, chicken, pork or beef, give it a quick cook, flavor it with soy sauce, and then add a scrambled egg and some corn starch to thicken up the soup.

The Noodles - are medium thickness straight egg noodles, cooked more on the soft side.

The Toppings - there's a little bit of everything. You'll never find a Japanese ramen with brocolli, cauli flower or peas in a pod, but da-lu noodles has it. Some restaurants will serve it with shrimp and scallops too. All these vegetables and seafood are less like toppings and more part of the soup since they were cooked in it right before being served.

Overall - a great departure from the standard ramen, whether Japanese or Chinese. Most ramen are meant to be enjoyed in three parts, soup, noodles, toppings. But with da-lu mian all three parts are enjoyed at the same time. The thickness of the soup pulls everything together, texture wise the soft noodles almost blends with the thick soup. Many authentic Chinese restaurants in America has da-lu mian in their Chinese menu, so search it out and give this delicious noodle soup dish a try. The only thing that might turn you away is if you don't have the chopstick skills to control the heavy noodles.

Maple Garden - 14725 NE 20th St. Bellevue, WA 98007


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