A Taste of Hometown: Noodle Talk

I couldn’t believe my ears when my friend Jack told me about this Hunan-style noodle restaurant with flat noodles. In the 8 years I’ve lived in California, never even once have I heard any praises of “authentic Hunan food.” For unfortunate reasons, Hunan’s cuisine has always been largely overshadowed by Sichuan’s, a much more well-known sub-genre of Chinese food.

Tonight, I really felt like slurping some mifen (rice noodles) – so much that I took an Uber ride for 15 minutes to Sunnyvale, where the much recommended Noodle Talk sat humbly inside of an ordinary American suburb shopping plaza.

But I knew this restaurant was not going to be just another ordinary restaurant to me. This little diner I was about to go in would either become my destination to cure my erratic urge for Hunan food or an abomination that I’d irrationally avoid. I stepped in.

As I closed the door behind me, an instinctively Chinese diner atmosphere embraced me. The loud conversations and busy chopsticks signaled enviable prosperity, peace, and happiness for millennia in China. I remember being told by my relative once: “Chinese food just tastes better when people are shouting over each other in excitement. The merrier, the tastier.”

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Atmosphere: check.

I sat down and my jaw dropped when I glanced over the first item on the menu: 青椒炒肉 (quite literally: green pepper and pork stir-fry). This is a deceptively easy dish that rarely gets done right by the countless Chinese restaurants I’ve tried here and in China. During my trip to Tongguan in January, I was blessed by a wonderfully prepared pepper-pork stir-fry, so tasty that I had four bowls of rice. Four bowls. The last time I ate that much food was during my constantly hungry teenage years.

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But hold your horses Donny, you aren’t here try their entrees. The main character tonight is mifen.

I ordered my mifen just like how I would in Changsha: “flat noodles, fried egg on top.” I saved their sour beans for another time, that’s a story for another day.

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“Shit, this looks legit,” I whispered to myself.

And if my palate made no mistakes, every aspect hit the passing mark.

  • Well-prepared flat noodles that soak up just enough juice: check
  • Controlled broth soaking time so the noodles stay smooth: check
  • Flavorful, strong, clear broth made from real meat soup: good enough
  • Fried egg with crispy edges and a soft but not runny yolk: passing

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3/5 including the atmosphere, and I was impressed. I wouldn’t say this was the best I’ve ever had, but for a restaurant in America to come this close to the local cuisine of another country two continents away, it’s enough to remind me of home. As I was surrounded by the dialect-flavored Chinese chatter by the old and young around me, I reminisced the nice time I spent with my families in Changsha.

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Oops, about time to pay!

Donny Reynolds

APM at Google, designer at heart. Courage of an entrepreneur, brain of an engineer (twitter: @dovizu)

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