There's something to be said about the magic of noodles. Something truly inspiring about this age old Chinese staple that has evolved through the years from an art to a manufacturing norm. But what does that mean about handmade noodles?
This is something you can find at Noodle Forum in Perth, where head chef Erich Wong has crafted a lifelong career out of perfecting authentic bamboo kneaded noodles. It's something that my own personal celebrity crush Anthony Bourdain has described as "a dying art... one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. It results in the perfect noodle."
Walking past Noodle Forum and peering in to the glass encased room where Chef Wong makes the noodles and wanton skins their known for, you might be startled or even amused to see him straddling a long bamboo stick and jumping about (he was kind enough to reenact the pose for me since I was eating during his actual preparation).
While it may look strange to you, I can definitely see why handmade noodles have such a dedicated and loyal following. It's not just knowing your eating something fresh and lacking in modern day supplements like egg powder, but it's the actual difference in taste. It's gorgeous and allows you to reestablish a firm love of noodles.
I recently made my way down to Noodle Forum one Saturday after my mother had read an article on them in the Chinese newspaper. We both love noodles, and she's particularly fond of handmade ones, so it seemed the natural choice for us to visit and try for ourselves.
Wanton noodle soup
Wanton noodle soup
My mum chooses the wanton noodle soup ($11.90) which is their only proper soup noodle offering, though you can ask for most of the other menu options as soup instead of dry. What I particularly like is that for a decent price (especially given the labour involved), you get the beautiful noodles, free range WA sourced produce and no MSG.
The wantons in the soup are pork and prawn, and have both a great texture and flavour. They're juicy and tender, which is what you want in a good wanton a nice accompaniment to the soup. I think for my mum she would have loved some chilli oil to mix into the flavours but she finishes her bowl happily without.
Crispy chicken noodle
Crispy chicken noodle
Lured in by the appeal of fried chicken, I order the crispy chicken noodle ($11.90). It's a dry noodle topped with slices of succulent fried chicken and a spicy mayonnaise that is absolutely delicious. Out of the two dishes, mine is definitely the favourite - we're both particularly pleased with just how juicy and moorish that chicken is. Traditionally chicken is a meat we don't eat much of but having a free range option really highlights just how great it can be with the right produce and the right care taken in preparation.
I definitely think they should serve the chicken and spicy mayonnaise as a side dish to their standard menu - it's worth returning for alone, so when combined with the noodles I'm loving it.
After our meal is finished mum and I make our way outside to watch Chef Wong in action. Since it's later in the day we're actually lucky enough that he comes out to chat and we get stuck into his history with noodles, and his upbringing in Malaysia plus experience in restaurants in Germany. He's such an interesting character! I'm particularly fascinated by not just the process of creating these noodles, but also the actual quantities they produce - 25 kilos per day except Fridays which is 50! My goodness that's a lot of noodles!
You can actually purchase the fresh, uncooked noodles and wanton skins from Noodle Forum to take home and prepare yourself which is a really smart way to differentiate themselves from other noodle shops (as well as making the pasta in-house too!). We're told that they're exploring ways to package and sell the wantons too though due to health regulations they'll need to be frozen so this will be later down the track.
I really enjoyed Noodle Forum and can see why there is building hype around this little tiny shop. I'm told on weekdays you will have to face a line during lunch, but they do offer take away and turn around diners quite quickly. The food is simple but tasty which is all you can really ask for. As Chef Wong tells me, they don't make much money off what they do - for him, it's all about making people happy. And I have to say that's an ethos I can definitely get on board with!