Bakery renewal or when urban renovation goes through the stomach

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Pâtisserie chinoise La Légende - Quartier Chinois / Chinatown Montréal
Pâtisserie La Légende 麗晶餅屋 undergoing renovations

Pâtisserie Callia - Quartier Chinois / Chinatown Montréal
Pâtisserie-restaurant Callia (嘉莉/麵包茶餐聽)

Quartier Chinois / Chinatown Montréal
Side of Pâtisserie Harmonie 麵包蜜語

Whereas the Chinese “food scene” (you can hardly call it a food scene when a city lacks quality Beijing and Shanghai cuisine) in 2009 has been dominated with the arrival of numerous restaurants and eateries opened by Mainland Chinese immigrants in Montreal’s new Chinatown, that of the traditional Chinatown on De la Gauchetière (between St-Urbain and Clark) was mostly revamped in the past two years with new Cantonese-owned shops, three of which happen to be bakeries.

Already in the winter of 2008, Harmonie (麵包蜜語) shook Montreal’s Chinese bakery standards by opening at the corner of St-Urbain and De la Gauchetière. Buns left to die on a colourless counter were a thing of the past. Now, Chinese pastries and other bite-size delicacies or cakes would be served in a decor on par with at least what you would see in Hong Kong or other larger Chinatowns of North America: lit-up counters, uniformed staff, floral decorations.

A year later in April 2009, a first competitor Restaurant Callia (嘉莉) was opened (by the family owning Chinese restaurant Keung Kee) across the street. It added the dining space and kitchen that Harmonie did not have, serving Hong Kong’s famed Cha chaan teng-style food of milk tea, beef brisket noodles and Italian noodles in Cantonese sauce, under big TV screens spouting soaps from TVB.

Now on my last visit of Chinatown during the Holidays, I noticed that my grandparents’ favourite (and personal longtime favourite, for lack of anything else) M.M. Légende took over the trendy “Asian-style” clothing store next door and hid behind wooden planks as it is undergoing renovations. For the past two years, I believe that it was to become the first casualty of the Callia/Harmonie combination. So instead, it renamed itself as Pâtisserie La Légende (麗晶餅屋) and decided to expand. Follow-ups would be greatly appreciated!

Maybe now this first casualty would be Dobe & Andy (right under of Kam Fung) if they don’t change. I’m now curious to see what is going to happen with this new huge space for a cha chaan teng, in spite of more restaurant space made available with the imminent inauguration of Plaza Swatow (長盛廣場).

Saturation, or serious signs of Chinese Montrealers moving back to Chinatown? My opinion is that this will largely depend on affordable parking space made available in the area from the Swatow building. Right now, paid parking is prohibitively expensive (no incentive as in downtown Montreal) and free spots can only be found four or five blocks away. A pleasure for nearby residents and public transit users, but a chore for a certain class of car-going suburbanites that I grew up with…

De la Gauchetière - Quartier Chinois / Chinatown Montréal

A last time raving about Montreal’s Chinese food

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Dumplings at Qing Hua, Montreal

Dumplings at Qing Hua, Montreal

For some reason that evades me, good local Northern Chinese food is a rarity in Hong Kong, where wonton noodles, curried meat soup and Chinese rotisserie dominate the local fast-food landscape. You won’t find roujiamo in a street food stall, while fried tofus, squid, eggplant, or egg tarts, and other pineapple buns are everywhere. (You might also easily find upscale-ish Shanghai or Beijing restaurants in Hong Kong.)

So I made sure that as a must-have meal in Montreal, as I’m spending the Holidays here, among smoked meat and bagels (although no time for poutine), I would eat dumplings, Northern-style. One of Montreal’s prime locations for dumplings is Qing Hua Yuan. They were on St-Marc when they opened last year, but reopened this Fall on Lincoln, close to St-Mathieu in our Chinatown Two, near Concordia University.

The boiled dumplings are nothing special, but now the steamed ones! In contrast to their boiled counterparts, they perfectly conserve their full taste, and if you are a connoisseur of food, you would be careful to pierce your dumpling, savour the broth inside, before engulfing the rest of the jiaozi. The flavours seem to have expanded by a bit (any combo of pork, lamb, chicken, eggs, vegetable, anise, coriander, Chinese cabbage, etc.), on top of the surprising fried dumplings. Extra goodness: the taste of the reed coming from the steamer.

The fried ones (see second picture of this post) are served with a fine film, which I am guessing comes from a dried-up flour mixture, which in itself puts up a nice show.

Unfortunately, they only staffed one person to take care of the whole floor at lunchtime (it was the Holidays though), and cooled-off dumplings and unusually slow service (one hour from sitting to getting meal at lunchtime) were the resulting minus points. On the other hand, they thought of giving shrimp chips as a free-of-charge snack now, like they would give bread in a European restaurant, because steamed dumplings usually take 25 to prepare.

But is not cheap. On my second time there, with my parents at dinnertime, we needed four portions to be full (depending of flavour, steamer/plate is $8-13, + taxes/service). But hey, you’re paying for hand-made top-quality dumplings.

Qing Hua Dumpling, (438) 288-5366, 1676 Ave Lincoln, Montreal, QC H3H

Halal dim sum in Hong Kong

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Halal dim sum in Hong Kong

Halal dim sum in Hong Kong

Halal dim sum in Hong Kong


Menu - Halal dim sum in Hong Kong

Not too far of a walk from Wan Chai MTR station on Hong Kong island, you will find the Islamic Centre Canteen on the 5th floor of a muslim religious centre. People come to the Masjid Ammar and Osman Ramju Sadick Islamic Centre to pray, but also to enjoy good halal Chinese food. How can you have dim sum without pork, one might ask.

We ordered a generous variety of dim sum classics such as har gow, siu mai (w/o pork, eh), cheong faan and lo mai gai, and were able to get out of there for HKD30 (CAD4) each. Normal: the “big” (most expensive) dim sum were priced at only HKD12. I must say that it wasn’t the best dim sum I ever had in Hong Kong, but it was decent enough. It is featured in the Hong Kong tourist guide for people of muslim faith, and we noticed a number of people from Southeast Asia.

Islamic Centre Canteen. 5/F, 40 Oi Kwan Road. Wan Chai, Hong Kong, 2834 8211. Business Hours: 9:00a.m.10:00p.m.

Fresh fresh veggies on Lamma Island

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菜心Choy Sum

Immature Lettuce

Field close to my home on Lamma

Eating local in Hong Kong is a rather hard thing to do. The most local food usually gets are fruits and vegetable from over the border in China’s Guangdong province.

However, if you are living in the “countryside”, like on Lamma Island, chances are that you might be finding a small farm next to where you are living. This is what I discovered when my friend who has been living on Lamma for some time took me to this small chunk of land, in the small valley at the entrance of Tai Peng village, cultivated by an man maybe in his 60s. With his peasant hat, tool in hand, he seems to be straight out of some old movie, growing his vegetables on this island that is better known for its seafood, great outdoors and hippie culture.

(Next to their field, they are going to be developing new houses… so who knows if the farm’s going to last.)

For one HKD (13 Canadian cents), you can get about three branches of choy sum (菜心), with gigantic leaves. For the same price, you can also get more than enough of green onions (蔥), for what would cost 2-3 times more in Lamma’s grocery stores, and 4-5 times more in my hometown in Canada.

The next day, I came back for some yeen choy (莧菜), a kind of Chinese spinach with red pigmentation on its leaves also called Amaranth, a lad tougher than the regular kind of spinach. A portion for that evening’s dinner cost me two HKD (about 25 Canadian cents). They were delicious, fried with garlic and salt.

The lettuce, the man said, were going to be plump enough at the end of November…

Vegetable on Lamma
A view of the field as dinnertime approaches…

菜心 Choi sum
…and my sink at dinnertime

Edit (2010-01-02):

Shrimp wonton at Lung Kee Wonton 龍記招牌雲吞

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龍記招牌雲吞 Lung Kee Wonton

龍記招牌雲吞 Lung Kee Wonton

First off, I’ve no idea of the exact address. My host for the past week, who took me to Lung Kee Wonton (龍記招牌雲吞), said that it was a well-kept secret (according to him, has the best wonton in the whole city) that only Japanese publications have covered so far outside of Hong Kong.

Why are its wontons so special? Because they are all-shrimp. That’s right: just the skins tightly wrapping bits of shrimp. My friend was himself taken there by a Muslim person. Wontons are usually pork and shrimp in the Cantonese tradition (those pork-only multiple-skin layers wontons at Chinese buffets are nothing but pale imitations).

龍記招牌雲吞 Lung Kee Wonton

Lung Kee’s wontons are almost like boiled har gow, so much the shrimp flavour was dominant.

Your wontons are served as wonton mein 雲吞麵, so wontons with noodles of your choice, which are the classic egg-based thin noodles , in a clear broth.

龍記招牌雲吞 Lung Kee Wonton

Better yet, you may also choose thick noodles, also egg-based. Aside from this, there is also the lou min 撈麵 or dry mix version, which is the wontons on noodles and veggies, without the broth and with oyster sauce on top. It’s slightly more expensive but it’s also for a slightly larger portion. So for the second serving, I had a combination of these two options. 🙂

Lung Kee is located somewhere on Carnarvon Road, across from The Masterpiece in Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon side. You may find another restaurant of the same name in Jordan, but that’s not the same one (pictures of its wontons also don’t match)… So, good luck finding it!

In the meanwhile, here is the menu.

It’s tofu ice cream by Nestlé!

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Tofu ice cream by Nestlé!

Every time I come to Hong Kong, I notice some new “alternate” flavour of a familiar product. One time, it was McDonald’s ice cream sundae served with red bean or mango sauce (in place of strawberry or chocolate, which are also available). This time, I was eating at a Japanese chain restaurant called Yoshinoya (吉野家) and one of the dessert options for HKD$3 was… tofu ice cream, distributed by Nestlé!

It looks a lot like a vanilla ice cream. Now, what does it taste like? I would say that it was as if cow milk/cream was replaced with soy milk. So, maybe it tastes like tofu. In a land where tofu is considered as much a dessert (as doufu fa or 豆腐花), the flavour name does not sound weird at all. The other available flavour? Black sesame! (zi ma woo or 芝麻糊, the base of a well-known Cantonese dessert)

However, the one time I checked in a grocery store for these flavours, I did not find any of them under the Nestlé brand…

四季煲仔飯 Four Seasons Pot Rice

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四季煲仔飯 Four Seasons Pot Rice

On the same night that we visited 365 Hennessy Rd, we followed our hosts to the other side of the city to Yau Ma Tei in Kowloon.

What was the occasion? The occasion was pot rice, also called po chai fan 煲仔飯 in Cantonese. Po chai fan is rice in a clay pot served with various types of meat, vegetable, seafood or condiments on top of it. In cities like Montreal, pot rice can sometimes be ordered in a Cantonese restaurant, but usually requires too much work to be considered a typical dish that people order. In Hong Kong, pot rice can be the restaurant’s specialty, as it is the case for 四季煲仔飯 Four Seasons Pot Rice.

You can think of pot rice as a style of Chinese bibim bap, with a different range of ingredients. The pot is sizzling hot and the rice and meat are still cooking when it is brought to your table. You should then add in some soy sauce and let it cook for a few minutes. While you are waiting, it is a good idea to order some side dishes, such as fried veggies or an oyster omelette:

Tung Choi at 四季煲仔飯 Four Seasons Pot Rice
Fried tung choi with foo yu sauce

Omelette at 四季煲仔飯 Four Seasons Pot Rice
Oysters omelette

The two girls who brought us here told us that the location used to be a family mom-and-pop hamburger restaurant. The current tenant has done nothing about the decoration: it’s simply a large hall covered in white tiles, with fluorescent lighting and huge fans blowing.

四季煲仔飯 Four Seasons Pot Rice

Just like La Banquise has twenty or more types of poutine, you can choose from an endless number of “toppings” for your rice at Four Seasons Pot Rice. My friends had a variety of chicken, chicken feet and other meat, while I went for a classic chicken with Chinese mushrooms.

The price for the single pot is also ridiculously low at $HKD22 for “regular flavours” (see menu), like combinations of two of Chinese sausage, salty fish, sliced pork, liver sausage and chicken.

46-58 Arthur Street, Yau Ma Tei, Kowloon (map)

叁去壹 (Sam Hui Yat) dim sum in Sai Ying Pun

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I am not generally a fan of dim sum or yum cha, the terms usually used interchangeably to describe a Chinese brunch popularized by the Cantonese (and exported to the West by them). Dim sum literally means “bite heart” or “touch the heart” says Wikipedia, while Yum cha literally means “drink tea” and describe the activity of relaxing around a cup of tea (and eating dim sum, sometimes).

I’ve typically only eaten in large dim sum halls, here in Hong Kong as well as back home in Montreal. In Hong Kong, family would bring me to restaurants with overly nice decors. However, my tastes tend to range around the “beau, bon, pas cher”, a French expression from home that basically means “nice, good, inexpensive”.

叁去壹(點心粉麵飯) = Sam Hui Yat = Three Goes One


From the tram stop in Sai Ying Pun (西營盤), we walked only a few minutes to get to 叁去壹 (Sam Hui Yat – something like Three Goes One). Located at the very beginning of Pokfulam Road (corner with First St), which eventually leads to the University of Hong Kong, some 200m up the hill, the restaurant is in fact an unassuming eatery, with no more than a dozen tables for about 30 clients at once. It was a far cry from what I imagined, perhaps because I’ve always been used to being served dim sum in large restaurants (here in Hong Kong, restaurants with carts also virtually don’t exist anymore).

I originally horribly missed my first occasion to eat here with Chinese speakers and on the time that I actually went, I was only with my non-Chinese-speaking friend. Why is that so important? Because there is not a single English character in the entire restaurant! Unable to get a good hold of the menu, I resorted to asking the waiter, who was very patient and cordial in helping me out. After listening to the chef’s suggestions, I decided to go for sure bets, namely siumai (燒賣 – seasoned ground pork in wrapper), har gow (蝦餃 – shrimp dumpling) and steamed black-bean spare ribs (豉汁排骨). It’s also a surcharge of $HKD3 for tea per person.

For the record, the siumai was juicy inside and the har gow’s shrimp crunched right under one’s teeth and the ribs were very tender. Don’t feel intimidated by the “minimalistic” setting, because the food is in fact excellent.

At the front of the restaurant was the “steamers station”, where the chef (the guy in a red sleeveless shirt) presumably steamed orders of dumplings and other dim sum. The order came very quickly, as you’d expect for a diner. To pay, don’t necessarily expect the waiter to give you the bill: just hand him the money as if you knew the total price and he will count the number of steamers (they are invariably $HKD9) or lotus leaves that you have spread out in front of you. It’s also a surcharge of $HKD3 for tea per person.

Menu (click for translation notes on Flickr)

Of course, the menu is all in Chinese, and there is another menu in the restaurant that is for non-dim sum dishes, such as fried rice and noodles. Aside from those aforementioned, Sam Hui Yat has a complete lineup of dim sum classics: fong zao (鳳爪 – chicken feet), chiu chow fun go (潮州粉果 – Chaozhou-style dumplings), char siu pao (叉燒包 – pork bun), lo mai gai (糯米雞 – lotus leaf chicken rice) and a variety of cheong fun (腸粉 – rice rolls).

Har Gow - 叁去壹點心粉麵飯
Har Gow (蝦餃)

Siumai - 叁去壹點心粉麵飯
Shaomai (燒賣)

It is to be noted that the restaurant closes at 2:30PM in the afternoon. To get there, the easiest way is to take the tram going west from Central or Sheung Wan MTR (take the trams going to Whitty Street Depot or Kennedy Town). Then, walk up the slope on Western St., until you get to Pokfulam Road.

11 Pokfulam Road, Sai Ying Pun, Sheung Wan (map)

Comment servirait-on du smoked meat à Hong Kong?

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Chez Schwartz’s…

Vendredi soir, ma première soirée en ville, des amis expatriés m’ont invité chez eux pour un fête à saveur de Montréal. J’avais caché dans mes valises, un morceau de viande fumée et du pain de seigle de chez Schwartz’s.

La poitrine de boeuf, aussi connue sous le nom de « brisket » en anglais, est d’habitude une pièce de viande peu chère comparée à d’autres coupes, mais elle est particulièrement coriace. Pour l’attendrir, il faut la faire cuire longtemps, à feu doux.

Dans la cuisine chinoise, et dans notre cas à Hong Kong, on apprête aussi la poitrine de boeuf (牛腩 – niunan) dans des plats « populaires », souvent dans une marinade d’épices et de condiments chinois comme l’anis étoilé, la pelure d’agrumes séchée et la cannelle. Ce sont par exemple des currys (on coupe et on fait cuire) ou bien de la viande sur nouilles (on fait cuire et on coupe).

Parfois, on retrouve ce type de plats en version resto-culte, un peu comme notre Chez Schwartz’s à Montréal. Dans des restos aux files d’attente plus ou moins longues (les trottoirs ici sont franchement moins larges de toute façon), avec des photos de stars du Cantopop en compagnie du patron collés à la porte, on sert des tout simples, à peine plus chers que dans le casse-croûte sans notoriété, mais préparés avec une minutie et une fierté certaines.

九記牛腩, Central, Hong Kong
…et chez Kau Kee. Du curry chinois de boeuf sur nouilles.

Dans la catégorie du boeuf braisé au curry, Kau Kee dans Central – le principal quartier international des affaires de la ville – est un incontournable.

Le menu est minimaliste: trois choix de nouilles (riz, blé, oeufs) et deux choix de viande (avec ou sans curry). On ne sait pas s’il y a un menu en anglais, mais en tout cas pas de pancarte dans une langue autre que le chinois.

Beef Brisket - 安利 On Lee Restaurant
Poitrine de boeuf sur nouilles de riz…

Beef Brisket - 安利 On Lee Restaurant
…et sur nouilles aux oeufs

Hier, je suis allé essayer le Restaurant On Lee (安利) dans le quartier populaire de Shau Kei Wan, à plusieurs stations de MTR à l’ouest des grands centres touristiques de l’Île de Hong Kong. On Lee a son propre mur des célébrités, remplis de noms célèbres locaux.

Parlons bouffe maintenant: les tranches de smoked meat poitrine, “ngau lam”, sont coupées à même un morceau cuit entier, persillé et encore entouré de l’enveloppe musculaire. C’est le gras et cette enveloppe qui donnera au boeuf toute sa saveur. La viande est ensuite déposée sur des nouilles avec ou sans bouillon (bouillon au glutamate monosodique, probablement). On agrémente la soupe de quelques balles de poisson et d’échalote hachée.

En Chine, il n’y a pas que la viande qui est prisée. Les cartilages sont également des bouts mangés par les Chinois (votre serviteur aime bien ça aussi, pour en avoir mangé aujourd’hui pour le lunch). On laisse souvent les cartilages dans les recettes de poitrine, et on servira parfois des nouilles ou du riz nappés d’un ragoût aux cartilages de boeuf. Le cartilage mariné prend une consistance à mi-chemin sur le Jell-O, collant gentiment à nos incisives.

L’autre choix, mini marché : food lovers’ choice in Westmount village

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L'autre choix, mini marché, 330A avenue Victoria

A new grocery store on Victoria Avenue just opened its doors last week. The half basement shop offers a variety of organic (and non-organic too) produce. It may fit the look of a Westmount upscale boutique, but the prices shown for the basic stuff (tomatoes, apples, lemons) are at market price (similar to PA’s price, comparatively lower than the nearby Metro).

On top of that, you also find a unique offering of Asian products (the owner Clara happens to be a food-loving Canadian Chinese) such as soy milk, bok choy and ramen noodles. They are also importing a type of pasta from Italy.

334A Avenue Victoria, Westmount

(photos under the cut)
Continue reading “L’autre choix, mini marché : food lovers’ choice in Westmount village”

Roujiamo 肉夹馍 or the Chinese sloppy joe

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It was while eating at Maison du Nord on St-Mathieu that I discovered roujiamo or “pork sandwich”, a Shaanxi dish that has spread around China. I had roujiamo also when I was in Beijing (see picture). Roujiamo is what you could consider a typical fast-food snack, sort of like a Chinese-style hamburger, or rather a Chinese-style sloppy joe.

So having a surplus of coriander leaves from my dumplings party last week, I decided to make my own roujiamo from scratch, bread included. I loosely followed this webpage.

I made the dough first and used yeast and baking soda to try and leaven it. I must’ve used around 2.5 cups of flour. Then, I prepared the meat. I bought around 1kg of pork belly, with fat and skin. I cut rough pieces, knowing that I could pass my scissors later as it simmers.



So, I started frying chopped onion and garlic in a wok and then added the pork. Then, I added three pieces of star anise, and a few pieces of cinnamon bark. I then added a little Chinkiang vinegar, and Chinese shaoxing wine and soy sauce (fermented). I could’ve added sesame oil too if I remembered. I added water to cover. Then, I then let the mixture simmer for around 30-45 minutes until I got a nice sticky mixture (probably the gelatin in the pork skin helps to give such a texture).

In the meanwhile, I cooked the break on a cookie sheet. I should’ve been more careful. The specimen on the picture is probably the one that was best made. The other pieces either baked for too long or were too thin to begin with.

Served with cilantro / coriander leaves as a topping.


Cong You Bing – the ultimate Chinese snack

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蔥油餅 & 韭菜餅

蔥油餅 (cong you bing) or green onion pancake was my latest experimentation with Chinese food. It has never ever been something we ate in our family, let alone made. I tried it for the first time in newer Chinese restaurants opened by Mainland Chinese, notably at a restaurant on St-Mathieu, formerly Ravioli du Manchuria, now Friendship House.

It takes two main ingredients to make cong you bing (so the pronunciation is more like “tsong you bing”), namely flour and green onions. You can substitute green onions for chives.

In a mixing bowl, add salt for taste to two cups of flour. Then, mix in about one cup of boiling water. Apparently, it helps gelatinize the gluten in the flour for a better texture in the end. Knead the dough throughly for about 5-10 minutes. Coat with vegetable oil (and sesame oil for taste) and let it sit for an hour on the counter.

Once you have your dough, divide into eight pieces. Flatten as much as you can and sprinkle with green onions, chives or the filling of your choice. I added too much of it and it overspilled. I figured that if I chopped my green onions more finely, it would’ve been ok.


Roll like a cigar, and then roll again into a snail-like form. I understand that this step is to incorporate the green onions into the dough so that it cooks on the inside of the dough after pan-frying.

蔥油餅 & 韭菜餅


Now let’s pan-fry the pancakes. Add generous amounts of oil so that the pancakes won’t burn. When they’re done, they make nice crunchy individual snacks! You can keep them in the fridge, but it might not be as crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside, even if you re-fry them…

It’s good with Chinese-style vinegar, soy sauce or hot sauce… whichever suits you! Took me about two hours to make, including all the waiting and the frying.


Avant-après : Rues Pierce & Ste-Catherine

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Damao Restaurant

Restaurant les saveurs du Xiang ji yuan


Un peu pour rendre hommage à la série de mon collègue de Spacing Montréal, Guillaume St-Jean, voici un petit montage de deux photos prises à à peu près deux ans d’intervalle. Ce coin de rue se situe en plein nouveau Quartier Chinois de Montréal, juste à l’ouest de l’Université Concordia, dans ce qu’on appelle aussi le Village Shaughnessy.

Dans ce cas-ci, c’est du “plus ça change, plus c’est pareil”, alors que les deux commerces furent des restaurants chinois.

Cet article a également été publié sur le blogue Spacing Montréal.

How about a bowl of Lanzhou noodles?

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兰州拉面 Lanzhou noodles / 北方人家 (La Maison du nord)

兰州拉面 Lanzhou noodles / 北方人家 (La Maison du nord)

They are perhaps the most interesting handmade noodles I ever had. La Maison du Nord (北方人家 – Bei Fang Ren Jia), within a block from Guy-Concordia’s St-Mathieu exit, is remarkable for its pork sandwich, a common northern Chinese snack. It’s basically a shredded pork sandwich served with a variable set of seasoning, which can hopefully included fresh coriander leaves.

On the menu are also these Lanzhou noodles, another common eatery item. They are wheat-based handmade noodles, and apparently not always available depending on whether the “noodle master” is available to make them, according to this Chowhound thread.

Also on the menu, dumplings of many kinds, although not as many as their cousin Qing Hua Yuan.

北方人家 (La Maison du nord), 2130, rue St-Mathieu

北方人家 (La Maison du nord), 2130, rue St-Mathieu. 514-670-3188