Having just read Jay Rayner’s review in the Guardian (see here) of BBQ Handmade Noodles King, it has prompted me to rush out my take on the delights (and not so delightful aspects) of Manchester’s finest purveyor of barbequed animal organs… on sticks.
Possibly recommended to me by the same ‘mutual friend in the north’, Jay’s right about the Christmas baubles and lights that bizarrely still hang from last year – I think it’s one thing leaving them up… but these were switched on! It may have been May but Merry Christmas all the same!
|It's May but Merry Christmas all the same!|
Not so merry was the murky green fish tank, grubby paintwork, tattered blinds and dead and dying plants that decorated the space – a voice in my head did ask, if the front of house is this minging what is going on behind the scenes in the kitchen?
After a good while leafing through the pages of the sticky menu, not being able to work out what the fish dish was, I called the waiter and (due to our language barrier) managed to inform him, through my tourist like pointing that I wanted, ‘What they’re having.’
Although I don’t think he still quite understood; seemingly thinking what we ‘actually’ wanted was the theatre of a flame and a large bowl set on the table, he suggested we have it with sweet and sour chicken – thanks to my ability to use primitive sign language to mime a fish and a bit more pointing I elicited an ‘Ah!’, a big smile and crossed my fingers.
When the first next other dishes I ordered were the Stir fried pig’s bowel with pointed barrel chillies and Braised duck’s tongue in soya marinate the waiter finally understood that he had a customer in his midst that was determined to not be fobbed off with the bland and unimaginative, MSG laden Chinese food that as a nation we have come to accept as the norm.
One of the reasons for ordering the duck’s tongues was the fact that the previous day I had bought a copy of the Mugaritz cookbook and noticed a delightful looking recipe featuring tender leaves, herb shoots and four crispy looking tongues – whilst I didn’t expect a carbon copy of the Mugaritz dish I was somewhat shocked when a plate piled with about eighty little fellas arrived.
The way to eat one is to hold it in your fingers, bring to your mouth as if you are bout to French kiss it and then bite down, shredding the flesh from the cartilage within. The meat itself is slightly chewy but with a real smacker of duck flavour - finger licking good.
The stir fried pig’s bowel with pointed barrel chillies came as another huge portion – it was one of the better dishes; especially the chillies but I still failed to finish it (until the next day, thanks to their doggy bag policy).
The fish, served in the gastronorm tray was magnificent – the chilli sauce intensifying the longer we left it. By the end of the meal I had quite a sweat on… a wonderful dish that I’d order again if only I could work out what it’s listed as on the menu (I think I’ll take my iPad in next time and just point to the picture on this blog).
From the BBQ section, I fancied the rabbit legs (but they had run out) and the lamb’s ovaries (there had been a rush on these too, or perhaps it was just the wrong time of the month).
Instead we ordered the BBQ Chicken Heart Skewer, BBQ Fish Balls Skewer (considering the rest of the menu, you’d be forgiven for thinking these are fish testicles), BBQ Aubergine Skewer and BBQ Baby Squid Skewer.
The aubergine was greasy, soggy and was left after just one bite. The fish balls were average at best. The squid was a little overdone but pleasant enough but the hearts were fantastic – well cooked, deep and richly flavoured and so moreish.
As well as ‘things on sticks’, BBQ Handmade Noodles King is naturally best known for its handmade noodles and these did not disappoint. The noodles were spot on. The garlicky Beijing meat sauce was oily, smoky and flavourful - enriched with some kind of bean (probably a kidney or haricot type brown bean) and hoi sin.
Sir Fried Chinese White Cabbage, Stir Fried Fresh Squid with Garlic Chives and some Beijing Mixed Meat Dumplings completed the order – which was easily enough for two (especially as my wife didn’t feel like eating much).
The dumplings were not great – the filling was good but the skin too thick and served too cold. The cabbage and squid were tasty and also made their way into the now rather full doggy bag for the next day’s lunch.
Feeling stuffed, I couldn’t find room for the amusingly misspelt dessert of, ‘Crispy Sweet Plumpkin Cake’ – I do however, recommend the very refreshing Red Iced Tea.