The other I took my buddy George to visit my Uncle Zhou. Steven Zhou’s eponymous Henanese noodle house is a favorite place for comfort food. At Uncle Zhou’s house comfort takes one form and one form only, a bowl of long-simmered lamb bone soup with chewy hand-drawn noodles, goji berries, and wood ear mushrooms, and of course fat beribboned bits of meat. Breathing the vapors and slurping up the noodles is a panacea for everything from summer colds and winter blahs to heartaches and hangovers.
There’s much more to the menu at Uncle Zhou’s than noodle soup. Sadly I hardly ever eat his other exquisite specialties. The last time I had anything other than soup there was at a Chinese New Year’s dinner that I curated for the Gastronauts. It included five spice chicken hearts, quick fried beef genitals, and pig kidneys artfully sliced into “phoenix tails.” So when Uncle Zhou said, “I want you try my new eggplant dish,’ I knew my friend and I were in for a treat.
As we slurped our soup and munched some cold appetizers we focused on the task at hand and forgot all about the eggplant. Then the waiter brought over a platter bearing two golden arcs amid an orange sea, a real brush painting of a dish. They looked like fried fish laid nose to tail, but were actually long Chinese eggplants artfully cross-hatched, the better to soak up the sweet and sour sauce. Crunchy and sweet with pleasantly squishy innards it was one of the best eggplant dishes I’ve had in a long time.
When I asked Uncle Zhou what he called this exquisite dish, he said qiè zi lǒng or eggplant dragons. And then he asked me to help him come up with a namefor it in English. “Eggplant dragons in orange sauce,” I responded immediately. It was easily worth the $12.95 and I’m always glad to have part in local Chinese food history. That said I will forever think of the dish as Eggplant Double Dragon after a video game from my misspent youth.
Uncle Zhou Restaurant, 83-29 Broadway, 718-393-0888