I walked into Old Tang—a new spot just off the bustling corner of Main and Roosevelt in downtown Flushing—at least three times before finally trying the noodles. The first time they were under construction, but the other times I eyed the mise en place and upon seeing minced pickled green beans and fried soybeans asked the same question in my fractured Mandarin Chinese “Giulin ren ma?” And each time the kids behind the counter would patiently respond, “No we’re from Sichuan.” “Ah so, the workers are from Sichuan, but surely the food is from Giulin,” I thought to myself. “I’ll have to come back and try it when I’m not already full from leading a food tour.”
So I did during the Noreaster earlier this week. I even asked the same question and got the same response. Eyeing the roster of six noodle options I asked which was best. “The beef noodle soup,” so I ordered a bowl of niu ruo suan la feng or sour and spicy beef noodles ($7.99) and the kids behind the counter got to work. From a mise en place matrix of eighteen quarter pans they scooped a prodigious amount of garlic, chili oil, mushrooms, and pickled string beans among other things.
As I sat by the window in the tiny shop watching the storm rage outside, I wondered why they kept the door open and almost asked them to close it. Soon I found out as I slurped the steaming beef noodle soup. I may have kept my winter layers on, but a few minutes in I took my ski hat off. The tender slices of beef bobbed in the spicy sour broth accompanied by translucent noodles. There was just enough Sichuan peppercorn to produce a light tingle. I stopped just short of drinking all the broth, opting to use two pork filled bao to sop up the spicy dregs, which contained shards of star anise.
The visage of Old Tang himself—a stylized mustachioed gent—sits above the characters lao tang ren, or old Tang people, on the shop’s red awning. It is of course doubtful that the recipe for the soup here is a secret that dates to that ancient Chinese dynasty. Rather the name is a way to indicate that the noodles here are “old school.” To the right of the English name the Chinese reads “feng guan” or noodle house. Oh in case you’re wondering the food is decidedly Sichuan and a welcome addition to America’s greatest Chinatown.
Old Tang 135-45 Roosevelt Ave., Flushing, 347-506-0010