Chelmsford, MA: Xi'an Cold Noodles at Gene's Chinese Flatbread Cafe
Happy Almost Chinese New Year!
Just when I'm coming down off of my December holidays high and think there's nothing exciting on the calendar between now and when rhubarb and ramps come into season in early spring, I remember that Chinese New Year is just around the corner. February 10, 2013, to be exact. As such, I've decided to devote all posts between now and then to some of my favorite Chinese dishes around town, both new and old. First up: the cold noodles ($6.50) at Gene's Chinese Flatbread Cafe in Chelmsford.
Following my first trip up there last spring, I gushed at length about chef/owner Gene Wu's hand-pulled noodles (biang biang mian) and chilled noodles (liang pi). Since then, he's introduced the cold noodles: long, fresh wheat strands as thin, slurpable, and springy as ramen, topped with expertly julienned carrot and cucumber, bean sprouts, cilantro leaves, a tea-infused hard-boiled egg, and the same generous helpings of mild chili oil and fresh garlic that dress the chilled noodles (a weekend-only special that sells out quick). It's dishes like this that make me think I could survive as a vegan (it'd be plenty tasty without the egg).
If you click on the website's photo of the dish and notice the name tag on your browser's tab, it says liang mian. Most of the information I found about this dish matches up with what Gene is serving—a cold noodle dish with julienned carrots and cucumber. Many references also suggest that the dressing includes Chinese sesame paste, sesame oil, soy sauce, and vinegar, and that (not surprisingly) this dish is a close relative of dan dan mian, minus the meat.
Perhaps to keep the dish more approachable to a range of customers, Gene leaves the paste out of the serving bowl—but there is a small crock of dark, dense paste at the counter. There's a vessel of vinegar, too. Doctor up your noodles with both. You won't be sorry.
Gene's Chinese Flatbread Cafe
About the author: Liz Bomze lives in Brookline, MA, and works as the Senior Features Editor for Cook's Illustrated Magazine. In her free time, she freelances regularly for the Boston Globe, Boston Magazine, the Improper Bostonian, and Martha's Vineyard Magazine; practices bread-baking and canning; takes photos; reads; and watches baseball. Top 5 foods: fresh noodles, gravlax, sour cherry pie, burrata, ma po tofu.