Connect me to:
He Nan Feng Wei (Flushing, NY)
||136-31 41st Avenue,|
Reviewed by: Michael Gray
Summer Volume: 2011 Issue: 18(2) page: 22 and 23
Henan, a province about the size of Florida, is in what is called 'the cradle of Chinese civilization.' It is just north of where the Yangshao (5000 BCE) and Longshan Cultures (3000 BCE) emerged and flourished. Today the population of Henan is more than one hundred million, more than five times that of America's Sunshine State. An article featuring this cuisine will appear in the next issue; but for know just know that Henan people say their cuisine, called yu cai, is 'not east nor west, not south nor north.' They also say their foods are 'not sweet, salty, nor spicy.' He nan Feng Wei in New York City's first Henan restaurant, perhaps the first ever to serve only Henan foods in the United States.
Henan is known for seasonal use of ingredients that feature lots of lamb and mutton soups, pork not in a soup, meat-stuffed buns, fried mung bean jelly, vermicelli, meatball soups, and fresh dumplings; steamed or boiled, the food here is most varied.
Subdivided into four culinary precincts, the province speaks of its foods as: North (Anyang), South (Xinyang), East (Kaifeng) and West (Luoyang). Two of them were well known, Anyang was once the capital of the Shang Dynasty, Kaifeng once home to late Tang emperors and thought to be the world's largest city in the 11th century.
Correctly written: He Nan Feng Wei, the name of this eatery can be translated as 'Henan Flavors' or 'A Taste of Henan.' It makes a good first impression and has a cordial owner/chef, Mr. Wang Qiang. He owned a restaurant in Zhengzhou before immigrating to New York; and after arriving, for a good many years he worked at a Chinese buffet restaurant. At the beginning of 2010, Mr. Wang opened He Nan Feng Wei. He says it the first Henan spot in the city. With about nine tables and thirty seats, it has more of a lunchroom feel than a restaurant, but a winsome lunchroom all the same. Clearly it has become a gathering spot for homesick Henanese.
Mr. Wang keeps the menu pretty simple. He serves up at least a dozen cold appetizers, noodle dishes, soups, seven different casseroles, and more. The menu is translated into English on several plasticized sheets at the counter; seek them out. Do not worry about the additional written Chinese menu characters; they too have been translated and placed on the English menu cards. Another plus, there are photos of some of the dishes on the wall.
Four of the appetizers we sampled were tasty: two different dried tofu dishes, the Green Beans, and the sliced Pig Ears. Hot and Numbing Cold Noodles, called Ma La Liang Mian, are well-seasoned with sesame paste, soy sauce, peanuts and hot sauce. Another dish we tried was Big Dish Chicken or Da Pan Ji; it was simply stunning and earthy. Its pieces of marinated chicken on the bone came with potatoes, red pepper, Sichuan peppercorns, garlic, cumin seeds, and cilantro. Lamb Noodle Soup, or Yang Rou Hui Mian, is a hearty bowl with shredded tofu, hand-pulled wide noodles, vermicelli, lamb, goji berries and dried tiger lilies.
Dumplings, or Guan Tang Bao, are a big comforting hug in a bamboo steamer. Although this dumpling is supposed to be filled with hot soup like its Shanghai cousins, Mr. Wang says he is not able to replicate the soup because of the leaner pork found in the United States. The Button Ball Meatball Bowl, in Chinese called Wan Zi Kou Wan, includes many meatballs made with some bread in a delicate broth of ginger, Sichuan peppercorns, and star anise. Keep the lid on for a spell as these morsels get better the longer they sit in the delightful broth. We devoured ours as we did the Boiled Dumplings or Shui Jiao; they came filled with cabbage, pork and chives. My recommendation is to try them anytime. Yes, do come early or go late; ot better yet, do both as this Henan winner is open everyday from nine in the morning to eleven at night.