Located about halfway down Smith Street (a large collection of Chinatown street food), Lan Zhou La Mian lies quietly hidden behind other stalls and tables. There are no street hawkers accosting passers-by with menus or pictures of food. You can’t even see the sign for the restaurant from some angles. But if you take two seconds to look, you can see the sign that matters most to Singaporeans (one we’ve quickly learned)– the “this shop is full/has a line outside the restaurant” sign. Unless it’s a dead day (public holiday, early Sunday, etc), if you walk by a hawker stall, food court, whatever and don’t see a line… chances are it’s not worth eating.
Thankfully our good friend Allexia was already keyed in to this phenomenon on her first exploration of Smith Street. Given that the street was relatively dead that night, the number of diners in Lan Zhou La Mian surprised her. So she decided to test it out.
Allexia ordered the dumplings and loved them. She took Joanna who also loved them. Joanna brought me and now… lets just say they know our face. If we don’t turn up to eat there two times a week now they’d probably send someone looking for us.
The first two dishes we ate, and the dishes that continue to bring us back are the pork soup dumplings – in fact these may just be the best xiao long bao in Singapore! Specifically the panfried and steamed xiao long bao. The panfried dumplings are very similar to what we call “pot stickers” in the US and what the Japanese call Gyoza. They’re juicy with just the right amount of crispy on the outside. But the steamed dumplings… words can’t really do these xiao long bao justice. The soup contained inside combined with the sausage form a taste combination that’s perfect any time of the day. We’ve had them for late breakfast, business lunch, dinner with beers, and they’ve always been just as satisfying. The only downside to these tasty little treats is that they’re served in servings of 8 – just not enough so we end up having to order two!
It wasn’t till I had been dining there for a week or two that we finally branched out. I was eating lunch with a friend and he had the good sense to ask the shop what they were famous for. The server replied by gesturing at a photograph on the wall – Minced Pork with Bean Sauce Noodles. Done. This dish has now been added to our regular meal there.
The noodles should have been obvious to us, as the name of the shop Lan Zhou La Mian gives it away. La Mian, is a traditional hand-pulled noodle from Lanzhou, China. They are wheat noodles similar to Yamien noodles, but vary a bit in texture and shape.
The restaurant itself is a pretty basic, street-type shop. Plastic chairs, one page laminated menus, cheap plastic cups for drinks, and a clear view into the kitchen – where the main chef entertains diners by publicly preparing the noodles. This is somewhat of an attraction, as the photographs lining the walls will attest.
Our regular meal –
- Chinese Tea or Homemade Herbal Tea
- The complimentary “pineapple” Kimchi with peanuts to start
- Steamed Xiao Long Bao, Pork Soup Dumplings (these days usually two servings)
- Panfried Pork potstickers, called “jiaozi”
- Minced Pork with Bean Sauce Noodles (to share)
Lan Zhou La Mian
19 Smith Street (Chinatown MRT)