Broth & Skin for the Win: Goose Noodles

It’s difficult to know what to look for when trying to find a “western friendly” dish in China. However, if you know what to look for, you will come to the realization that Chinese food is exquisite and even better, cheap!

If you’re one of those guys, or girls, in search of the “real Chinese” food experience, then it’s more than likely that you have had a difficult time finding it, or maybe you found it and haven’t really loved what you found. The truth of the matter is, it’s safe to say Chinese food is not your usual P.F. Chang’s experience.

However, goose noodle soup is a friendly favorite for real Chinese food. This soup is composed of three main parts, all equally important but entirely different: broth, noodles and goose.

You will recognize goose noodle restaurants by the roast geese (or ducks) hanging in the windows. This is the protein component of the dish, which is probably what you’re sitting down for (prepare for meat on the bone). What separates a good goose from a lame one is reduced to two variables: the crispiness/flavor of the skin and the freshness of the meat.

Stuff of Legends
Our first stop was the legendary Xin Hui Shi Guan in Houjie. Known as the place to go to in that area for goose noodles, Xin Hui has been open for over 15 years. The restaurant is open 24 hours a day, which means if you’re a night owl and in town, this will make for a handy option. The goose is bought locally from the fresh market, most of the time several trips a day are required for the restaurant to keep functioning. So, it’s safe to say the freshness of the meat is guaranteed. The skin was nicely crisped to perfection, and the balance between skin, fat and meat hit the spot. The flavor of the goose was not particularly unforgettable, but no complaints on that side either. The noodles are handmade daily and sourced from a local entrepreneur. Although handmade sounds amazing, it makes for a more brittle noodle and in our opinion, less pleasant to bite. The broth was delicious and had a nice taste of fresh veggies, so if you’re looking for something to soothe the stomach (or a hangover) this hits the spot.

Fan Favorites
The second stop is our now Dongcheng favorite, Ding Hao Shao. Just a block away from Star River City Mall (Vanka Mall), Ding Hao is open from 7 am to 9 pm and, uses fresh locally sourced goose. Although the meat was fresh, the amount of fat was higher than expected and the skin was just okay. However, the portion of goose per dish was slightly bigger than any other restaurant on our list, which, for this diner, felt like a breath of fresh air on an empty stomach. The broth was the tastiest of the restaurant line-up, with a thickness that is lacking in most Chinese style soups (we all had seconds on the broth). As for the noodles, on this occasion, they were not handmade but surprisingly, the texture and flavor were more enjoyable than that of their handmade counterpart.

Best Skin
Our third and final location, Da Ling Shan Shao E Ji, is found just down the road from Dynacity in Dongcheng. Although this was probably our least favorite spot in the line-up, it is noteworthy that this is not a goose noodle specialized restaurant and could be a better choice for other traditional Chinese dishes and bigger dinner parties. But goose noodles is the topic that really concerns us. Even though the skin on the goose was the best we tried, the goose was served lukewarm, almost on the cold side. The noodles were machine-made but tasty and vast in portion. An important callout is the broth, making the soup particularly good, tasty, aromatic, thick and fresh.